It is going to be exciting, it is going to be challenging, and you are going to have to work harder than you have ever had before–but opening a restaurant is going to be one of the most rewarding things that you have ever done.
While here we will give you tips on starting up, if you want to be a successful restaurant owner, you will need so much more than just a plan and some capital.
You need to have the drive, passion, resilience, and, hopefully, some experience working in restaurants. If that sounds like you, let’s get started!
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Research your competitors and check that there’s a market for you
If you want your restaurant to thrive, you are going to have to be able to compete with other restaurants in your community with a better, or suitably different, service.
For example, if there are already a large number of vegan restaurants in the area, you might be entering a flooded market. On the other hand, if there are no restaurant ideas like yours in the region, just ask yourself why.
It could only be that no one has yet had the gumption to open this kind of restaurant. But it could be just that there is no market for it. You need to get out there and do some research. We don’t mean just Google it -get out on the street, ask people, set up focus groups, and find out what the local community needs and wants. ⠀
Test out your concept
If your idea is ‘quirky,’ you could trial it with a market stall before you make a significant financial investment in an untested idea.
A market stall is comparatively cheap and will allow you to validate your idea without taking too much of a chance. It’s also a perfect way to connect with potential customers, do some pre-emptive marketing, and get constructive feedback on your service.
Alternatively, you could opt for a pop-up restaurant by leasing a short-term space. This will allow you to test the experience that you eventually hope to create more authentically.
Once you know that you are onto a good thing, it is time to find the right premises. After all, you can’t have a restaurant without them!
However, this is not a step to rush. The wrong premises can see your whole dream go down the drain very quickly, so taking your time to find the perfect place is essential.
We have already discussed checking out your competitors, but it is relevant here as well. Being the only restaurant in the area obviously reduces the amount of competition that you are up against, but at the same time, if people are in the area to visit another restaurant, and see you, you may find them choosing you next time, so it is swings-and-roundabouts. This is why the research process at the beginning is so important.
The simplest way to get premises for your restaurant is to take over an existing establishment. If you are fortunate, you might even find one with a kitted out kitchen and bar area. However, it is important to try to get to the bottom of the reason for the sale.
Ask questions about the rent, business rates, and the licenses on the property. Be careful if you are considering buying an existing company, as there may be debts hidden away that don’t show up until you are committed, and you may have to take on the current staff. This, of course, saves you on training costs, but it can be difficult to mold them to your style.
Kit it out
Once you have signed a lease on your property, it’s time to start decking it out. Restaurants are frantic, chaotic, but fine-tuned enterprises, dependent on a combination of essential equipment and skilled people to keep them running efficiently. It all begins with the correct equipment.
When you’re designing and kitting out your restaurant kitchen, you are going to need enough equipment to support the number of covers that you have, so that you can meet the demand when you are at full capacity.
There are plenty of specific items of cookery equipment available, but to start with, the following should be enough to set up a basic restaurant kitchen.
- Deep fat fryer
- Food preparation tables
On top of these big items, you need all the cooking utensils – plenty of pots and pans, knives, chopping boards, food processors, and cutlery.
For the actual serving of the food, you need at least double the number of plates, bowls, and cutlery, glasses, and cups that you think you will need. Remember, some will be in the dishwasher, some meals (but hopefully not too many!) will be sent back, and you need to account for the inevitable breakages.
Regulations and safe practice
When working in the food industry, there are many rules and regulations that you must adhere to. These are not there to make your life difficult, but to protect the health and wellbeing of your customers.
Taking a course in food hygiene is essential. You will learn why and how to prepare and store food safely to avoid food poisoning. Each year roughly one out of six Americans (that’s 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.
Did you know: that any food leftovers should be kept in shallow airtight containers (two inches or less) for rapid cooling and to prevent bacteria from spreading. The time it takes for food to cool down in a large container may be long enough for dangerous bacteria to grow. Never allow leftovers to cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge? The fridges should be kept at 4 degrees or lower. A wifi temperature sensor will help you to monitor the temperature and let you know if it needs adjusting – before it is too late.
Choosing a supplier
It does not matter how good a chef you employ, or how spectacular your restaurant looks, if the ingredients that you use to prepare your dishes are substandard, people will notice. While it can be tempting to look for the cheapest, this is the area that you do not want to scrimp on. Your whole reputation is going to be based on your food – make sure it is good!
People these days are more conscious than ever about the food that they consume. Many do not want food that has come from the other side of the world with a huge carbon footprint. They want locally grown, fresh ingredients that have been grown in as sustainable as an environment as possible – this goes for both meat and fruit and vegetables.
Make sure that you choose a reputable supplier. Ensure that they are registered with the appropriate authorities, that their production and packaging facilities and methods are ethical, sustainable, and hygienic. You may, depending on where you are operating, be required to keep records of when and where you purchased your ingredients. This paper chain is vital for your own protection should a customer fall ill.
Questions to ask potential suppliers include:
- Are they registered with the local authority?
- Do they have any certification or quality assurance?
- Do other local restaurants recommend them?
- Do they store, transport, and hygienically pack their goods?
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Find a utility provider
You are going to be using a lot of appliances, heating, or using air conditioning to keep your customer’s comfortable nd lighting large areas, so your utility bill is going to be one of your most significant expenses. It is worth shopping around to find the best possible deal.
Of course, it is up to you to reduce your energy consumption where possible. Turning off lights when they are not needed (candles are a great source of light and help to create a pleasant atmosphere!), maintaining your appliances and training staff on best practice are all ways that you might be able to save a little on your utility bills.
Restaurants create a surprising amount of laundry. From staff uniforms to cloths, towels, and table linens, it may be too much for you to do in-house. Find a local commercial laundrette to collect, wash, and deliver your uniforms, napkins, and table linen.
Your restaurant premises are ready. You have the equipment in place, the suppliers ready to deliver the food. You have all the facilities you need, and your services are figured out.
Now for the last–and arguably the most important–element. Your restaurant can live or die on the calibre of your employees, so you need to employ committed, hard-working, and enthusiastic front and back staff.
You are not always going to get it right, but you need to be specific about the quality you’re looking for when you recruit. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to deal with it. Customers can have dozens of great dining experiences in your establishment before one poor one completely sours their views.
This barely touches the surfaces of opening your restaurant, but it is a start. There is lots to do, and you can expect some hurdles along the way. That’s why you always need to keep your reason for starting this restaurant venture close to your heart. Good luck!