A new restaurant can be a very rewarding and lucrative endeavor. It can also be an incredibly daunting challenge. Anyone can succeed with the right knowledge, resources, and motivation, whether you are an experienced chef, culinary enthusiast, or an entrepreneur looking for a new business opportunity.
There are several common principles essential to every successful restaurant. The following are the most important things to consider in any culinary business plan:
Consider the Locale and the Competition in the Area
This is your first step to immediate success. First, take an inventory of every restaurant in the vicinity. Get an idea of how much business they acquire on any given day. Compare these observations with the population density of the area and the types of eateries available to the local population. Another important thing to consider is public exposure and accessibility to your chosen location. Is there a steady stream of out-of-towners passing near the locale (i.e. an interstate or major highway)? Does the area attract tourists during a certain time of the year? If so, are there popular hotels and attractions nearby?
A restaurant’s menu defines its individuality and purpose, and determines its standing in the community. From day one, you must decide on a prevalent type of cuisine or a consistent culinary genre. It is good to use different cooking styles and techniques to develop a unique menu. However, you should never stray too far from your specialty or stretch your menu. This only confuses customers and lowers your credibility. It also requires a complex and expensive daily food order. On the other hand, you should always include a child menu and a few basic staples that cater to the minority of guests who might not enjoy your specific food genre.
Hire an Experienced and Versatile Chef
This is one of the most important business decisions that you must make, and many new owners find it to be the most difficult. It is hard to find a talented and reliable leader in the kitchen. Your restaurant needs someone knowledgeable in a variety of culinary techniques with plenty of experience in your chosen specialty. The candidate must have good organizational skills in a busy restaurant environment, with the ability to effectively communicate with the rest of the kitchen staff. Knowledge of food orders and pricing is also essential. The individual that you hire will effectively become your new business partner, and the single most important factor in your success. Take plenty of applications. List the job opening in every available online job site, local publication, and social media outlet. Take your time. Interview each candidate thoroughly with a sit down “get to know you” session and a cooking trial. Allow the candidate to cook one of his/her signature dishes, then one of your planned menu items.
Hours of Operation
This business decision may seem straightforward, but it can make or break your restaurant. It is advisable to close up shop for at least one day per week. Your business can save a lot of money by closing on the slowest day of the week. Statistically, in the United States, this is Monday. Many establishments choose to close on Sunday, traditionally a much busier day. Consider doing a trial run for the first month to test out your most viable options. Experiment with different closing days, and try breakfast, lunch, and dinner combinations with varying hours of operation.
Fresh Food Vendors
The next step is to secure reputable local suppliers. Research is imperative. It is also advisable to get advice from other chefs and restaurant owners. Acquiring fresh, high quality local ingredients is a major step toward success on two fronts. The obvious asset is the food itself. These suppliers harvest your ingredients, load them onto a truck, and deliver them to your establishment on the same day. This produce has been under the care of a highly skilled, privately owned farming operation that most likely specializes in its cultivation. These small farms normally offer very high quality at reasonable prices. They can also work with you and their partners to meet your restaurant’s specific needs after you have established a good business relationship. Marketing is another great asset of working with local vendors. Local business partnerships are very important for spreading the word about your restaurant to clients and other businesses. Furthermore, most locals will respect your strategy to keep business concentrated in the area; supporting small family owned businesses rather than faceless corporations.
Effective marketing is absolutely essential. The successful restaurant owner must be creative and diverse, employing both traditional and online promotional strategies. Local newspaper columns and culinary publications, billboards and/or signs, and commercials are always important marketing strategies. However, you should also cultivate your online marketing prowess. Create a Facebook profile and a Twitter account, and frequently update both with news, events, and promotions. Next, create your own mobile-friendly website. Another profitable option to consider is e-mail marketing. You can create a client list via post-dinner surveys. This strategy has a very impressive cost-to-benefit ratio. Try all of these strategies and see which ones work the best for you.
The preceding points are the most basic, and most important, factors to consider when starting up a new restaurant. The chances are that you already have a good idea of the direction you want to take your business. You may have to improvise as you go, but get creative, remember the basics, and stay motivated. Good luck and bon appétit!