The dream for many chefs is to one day open and operate their own restaurant. Opening a restaurant is more than just the food however, and there are a number of obstacles to overcome before you can open your doors. Today we’re going to lay out the basic how-to’s on opening a restaurant.

Step one is figuring out what your restaurant is going to be. A board gaming café perhaps? An upmarket Italian joint? You’ll need to figure out your concept and brand.  When starting out, it’s important to have a clear concept and brand. This relates to the style of your restaurant, your food, the ambiance and even the service. It’s your restaurants identity. Choose a unique and workable concept that targets a clear demographic.

You’ll want to sketch out a basic menu. Establish some basic items that you’ll offer. This will help to determine what equipment and staff you need as well as help you to pinpoint your target market. You need not write out every recipe for every item that will be on your menu at this stage- that will come later. And while it’s great to know what you want to serve, don’t get too attached to your menu- your profit margins will thank you if you keep track of how each item is selling and replace as needed.

Once you’ve got these two things down (and to be honest, you’ve probably had the idea for years about your dream restaurant) you’ll need a business plan. Business plans are key for reaching out to investors and applying for the necessary loans. It will also allow you (and the relevant parties) to assess the financial viability of your restaurant. These are the main components of a restaurant business plan:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Overview and Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Business Offerings
  • Management
  • Marketing and Public Relations Strategies
  • Financial Projection

Once that’s done you’ll need to start approaching investors. Start by estimating the total start-up costs you will need as well as the projected day-to-day costs. This will allow you to create a budget with which you can approach investors. Don’t forget to include license costs. Once you’ve approached investors it’s likely you will still have a shortfall. At this point consider applying for restaurant loans.

A note here: if you were unable to secure any investors, it’s important to figure out why before proceeding. It’s a lovely concept- success in the face of great opposition, but it doesn’t always come true, and it may be that your initial concept has a fatal flaw. Consider going back to the drawing board and re-formulating. You don’t want to take out enormous loans for a restaurant that never breaks even.

Now that you’ve got your capital, you can go forward with setting up your restaurant! You’ll need a location. Consider the following features; visibility, accessibility, demographics of the area versus your target market, area costs (labor costs and minimum wage) and competition (don’t open up next door to a restaurant that does the exact same thing).

Consider leasing rather than purchasing. It can be pricier in the long run but allows you flexibility if things need to change.

You’ll then need to research the obtain the necessary licenses. These will vary greatly depending on where you are. Consider legal counsel at this point if you hit a barrier- they will also be able to ensure you check all the right boxes.

Following this you will need to find and choose an equipment and food supplier at reasonable prices which meet the brand of your restaurant. You’ll want to design a restaurant layout and start hiring the right staff.

When doing your restaurant layout you’ll want to ensure you optimize the space and meet the branding goals of your business. The space should also have an ergonomic flow from the front of the house to the back and maximise the advantages of the space (face people towards the view, for example).

One major step of opening a restaurant is hiring staff to carry out the everyday operation of your restaurant. Consider all roles that need to be filled at your particular restaurant before hiring staff. This may include human resources management and supervisors, food and beverage purchasing, receiving and storing products, food preparation, foodservice, food cleaning and dishwashing, marketing and sales, public relations, accounting and auditing, and bar services.

For both front- and back-of-house staff, look for candidates with prior experience and an ability to multitask, work quickly and efficiently. All employees should work well with others and be able to stay calm under pressure. Front-of-house staff in particular should exude exceptional social skills.

Though the list will vary based on the unique needs of your restaurant business, there are a few positions you will likely need to fill when opening your restaurant:

  • Executive chef (if this isn’t you)
  • General manager
  • Sous chef
  • Prep cooks
  • Servers
  • Bartenders
  • Hosts
  • Food runners and bussers
  • Dishwasher

In line with your business plan, you’ll then need to start advertising. Advertising is critical for various reasons. First and foremost, prospective customers should be able to find basic information about your restaurant. Secondly, they should feel enthused to try out your new eatery. Below are some tips to create excitement around your restaurant:

  • Use social media.Create Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to share news, photos, and tidbits about your restaurant. The photos and descriptions should communicate your brand. Consider including images of food or behind-the-scene processes to draw in potential guests. Make sure to use high-quality photos.
  • Build an attractive website. Your site should be easy to navigate, and the design should represent your brand. Include basic information about your restaurant, including your address, phone number, hours, and menu.
  • Put an ad in the local paper. This will help create awareness about your new restaurant. You could even try and get a featured story or mention in an article.
  • Offer promotions to new guests. Give first-time guests a free drink or small dessert. Customers will remember your exceptional hospitality, and they will be more likely to recommend your restaurant and to return themselves.
  • Consider hosting an opening event. This can take place after your soft opening or in place of it. You can host other events to create continued buzz around your restaurant, such as wine tastings, live music, cooking classes, or themed fixed menus.

Your opening night is crucial, so consider having a test run. This entails inviting a limited group of people, probably composed largely of family and friends before opening to the public. It will help highlight any issues and take the edge off the nerves (of both you and your staff).

Getting your new restaurant off the ground can feel like a daunting task. However, as the restaurant industry continues to grow, and foodservice trends continue to diversify, there is always room for another extraordinary eatery. With detailed planning and successful execution of your unique ideas, your restaurant business can flourish.



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