Opening a Restaurant: How to Prepare and Plan Ahead of a Successful Venture

Opening a Restaurant: When it comes to business ventures, there are few industries and markets more challenging than the hospitality sector. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the success rate of bars and restaurants was very low indeed, and the chances of your establishment still being open after a year were slim to none. 

Now in 2022, the odds are further stacked against you, but some brave operators see the cut and thrust as something of an opportunity. Indeed they may feel the fact that thousands of bars and restaurants (of all types and niches) have closed as a way to push themselves into the market.

So, what do you need in order to successfully open a restaurant? Well, apart from a lot of courage and hopefully money, you’ll need patience and realistic expectations. 

What Kind of Restaurant Are You Opening?

No doubt, prior to your initial plans for running a restaurant, you will know what kind of food you wish to serve and the general ambiance of your business. Maybe you want to open a super fancy posh eatery with sparkling restaurant chairs and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and waiters who look as if they just stepped off the catwalk. 

Perhaps instead, you are looking for a more homely option. A place that is more reasonably priced and therefore more likely to bring in a regular crowd that is more interested in a down-to-earth experience, where the food is tasty, but perhaps presentation isn’t as key.

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Knowing what sort of niche you fit into is key, and it’s something that you can’t adjust repeatedly. Your customers need to know where they stand, especially if they are going to return.

Match Your Menu To Your Restaurant Type

Never lose sight of your goals. Be sure that the menu you put together matches and underpins the direction your restaurant wants to head in. In other words, if your restaurant wishes to be on the upscale high-end of the spectrum, then your menu must reflect that, much as the prices you charge will do likewise.

Be sure that there is a coherence between these aspects; otherwise, you may find that your customers aren’t satisfied with the experience they’ve been sold.

Where Are You Opening Your Establishment?

Once you know what kind of restaurant you want to open, you’ll need to make sure it sits well with the location you have in mind. Perhaps there is a gap in the relevant market, or maybe there are too many competitors in your locality, meaning you might need to look elsewhere or rethink your initial plans.

This is something that you should look to out to a company that knows how to carry out the relevant research into a prospective neighborhood.

Map Out Timeframes and Be Aware of Potentially Lengthy Delays With Licenses

Opening a restaurant is not an overnight phenomenon, and as far as possible, you need to map in potential delays. One area that always takes longer than anticipated relates to the bureaucratic hoops you need to jump through. 

This might include the relevant licenses you need if you are serving alcohol, as well as health and safety inspections. These almost invariably take longer than you are prepared for, and often the timing is out of your hands. Therefore always factor this into your open date.

Be Aware of Potential Additional Lockdowns

While it’s true that the worst of the coronavirus appears to be behind us, you should still plan for the worst. There are common factors that the restaurants that made it through the COVID era and came out the other side unscathed.

Two crucial aspects helped those to stay in business. Firstly those restaurants that had outside areas managed to make the most of the COVID crisis and were able to increase capacity when necessary or just at least be able to serve some customers outdoors. 

Another important mitigation that aided some restaurants was those that had excellent takeout options that were already built-in and working effectively. Our eating habits shifted dramatically over the past two years, and the number of meals ordered to our homes increased drastically and therefore if you had this operation built into your business, you were always going to be relatively safe from the cull that followed.

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With this in mind, make sure you have an outdoor area that you can use as well as a takeout menu that is top quality and can work almost aside from your in-house operation. 

Put a Great Deal of Res Into Finding the Best Staff

In the post-COVID world, we are eating out far less. Prior to 2020, going out for a meal was no longer a novelty, and we did so regularly. Some of us many times a week, both for lunch and dinner. Now it’s likely our visits will be more of a luxury. This means that if you want to encourage repeat business, which is key to becoming a successful restaurant, you have to try that little bit harder.

If your patrons are not happy with the service, then they won’t come back. It’s almost as important as the quality of the dishes you serve, and it’s something you can’t afford to get wrong.

That means you need to invest in an HR team that brings in the best candidates for every role, from waiters to your head chef. A poor selection of reviews placed online could be a death sentence, but a great experience that satisfies not only the stomachs of your customers but also their souls will be an excellent way to give your restaurant a fighting chance of success.

Factor In All Costs

When you know what kind of restaurant you are looking to open and you’ve hired the relevant staff, especially in terms of those cooking and prepping the ingredients, you’ll need to think about the overall costs of the menu.

We’ve noticed in recent years that the costs of certain aspects of the supply chain have changed dramatically, and costs that you may have previously not considered have shot up with alarming results.

So, for instance, maybe you’d prefer to keep everything local. Your produce might be better d from nearby suppliers; even if the root costs (no pun intended) are higher than cheaper products that are further afield, you will save large sums on the transportation of the goods.

Create a Social Media Footprint

In this day and age, every business, even a local restaurant, needs a solid social media presence. Whether this is to help increase custom or your reputation, opening social media channels will help you sell the ethos and intention of your establishment. 

It’s a relatively cost-effective undertaking and one that can have a tangible impact on your bottom line. Word of mouth was a way of previously attracting custom, and now online, you need to develop a virtual way of selling the value of your venture.

Use an external agency to help you with this and work out clever ways to promote your restaurant, especially ahead of your opening launch. You’ll be surprised how it can help you make your restaurant the success it deserves to be.

Manage Expectations and Spread the Cost

Don’t attempt to finance and run a restaurant on your own. This may end up being a very lonely and costly mistake. We’ve already outlined the issues implicit within the industry, so if you attempt to cover costs on your own, even if that means just being a signatory with a bank that’s loaning you money, then you may find life a real struggle.

Look to enlist investors, preferably those who know the business and, if possible, people you know well. That way, when things get tough, and this will invariably happen, the concerns are shared and not solely a burden on yourself.

Be aware that making money from your restaurant is likely to take years. Basically, if your restaurant is still open two or three years down the line, it’s then that you’ll start to see the fruits of your labor pay off.

Be ready to be in it for the long haul, as these ventures won’t pay off in the short or even medium term. Managing your own personal expectations, as well as those who are taking this exciting journey with you, is a critical part of the process, and it will hold you in good stead, to be honest with yourself about the immense challenges that await you and your restaurant venture.

Be Adaptable

These suggestions and tips are by no means a fail-safe way of making sure your restaurant is a success, as there are sometimes roadblocks that are unforeseen. You have to be able to roll with the punches, and if you, and your restaurant venture, are adaptable, then you will be better placed to negotiate the pitfalls that inevitably arise.

Have Fun

Clearly, if you wanted to open a business and did so purely with the intention of making a fortune, then opening a restaurant wouldn’t be something you’d consider. If you are looking to open a restaurant, it’s probably because you have a love of food and the culinary arts as a whole, and you shouldn’t lose sight of that fact, especially during the more turbulent moments you are likely to face.

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