If you have been dreaming of owning your own restaurant you may have quite a few questions as to how to start a restaurant. You know what food you will serve and you can see the full dining room in your mind’s eye. But how do you take your vision and make it a reality? It can be overwhelming. However there is a method on how to start a restaurant and we’ll take you through the main steps you need to consider while making your plan on how to start a restaurant.
Planning for how to start a restaurant
Just like the structure of any good house depends on the foundations, so will your new restaurant business depend on solid preparation work. Do not skimp on this part. I know that you are so excited you just want to start getting your hands dirty and building. But slow and steady wins the race. Make sure to take care of the fundamentals:
Get a mentor and surround yourself with other restauranteurs
No man is an island and it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. The very first thing you should do when wondering how to start a restaurant is to find someone who has already done it. You will have many questions and will need solid, proven advice. Find a mentor as well as a community where you can ask questions and get sound advice. This will prove to be invaluable. Surround yourself with people that know what they are doing. This is key. This is what sets successful people apart from people that just get by. Successful people know how to use other people for what they are good at. No use re-inventing the wheel. Ask around, get advice, talk to old hats, join your local restaurant association. Don’t be shy, most people want to help, so ask away. You’ll save lots of time and heartache as you open your restaurant.
Restaurant location, location, location
This phrase exists for a reason. It is the number one thing you have to think about when thinking of how to start a restaurant. Believe me, because I know all about it. Our first restaurant was lost in a town miles from any cities. And did we suffer (actually that is why I’m so good at restaurant marketing now, because I had to market the heck out of the establishment just to make it crawl. Won’t ever do that again!). Don’t believe the ‘build it and they will come’ adage. If there is one thing you must do it is get this part right. If you are beginning a franchise they will often help you with placement. But if you are starting on your own you need to do your research.
- Investigate different franchise opportunities (even if you aren’t planning on opening a franchise) to learn how they quantify a worthy placement.
- Hang around any potential locations at all times of the day and count traffic and footfall. Make sure to take note if it’s traffic of your audience. If it’s a lot of mothers and children on the way to school, but you are a high end French restaurant, then don’t consider that in your traffic count.
- Research through the town hall or other upcoming development or changes to roads, etc.
- Make sure to be in an area where there are other businesses. Interview them and ask them about the pros and cons of the placement.
- Don’t fall for cheap rent. If the rent is cheap there is normally a reason. You may have to pay more, but it’s worth it.
- Run the numbers.
- The internet and review sites have made it a little easier to be found, so if you have a specific attraction or are a high end ‘destination’ restaurant you may be able to go just a little bit more off the grid, but it’s risky and there is nothing like a high traffic area.
- Don’t lie to yourself because you want it to work so badly. Get advice and input from others for this essential step.
It is important to take your time to create a business plan for how to start a restaurant. You don’t have to make it a formal document, and don’t worry about making it look pretty (unless you are looking for investment) but you do need to make sure to run your numbers. Get help from an accountant that is specialized in restaurants. Find recommendations from other restaurateurs or your local restaurant association. The right accountant will be crucial for success and is worth his or her weight in gold.
Most importantly, you’ll need to make sure you have enough treasury to last through the time it takes to get regular business in through the door. Many restaurants go under before they even have a chance to start to pick up business due to lack of treasury. You should be able to last at least a year while waiting for your restaurant marketing to kick in. Remember, many businesses do not begin to make money before 5 years, so calculate that into both your business plans and personal financial plans.
How to start a restaurant marketing plan
Make sure you have your restaurant marketing plans in place BEFORE you open. You’ll need to make sure that you have people coming in as soon as your restaurant doors open. And you’ll be so busy once you open that you won’t have a lot of time to dedicate to restaurant marketing activities so you want to have something already prepared. So you’ll want to have your restaurant marketing campaigns all ready, including the basic restaurant marketing that you’ll need to have in place on a consistent basis. There are a lot of things to think about when setting up a restaurant. But the number one thing we think is missing from most new restaurant owner’s plans is restaurant marketing.
- Plan a ‘practice run’ week and invite all your contacts for a free meal to test the service and the food. Not only is this important to ensure a great experience for your new customers, you can also use this as good public relations.
- Plan a launch party and invite neighboring businesses and journalists.
- Have all of the essential restaurant marketing campaigns (exit surveys, referral programs, etc) in place as soon as you open the doors. Do not bother creating these yourself. You can find ready made campaigns already done for you.
Your restaurant team
Restaurant staff is a notoriously sticky area – finding them, training them, teaching waiters how to sell, and keeping good staff. Restaurant staff is absolutely essential to the success of your restaurant. The cook staff takes care of the product and the wait staff takes care of delivery and customer service. If either one of these fails, so does your restaurant.
- Developing a restaurant staff training plan may sound tedious, but it’s worth the time to set this up before you even start your restaurant. Once you open your doors you won’t have time to develop an on-boarding process, but this is critical to a maintaining and excellent staff.
- Decide something special that you are going to do to attract and retain restaurant staff. Employee of the month, group activities, profit share…the better you treat your staff the better they will treat you.
- Have double the staff you think you will need interviewed and ready to call on. You will inevitably have staff that doesn’t show up, that walks out, that gets sick. Have numerous back ups and a network of potential staff.
How to start a restaurant?
There are many moving parts when you start a restaurant, so make sure to create and keep a checklist. This will help you organize your thoughts.
Oh, and check out our Win Win Restaurant Marketing Library. You’ll find free resources and everything you need to know and use for how to start a restaurant, to get customers in the door and spending more. And all already done for you! That’s one more thing to check off the list and you are one step closer to your dream.