They say “it’s all about the journey, not the destination” doesn’t work in the restaurant industry. Your journey (researching and setting up the restaurant) will set you up for the destination – either success or failure. Below I’ve written my 12 basic concepts that I personally consider when opening a new restaurant or café. I’ve got these 12 steps down to a fine art and know them by heart but that certainly doesn’t mean I get blasé. These 12 steps are followed for every single restaurant I open and you should consider them too.
I’ll go into much more detail in blog posts but here is the overall idea of what you need to be thinking about and considering when you want to get started in the food service industry:
- Your Concept
This is the first and most important step because your restaurant’s concept will determine not only your customer’s demographic but your location, menu and restaurant design and layout. Do you want to open a fine dining restaurant catered to the high end consumer, or a café in your local neighbourhood to get in on the (currently) hugely popular brunch scene? Or are you somewhere in between, French, Indian, Pub, Italian or even modern Australian. Getting your concept finalised before you move onto the next steps is a must.
- Your Location
This important aspect can make or break an establishment, that goes for both the food service industry and also regular brick and mortar businesses. There are key aspects you’ll want to check before signing any sort of lease, like is the area busy with foot traffic and is there parking for customers and close vicinity to public transport or taxi stands. Another big factor is researching other restaurants in that particular area including ones that have shut up shop. Are they doing well? How long have they been in business? Alarm bells start to ring when you find a location but find out that a few restaurants have come and gone from the area in recent years.
- Your Name
It’s all in a name…. Or so they say. Choose a name that is meaningful, maybe a reflection of your theme or the location you’ve chosen. It could be called after you, as the owner for example Manna’s Indian Cuisine or Papa Giuseppe’s Pizza Parlour. The possibilities are endless. Brainstorm your ideas and run them past friends and family before making a final decision. Before deciding check whether there are similarly named restaurants in your state or country and whether your restaurant name is available as a domain for your future website (we’ll touch on more of this is step 11).
- Your Business Plan
Super important and you’re a fool if you don’t do one. Crafting an honest business plan can help see potential issues your restaurant might come up against but more importantly it will help in gaining finance from your banking institution. Without a business plans (and many other factors) banks are highly reluctant to provide financing. You can find a business plan template on the Australian Taxation Office’s website here.
- Your Financing
The difference between dreaming and doing. There are more options than just asking the banks like getting investors, or doing a joint venture with people who have capital. No matter what financing route you take go to any meeting prepared and professional.
- Licences and Permits
To serve food and alcohol in Australia you’ll need licences and permits and these aren’t always easy to obtain. Once you’ve got your finance sorted, get your licences and permits applications underway asap.
- Your Design
Time to get creative. Will you design your restaurant yourself or pay someone to do? So much needs to fit into a restaurant that it’s important to get the layout right before you start building. Things to consider include the size of your commercial kitchen vs the size of the seating area. No point in having a gigantic kitchen if you can only seat and serve 20 people at one, same goes for not having a tiny kitchen yet being able to seat and serve 100. Get the balance right.
- Your Menu
Your menu will be based largely on the concept of your restaurant, Indian restaurant serving Indian food, American style restaurant serving burgers and ribs etc etc. Once you’ve decided on your menu you’ll need it printed, keep it clear and concise and within the theme of your restaurant (so if you’re a fine dining restaurant you’ll have a menu that reflects that, not a printed piece of A4 paper that you’ve created in a Word document). Don’t over clutter with pictures, jargon and disclaimers.
- Your Stock
You’ve got your design sorted from step 7 and now you need to stock the products for your restaurant – kitchen appliances, furniture, crockery, glassware… The list literally goes on and on. Consider getting more expensive items second hand or leasing some items instead of outright purchasing them.
- Your Staff
Obviously a crucial step in running a restaurant but one of the most overlooked and under considered. I’ve seen restauranteurs leave it far too late to hire decent staff so they accept those who just merely apply because they’re short on time. You want the crème de la crème representing your restaurant. Allow enough time to find the right person for each position.
- Your Advertising
There are so many advertising outlets it’s hard to know which will be the best for you. Consider your demographic and the amount you’re willing to spend. The basics you’ll want are a good website and social media but don’t be afraid to spend money in this department. A good website will be ranked in google and found by potential customers, a bad website will cost you money and just sit in no man’s land gathering electronic dust. Know the difference and spend the money.
Yay, you’re open and serving customers now what? Well you build and you grow. Not always that simple but from here on out it’s all about building and making a profit. Once your operations you’ll need to make some tough decisions but these could make or break your business. Do we need more staff, or have too many staff? Is our current advertising showing a return on investment? Can we find cheaper suppliers? Do we need to add/remove items from the menu? There are so many interchangeable scenarios when it comes to running a successful business so you’ll need to be on your game all the time. I’ll touch on more about continuing your success in some later blog posts.
Get ready for the ride of your life, a roller coaster of ups and downs where if all goes to plan you make money and enjoy the successes of your restaurant. If the plan doesn’t work out be prepared to lose it all. It’s cut throat but if you’ve got the right formula and support around you it can be the best experience. It’s worked for me far more times than it hasn’t and it will continue to work for me as I build my restaurant empire.
Stay focussed and stay tuned to my blog where I’ll be posting more in-depth articles about each of these steps over time.
Questions? Hit me up on Facebook, leave a comment below or visit my contact page.