You have a passion for food, and your ultimate dream is opening a restaurant. You’ve thought about the food, the drinks and the table settings. Your goal is a successful dining establishment with a line out the door every weekend.
Restaurant ownership takes planning, hard work, patience and determination. To help you get started on the rewarding task of opening the doors of your very own restaurant, take a look at these important steps for success.
Create a Concept
Every exceptional restaurant has a great concept, a great chef and a great location. These all work together and help determine the ambiance of your restaurant. The concept is the type of food you’ll serve. Before taking any other action, put together a menu. Will your food be family-friendly, an upscale experience, a steakhouse, casual-dining, ethnic, a bakery, fast food or a sushi stop?
Your location should in turn fit your concept. Accessibility is everything; location does matter. You’ll have the most success if people can actually find you.
Make a Business Plan
Every new business needs a comprehensive business plan – this is your roadmap to success. Your plan should outline your restaurant concept and how you intend to make a profit.
The business plan is essential before your interview with the bank. The loan officer at the bank needs to know you are serious, and a business plan shows you have a well thought out plan. The success or failure of your restaurant can hinge on the strength of your business plan, so take your time with this all-important step.
Your plan should include:
- Description of your concept
- Your target customer base
- Your menu and potential technology pricing
- Financial information such as start-up capital and its source and an estimate of your long-term income and expenses
- Marketing information
- Employee hiring, training and retention programs
It’s important to overestimate your financial needs. You’ll want about nine months of working capital before you open your doors. Your expenses will devour your budget before you’ve even started generating customers. So, where do you find financing?
Take a look at your own savings and retirement accounts or real estate equity. You may be able to sell assets or use them as loan collateral. Look into a line of credit with your bank, or check out a commercial bank loan. Consider asking friends and family to help, or investigate the possibility of a partnership. A business partner might help with start-up capital while sharing the responsibilities of restaurant ownership.
Technology drives any business model in today’s world. Even in food service, technology is a critical consideration – and a necessary investment. Here are some common questions you will want to explore:
- What will you use as a point-of-sale (POS) system?
- Do you need an advanced computer and cash register system, or can you incorporate a square card reader on your phone?
- What online directories can you be added to? What restaurant directories?
- Are you setting up a website, or just using Facebook? Who will manage your online presence?
- How will people find you on their mobile devices? Do you need to be added to dining apps?
- How will you recruit staff? Track hours and pay staff?
- Will you integrate social media into your restaurant design?
- Should you offer online ordering? Online reservations?
- Is there an app you should develop for your restaurant?
Check the Legal Aspects
You’ve got some important legal details to attend to. Make sure your location is properly zoned for a restaurant. Pay attention to federal, state and local safety laws. A building inspector or code enforcement officer can help you with the safety requirements needed to pass a building inspection.
You’ll need a business license. Registering your restaurant grants you permission to open your doors. These are usually issued by your city. Other licenses you may need are a health permit, liquor license and a music copyright license. Check with your local restaurant association for more information. Lastly, have the health inspector out for a health inspection before serving your first meal!
Hire the Staff
According to Food Service Warehouse, if you hire and retain the right people, you’ll watch your business grow. Your staff provides the terrific customer service that makes people return week after week. Good food loses its appeal if it is accompanied by bad service. You can overcome staffing challenges by hiring the right people and providing them ongoing customer service training and incentives. Hire employees who mirror your restaurant concept and believe in taking care of your customers.
Promote Your Restaurant
Know your target market. Focus your time and money reaching this group of people. Make sure your price and product are right for your selected target market.
Create a marketing plan that includes traditional (print) and digital (Internet and social media) marketing options. You’ll definitely want a unique, catchy logo as well as a website that is easily accessible for desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile phone users. If your target market spends time on social media, start marketing there. Offer incentives to people checking in on social media sites or liking your page. Add coupons to your website and make online ordering easy and accessible.
Remember, there’s more to your success than a delicious, mouth-watering impeccable menu. Take great care with your customers, and you’ll create a life-long loyal following. Earn their trust by providing the best food and service possible and making sure their needs are attended to in a timely manner. You’ll want to ensure your word-of-mouth reputation is unblemished, and your customers give glowing reports to all of their friends.