There are some jobs that you find yourself in without really knowing how and there are businesses people start because it’s the obvious next step. Owning and managing a restaurant is neither of these. The hours are long, the competition is fierce, weekends are your busiest time and creating something people will love is key, which is why you can’t make it without a decent dollop of passion. Food, hospitality, drinks, creating an experience - it all needs to be in your bones.
But as passionate as you may be about going down this route and as excited as starting a restaurant may feel, it’s only going to get you so far. It’s why more than 50% of new restaurants don’t make it to their first birthday, instead of falling into the realm of the forgotten. Don’t worry. We’re not telling you this because we want you to check your passion, we’re telling you this so you can double-up on your passion and help you understand just how much time, effort, business acumen and money is needed to thrive.
So, without further ado, here is some advice from those who have been there and done it in this industry, some of who succeeded and some of who had to learn from their failures.
1. Planning Is The Most Important Thing
The single biggest reason new restaurants fail is that they don’t plan everything well enough. You need to sit down and figure out every tiny little detail of your restaurant, from the kitchen layout to your restaurant floor plan, your cocktail menu to hiring the right staff, nailing the decor to picking the right appliances. The more you can plan, the better your chances of becoming a mainstay in the restaurant game.
2. Perfect Your Concept And Business
There are a million different types of restaurant you can open up. There are upmarket restaurants, those who do fine dining, food trucks, fast food spots, casual eateries, waffle houses, milkshake parlors, dessert-only restaurants, and pubs. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg because you will also want to know what sub-category you want to go into. Do you want to specialize in steaks, seafood, vegan dishes, vegetarian options, experiential plates, or any number of other things? The point is: you need to do your homework and then figure out the size of your potential market. Once you’ve achieved this, get clued up on the business side of things, go on part-time business courses, learn about accounting and get whatever skills you need to create a detailed business plan and budget.
3. Location, Location, Location
The thing about great locations is, the hard work is done for you because even the most mediocre restaurants can thrive when the location is right because they will have a constant flow of people. Flip that on its head and even the most amazing restaurants can fail if they launch in the wrong spot. It’s about knowing what you want, what will suit your business and what trade-offs you are willing to make. It could be that you choose somewhere out in the country that has lots of space and plenty of parking, or somewhere a little less space-rich that’s in the center of an upmarket bit of town. Then there is deciding whether you want to be away from other restaurants to avoid competition or near other great restaurants thinking they might attract more customers your way. It’s a toss-up.
4. Getting Your Financing In Order
There is no set ins tone figure when it comes to answering the question: how much does it cost to launch a restaurant? Usually, people will just say a lot. But it doesn’t have to. It all depends on your concept, what size space you want, where that space is, the equipment you are after, where you buy that equipment from, how many staff you hire, your menu, marketing and how much capital you can put in. Whatever the case, consider auditing your assets, consider learning more here about restaurant accounting, see if you can get help from family or friends, ask around to see if anyone wants to partner up on this adventure, and look to see if there are any government schemes that can help you get off the ground. Like we said in point one, the more planning you can do, the better chances you will have across the board.
5. Design Your Space
The focal point of all restaurants is the food and drink they serve. But a great restaurant goes well beyond this and focuses on the experience they offer. It’s about creating somewhere that sets a certain atmosphere. That could mean somewhere that is inviting and relaxing for people, somewhere that’s upbeat and funky, somewhere rustic that feels like your stepping back in time, somewhere with a certain theme or somewhere that just wows the sense. Once you’ve decided on that, you need to make sure it is highly functional for your staff, easy to clean, and easy for kitchen staff to move around safely and quickly. That will mean speaking to architects, interior designers, and contractors in order to bring your vision to life.
6. Marketing Is A Must-Have
Sure. Once you’ve made a name for yourself, you can thrive on word of mouth - the greatest marketing strategy out there - but you need to market yourself more directly in order to get to this stage. You need people to have heard of you and to be intrigued enough to make a reservation. To do this, write a press release and send it to the local newspapers and invite bloggers to come and eat for free. You will also want to hire a creative content agency, like Copper Milk Creative, to bring everything else to life: design your website, manage your social media, create flyers, make your menus sparkle and create a brand that is consistent throughout. Once all this is done, consider having a soft opening to get the people talking about you and your restaurant.
It ain’t easy, but it is totally worth it.