Neal Lefebvre
Blog, Operational efficiency

One of the best ways to develop your restaurant’s potential and to know where you stand among your competition is by using a technique called SWOT analysis. SWOT analyses help restaurants identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (hence the name).

SWOT is used in almost every industry, but the nature of restaurants – where positives or negatives can have an impact on multiple locations all at the same time – really amplifies the opportunity to turn this kind of analysis into useful, profitable results.

Access your free restaurant SWOT analysis template.

Think of a restaurant SWOT analysis as a matrix

Before you start listing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, you’ll need to know a little bit more about the SWOT technique; there’s more to it than just making a list. SWOT analysis is also called a “SWOT matrix” because of how the four categories are related to one another. Strengths and opportunities are helpful, while weaknesses and threats are harmful; conversely, strengths and weaknesses are internal factors, while opportunities and threats represent factors largely outside of your control.

Restaurant SWOT Analysis

So, now that we know a bit more about each category, let’s jump in.


This one should come naturally – you’re managing a restaurant, so you already know how to identify your strengths. What does your store do better than your competitors? What would your employees brag about? How would you position your business at an industry conference? Your bragging points are your strengths – But those bragging rights have to be accurate, too. If you’re better than your surrounding competition, but that competition doesn’t have very high standards, you should strive to be above the average restaurant standard.


Even though they’re less fun to talk about, you probably already know your weaknesses, too. Where do you fall short of the competition? What do your employees think about the working conditions? Where are your numbers low? A SWOT analysis is for you and you alone, so be ruthless on yourself – list all of your weaknesses so you know where you can improve.


You’ll need to keep an ear to the ground to identify your biggest opportunities – many of these will come at a local level. Be aware of events happening in your area, subscribe to the local paper, and listen to feedback from your customers. Are other brands making changes? Does that create new opportunities for you? There are opportunities everywhere, if you listen close enough.


Threats, like opportunities, require you to get in touch with your local market. A great way to identify threats is to eat out at your competitors’ restaurants once in a while. Learn about what makes customers choose them over you. Price? Quality? Atmosphere? Convenience? You can get some of this information by comparing numbers, but some of it needs to be experienced firsthand.

What to do with your restaurant SWOT analysis

Focus your time and energy where it matters most by considering how to amplify your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. And remember that opportunities and threats are external factors – you have little control over them, but don’t underestimate the impact they could have on your business.

Let’s try an example. One of your strengths is that your more experienced employees are the best you could ask for, but a weakness is that your newer employees tend to struggle and have a high turnover rate. You could have your experienced employees dedicate more time to training your newer employees and sharing their experience. Sounds easy, but we’re not finished yet. Look at your opportunities and threats for anything that might influence this idea. Uh oh, one of your threats is a competing restaurant opening across the street next month – you’ll need to act quickly, before your newer employees jump ship and go work for your competitor.

To help put all the pieces together, here’s a SWOT analysis example you can apply to your restaurant(s):

Access your free restaurant SWOT analysis template.

SWOT analysis has been a business planning tool for decades, and it’s easy to see why: it’s easy to do, but can help you generate specific, actionable insights about your business. Let SWOT analysis help you develop your restaurant’s potential.

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