So you want to start a restaurant? Unless you’ve successfully opened up a restaurant before, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. Fortunately for you, we’ve got the answers. Following this guide should answer all of your questions and hopefully help you in your quest to start a new restaurant.
It’s important to remember that your restaurant is, and always will be, a business. No matter how good the food you serve is, if your restaurant doesn’t have a stable business plan behind it, you’ll struggle keeping your business viable. Start by learning about business management. Some people recommend getting a business degree before you begin working on your restaurant. Others recommend taking a few business classes at a local community college. There’s even business management software that can help you understand and run your own business better. However you choose to do it, any business background will be a huge help.
Part of educating yourself means crunching numbers before you sit down with anyone to talk about your idea. You’ve got to know how much it will cost to rent or buy your space, costs of food, labor, and equipment, and understand the market and competition you’ll be walking into.
Before you can start a restaurant, you need to have a solid business plan in place. Notes on napkins are a great place to start, but nowhere close to what you need to successfully run your business. What kinds of things should you plan for in your business?
- Market Research
- Target Audience
- Marketing Plan
- Budget Projection
- Watch Industry Trends
These are just a few critical elements that go into creating a successful business plan. There’s even a few activities you can do to help achieve these planning points.
- Hand out food samples and collect feedback
- Scout out different potential locations
- Offer discounts to new customers
- Join a local business association
- Create branded social media accounts to get word out
- Find what makes your business unique and get people talking about it
One of the first major hurdles you encounter on your journey is acquiring capital to start the restaurant. If you have money saved up from previous ventures, or a lifetime of scrimping and saving, that’s great. If you don’t have that kind of cash available, you’ll need to have other investors who believe in your restaurant dream as much as you do.
However you choose to fund your restaurant, having enough money to start and maintain such a venture can be overwhelming. About 60% of new restaurants fail within the first three years of opening. That can be due to a large number of reasons. Either way, it would be unfortunate to invest your hard earned cash (or an investor’s money) in something that you haven’t thought through enough to keep it up and running. Make sure you calculate the sales profit you’ll need to stay afloat. Making and serving food isn’t always enough to turn a profit.
No business succeeds without successful marketing. This marketing can take many different forms.
- TV, Radio, or Social Media Ads
- Newspaper Ads
- Street signs
- Word of mouth
One of the best forms of marketing for restaurants is word of mouth. If people love your restaurant, they’ll tell all their friends to go there. When people come in from out of town and ask for recommendations, you want your restaurant to be in everyone’s recommendations.
Starting a new restaurant is a pretty big deal. Most people don’t go it alone, and choose to spread the risk of investment among one or two partners. Not everyone makes a good partner though. It’s critical that you trust everyone you choose to work with in this big venture. You need to know everyone who is going to be involved in your restaurant, and make sure they share the same vision for the restaurant that you do.
Choosing the right location for your restaurant can be a huge determinant of success or failure. The right location can naturally attract lots of people, like building right across from a large office park. At lunchtime, people want good food that’s close by. If they can walk across the street to your restaurant, they’re a lot more likely to come. If they have to drive across town in lunchtime traffic, you probably won’t attract those people. Make sure you spend enough time conducting a location analysis, so when your new restaurant opens, you don’t have to worry about attracting enough people.
7. Make the Space Work
If you’re renting space, or building a new restaurant, it’s important that you make the space you have work for you. Make sure that you have enough room to get all your equipment in, and room for people to work in it. Workflow is critical to keeping a restaurant running smoothly. If your kitchen is broken up and workers have to constantly jump all over the place, and are worried about tripping on each other, you’ve chosen poorly. Instead, set up a natural workflow, where one station transitions seamlessly into another. Handoffs are much smoother, and people can work quickly and effectively.
Measure your space and make sure you have enough room to bring in new or existing equipment. Did you leave room for everything? Do you have room to grow? It’s important that you bring in a tape measure and actually tape off where everything will go. Then, have your employees walk around in the space and get their feedback. Does everyone fit? Does all the equipment fit? Have you placed your appliances by the appropriate hookups?
One mistake some new restaurant owners make, is bringing in residential equipment to service their kitchen. It’s critical that you don’t do this. Make the jump to commercial grade equipment. Residential equipment may seem to be quality equipment for a fraction of the price. Initially, this is true. Residential equipment has a much smaller price tag than commercial equipment does. However, residential equipment isn’t built to withstand the day to day use that commercial equipment takes. If you buy residential equipment, you’ll find yourself needing to purchase new kitchen equipment much sooner than if you had spent a little extra upfront and gotten commercial grade equipment. Local health codes can also mandate that you purchase commercial equipment that has been NSF and UL Sanitation certified.
Keeping your food fresh until it’s ready to be cooked is a big deal. The best way to do this is to buy a high quality commercial refrigerator. A quality commercial refrigerator can keep your ingredients from going bad, which saves you time and money. It’s no joke when people say a good refrigerator can make or break your kitchen.
When you purchase a refrigerator, take into account the size and capacity you’ll need for your restaurant. Large restaurants that are always packed will need a much larger refrigerator than a small cafe. Make sure you get one that fits your needs.
It’s also important that you take advantage of the awesome available features. Most new owners will buy reach-in refrigerators, but some will need to buy a walk-in cooler if you plan to be busy. If you serve cold drinks in bottles in the front of your restaurant, you’ll need merchandise refrigerators.
Commercial Ranges, Ovens, and Fryers
Most restaurants require some kind of a range, and whether it’s pancakes, burgers, steaks, or vegetables, you’ll need to invest in a commercial range. There are several good options that could fit your needs. Flat-top grills or griddles are great options for any restaurant. They allow you to grill almost anything, and you can fit multiple things on one grill.
Before you buy an oven, know what kind of oven you need. Do you need a convention or convection oven? Or, will you need a pizza oven? The specific oven you need will depend on the type of food you serve, and how quickly you want to prepare it.
If you want to serve anything fried, you’ll need a quality deep fryer. When buying a fryer, make sure you check the capacity of the fryer, the temperature range, and how easily they are to clean.
If you plan on serving cold drinks, you’ll definitely need a quality ice machine. These machines are so helpful, and can create ice constantly. This can keep ice bins or soda fountains stocked at all times. You can also use the ice in the back to make slushies and smoothies, or up at a bar to make margaritas. No matter what type of restaurant you want, having an ice machine is critical.
Having shelves is the best way to keep your restaurant organized and clutter free. Shelves and cupboards can go above appliances, or take up a whole wall. Make sure you plan adequate space in your restaurant for shelving. If you’ve got a walk-in refrigerator, make sure you plan in shelves for that too. Make sure that your employees can reach the shelves safely, and adjust their height as needed.
While there is no template to perfectly create your restaurant, if you follow the information in this guide, you should be on a good path toward starting your own restaurant. Spend time planning your restaurant, and make it look as good on paper as it does in your head. If you have any questions on what equipment you should buy, or want more information on starting and stocking your own restaurant, let us know. We’d love to help you get your restaurant up and running!