Opening your new restaurant can be an exciting time and a chance to share your passion for food with the world. However, it’s not something you should rush into, and before you welcome your first customers, you should do your research, set up your restaurant website, and have a solid business plan in place to ensure you have the best chance of success.
The restaurant industry is a highly competitive one. Many restaurant owners barrel ahead with their plans without giving proper time and consideration to finances, overheads, location, staffing, and theme. Without having a clear and well thought out plan, you might find your doors closing before you’ve even really begun.
By taking the time to listen to restaurant owners who’ve been there and done it, you can learn some useful insider tips and tricks form those who genuinely know what it takes to run a successful restaurant.
Here are some of the most valuable lessons they’ve shared:
Don’t assume customers will find you just because your doors are open. Research is critical. Think about your ideal customer; why would they pick what you have to offer over anyone else? Are they looking for a unique experience? Something familiar and safe? Something that caters to the whole family? Cheap and cheerful? A fine dining experience? You need to position yourself in the marketplace, find your target customers and then tell them what it is that makes you special, what is your USP that means they’ll be excited to dine with you over the competition?
Remember that while you might have personal tastes and opinions, you are trying to cater to a mass audience, and understanding your target customer is vital. Try to come up with a straightforward yet unique menu that has options to cater for different requirements.
Hiring family and friends may seem like a good idea. They are people you know and trust; they want you to succeed; you like them (probably). However, separating your business from your personal life is always a good idea. Family and friends that need work might ask you to hire them, but if you can avoid it, it’s still best to seek out professionals with experience. Working with family and friends can forever alter the dynamic of your relationship. You’ll be their boss. What if they don’t listen to you or do a good job, will you be prepared to talk to them, even fire them? While there are successful family-run businesses out there, it’s a good idea to think through the consequences very carefully before you hire your nearest and dearest to work for you.
Don’t even think about opening your restaurant to the public without first setting out your goals and ambitions and how you hope to achieve them in a robust, water-tight business plan. Your business plan can be flexible and develop and change over time. In your business plan, you should consider your growth, licensing, tax laws, health codes, finances, and so on. The more considerable effort that you put in at this stage, the more likely you will be able to take things in your stride.
Have a clear concept
Your restaurant needs to have a clear concept, and your idea should drive many other important decisions such as the menu and drinks that you stock, the decor, and how staff greet and interact with your customers. A clear concept will send out a strong message. At the same time, one that is confusing and muddled could mean expectations are not met, and, therefore, customers may end up feeling disgruntled and disappointed with their experience.
Your restaurant could easily take over a year to start making good money. The first year is all about finding your way, learning from mistakes, and refining your offering. You may falter, waver, wonder whether you have made a mistake, but perseverance is key.
Be prepared for the hard work!
Opening a new restaurant requires mammoth amounts of work and for the owner to be a manager, accountant, marketer, and so much more. You’ll solve problems, become a role model to staff, take on so many new responsibilities it might feel like you are at breaking point. Your patience will be tested, your trust broken. However, if you are prepared and able to withstand it, it will be worth it in the end.
You can’t please everyone
No matter how much work you put in, your restaurant just won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Accept it, take constructive criticism, and ignore the rest!
By following the above, you can open your restaurant with the wisdom of someone that has already done so and therefore give yourself the very best chance of continued growth and success.