For many chefs and food lovers, opening a restaurant is a life-long dream. Unfortunately, making that dream come true takes more than just some cooking skills and a little bit of money. This post is for anyone who is considering opening a restaurant. It explores how to start a restaurant business that can thrive for years to come.
Have Experience Working in a Restaurant
Nothing can compete with first-hand experience working in the foodservice industry. Working in a restaurant exposes you to a little of everything. Customer service, accounting, and restaurant culture are just some of the topics you’ll learn about. And having knowledge of these things will help you excel as an owner. Ideally, you’ll want to work in a restaurant that’s similar to the one you wish to open. And it certainly won’t hurt to work in multiple restaurants. That way, you’ll have a wider scope of experience to apply to your own restaurant.
Decide What Kind of Restaurant You Want to Have
Choosing the type of restaurant you want to open will dictate much of what you do as owner. Will your restaurant be fast food, fast-casual, casual, fine dining, or strictly takeout? Will you specialize in traditional American food or more ethnic dishes? What about your hours? Will you be open late or be up to serve breakfast at the crack of dawn? It’s also important to know if you’ll need a large dining space or just a small area for take-out area. And if you’ll require a team of servers or none at all. These choices will inform the rest of your decisions, so knowing them upfront is extremely helpful.
Develop a Menu
One of the best parts of starting a restaurant business is deciding what’s on the menu. But while doing so might seem like a food lover’s dream, the process isn’t so simple. A restaurant’s menu should cater to its targeted customers. So if you’re opening a family restaurant, you’ll definitely want to include a kids’ menu. You might hate chicken fingers or macaroni & cheese. But if your customers like those dishes, they should be on the menu.
This same principle applies to fine dining establishment as well. Those types of restaurants will want to offer fine wines, aged liquors, and premium steaks. If your restaurant has a distinct theme, the menu should match that in terms of tone and offerings. So a tropical island restaurant will want to feature pina coladas and colorful seafood dishes.
Find a Great Location
Location can be the difference between a restaurant that thrives and a restaurant that flounders. Traffic, parking, and proximity to your target market are all factors to keep in mind. It’s not enough to be in a busy area that has plenty of parking. You want to be in a location that’s frequented by your specific target audience. So if you’re opening a restaurant that specializes in breakfast, make sure the area is busy in the morning. But if you’re opening a bar, you’ll want a location that’s busier at night.
Familiarize Yourself with Local Laws
Every area has its own set of laws. And as a restaurant owner, it’s your responsibility to familiarize yourself with those laws. Doing so early in the process can help prevent further issues down the line. Many laws aren’t simple bureaucratic thorns in the side. Instead, they’re safety regulations that are in the best interest of you and the workers. Refusing to follow these laws not only puts you in danger of a fine, but it can also place you and your staff in dangerous working conditions.
Starting a restaurant requires money. If you can afford the business venture yourself, that’s great. But many restaurant owners seek out financial assistance. Popular ways to secure money include taking out loans and bringing investors on board. Many restaurant owners also like to ask close friends and family members for assistance. When seeking exterior funding, it’s helpful to have an air-tight business plan. The plan should include detailed financial projections that can earn the confidence of potential investors.
Outfit Your Kitchen with Equipment
Designing a kitchen is more than just figuring out what equipment your chefs need. Although that’s certainly important too. But kitchen equipment should be located in a way that maximizes staff efficiency. The right design will vary from kitchen to kitchen. To find out what’s best for you, it’s a good idea to ask chefs for their input. After all, they’re the ones who’ll be working in there.
Design Your Eating Area
Offering patrons a comfortable dining experience is another important priority for restaurant owners. Start with the basics by investing in comfortable seating. Next give your restaurant a distinct ambiance that matches its style. So if you’re a family restaurant, you won’t want to have dark lighting like that of a bar. Finally, you should grace your establishment with interesting decorations. The type that seem right at home with the type of food you serve and the ambiance you’re going for.
Hire Good Employees
Staff members are the backbone of any successful restaurant. Everyone who works at your restaurant should be an extension of yourself. They should embody your ideals and attitude. It might be simple to hire the first person who applies. But don’t get lazy and take the easy way out. Thoroughly vet each applicant and only hire the ones who you can trust with your business. Try to hire staff members who are coachable and follow instructions. In fact, make a list of what you’re looking for in your workers beforehand. Then make sure your applicants satisfy those traits before you hire them.
Market and Promote
Once your restaurant is all set up and your grand opening is on the horizon, it’s time to get the word out. Use flyers, advertisements, and social media to let the public know that a new restaurant is in town. Perhaps offer special deals that encourage customers to give your restaurant a shot. The main objective is to get attract customers. So get creative.