Tips For Opening A Restaurant

July 19, 2017 by Larry Struckman
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Whether you are in the restaurant industry or not, you might dream of opening a restaurant. But before you open the establishment’s doors, there are many details you need to consider. Luckily, we’re in the business of helping guide restaurants and hospitality establishments here at ShiftNote – here are 10 tips for opening a new restaurant.

1 - Define Your Restaurant’s Genre

Before you begin the process of opening a restaurant, the first step is defining a culinary niche. Do you want a family-friendly quick serve establishment, or a high-end steakhouse? A brewpub or ethnic establishment? Think about questions like, “Is there particular audience you want to serve?” and “What type of food am I passionate about?” This will help shape your menu items, location selection, and food suppliers.

Defining restaurant concepts is important because they give you structure for your restaurant operation.

2 - Choose a Restaurant Name

The next step is choosing your restaurant name. Make sure your name ties back to the concept and audience you serve – and above all else – isn’t already taken. You can check for existing trademarks and select a name that is web- and social- media friendly. For example, length, ability to pronounce, and similarity to other business names is important to consider.

(Resource: The Small Business Association offers great naming resources.)

3 - Consider Funding

If you are not in the position to self fund your new restaurant, you’re going to need to look for sources of capital. This should be done months before you open your restaurant’s doors. While the money needed varies, according to this survey, the median cost to open a restaurant is $275,000 or $3,046 per seat. If owning the building is figured into the amount, the median cost is $425,000 or $3,734 per seat. Some common sources of financing are:

  • Private from friends and family
  • Credit cards
  • Crowd funding (Like Foodstart or Crowdrise)
  • Cash advances
  • A traditional bank loan
  • A small business loan

4 - Select a Restaurant Location

Location can be the make or break for your restaurant. Look long and hard at different neighborhoods before signing a lease or purchasing a property. Consider things like foot traffic, car traffic density, accessibility, available parking, restrictive ordinances, and future development plans. You should even consider the previous tenants occupying your potential space. For example, if there is a lot of turnover, that typically is not a good thing.

5 - Develop a Business Plan

“The process of putting a business plan together forces you to take an objective, critical, unemotional look at the business project in its entirety,” says Business One Stop.

According to Canada Business Network, a restaurant business plan can help you:

  • Turn your ideas and capital into a viable business
  • Secure financing from lenders and investors
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

Writing out your business plan forces you to consider all aspects of your restaurant business like your mission statement, timing, and resources available, as well as your marketing, operations, staffing, and financial plans.

6 - Find The Right Personalities to Work for You

Employees are the backbone of any business, but particularly in the hospitality industry. Well-trained, passionate employees can make your business successful. Hire for soft skills like personality and drive – and then train staff to become experts on your restaurant. While industry experience is important, look for passion, dedication, thoroughness, attention to detail, and personality. Remember to fill each and every position before you open your doors… You’ll need to hire a team of chefs, servers, hosts, bussers, and even bartenders if your establishment will offer “adult beverages”.

7 - Prep the Promotional Plan

After you’ve got the beginning steps like securing a location, developing a business plan, and hiring staff, you need to create a marketing strategy. While traditional methods like billboards, magazine spots, and postcards are effective, an online marketing tactics like leveraging online reviews, using mobile apps, making your website responsive and secure, and uploading drool-inducing photos are a must!

8 - Design the Restaurant Menu and Venue Layout

“A well-written restaurant menu should be both descriptive, easy to read and have a clear, uncluttered layout,” says The Balance. Avoid clip art, disclaimers, and unbranded material on the menu, and use a lot of white space so patrons can easily scan it. After you’ve selected the menu design, brush up on venue layouts. Here are some secrets of the perfect restaurant venue design, from the pros (via Washington Post).

9 - Apply for Licenses and Permits

Consult with the state and city your restaurant will reside in about the permits and licenses you’ll need for your restaurant. Common licenses no matter your area are liquor licenses, sign permits, and workers compensation licenses. Remember that many licenses and permits take time to be approved, and know that nothing is official until you sign them.

10 - Stock the Restaurant

One of the last steps of the process of opening a restaurant is stocking it with kitchen equipment, furniture and decor, and food. Don’t skimp on this step – you are going to want to choose high-quality, dependable vendors versus cheap ones.

Opening a restaurant is an exciting venture. In order to be successful, you must prepare. Opening a business can take anywhere from a couple of months to years, depending on its location, size, and concept. To set yourself up for success and don’t rush the process.

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Larry Struckman

Passionate about setting up systems and procedures that assure success, training, consulting, growing sales, strategic planning, creating "raving fan" customer service and just about anything related to food service. 25+ years in food and sales as well as growing hundreds of concepts with different operators (I have seen them all). I enjoy cooking, computer software, Taekwondo and spending time with my family. We started ShiftNote in 2007 to help organizations like yours create a better platform for shift-to-shift communication across their organization. Our purpose is to serve you with the best online digital logbook and employee scheduling software on the market so you can spend more time focusing on growing your business.