If you love food and want to get into business doing something you love, you may be considering starting up your own restaurant. Diving into the food industry isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s demanding, yet can be rewarding. There’s a lot that needs to be done to get your restaurant started and running. While far from an exhaustive list, here are some things that should be on your radar.
Create a Clear Concept
One of the first things you should do is figure out a clearly defined concept for your restaurant. Maybe you’ll focus on a specific cuisine, such as Italian, Mexican, Indian, or Chinese, to name a few common options. Or you might choose a theme such as a sports bar, pub and grill, or diner. Decide whether your restaurant should fit into the fast food, fast casual, or fine dining categories. Consider what there is demand for in your area, as well as what the local competition is like. Whatever you choose, make it specific and clear, and plan your menu to fit with your concept.
Make a Marketing Plan
Once you’ve got your concept, start thinking about your plan to market your restaurant. There are traditional marketing methods you might consider, such as billboards, radio ads, and TV commercials. You might try a direct mail marketing campaign that lets local consumers know you’re there and offers them a discount. It should be apparent after the events of this year that having a website is imperative. Having a website and claiming local business listings can go a long way towards directing local traffic your way. Your website should include your menu, allergen and nutrition information, accurate contact information, and what your restaurant is about, at a minimum. You might consider adding a blog and career options as well.
Restaurants are subject to health codes. These codes vary from state to state. Failing to adhere to the codes could potentially result in your restaurant being shut down, so abiding by them shouldn’t be considered optional. Expect health inspections to occur once a year at a minimum. How you perform on the inspection may impact the frequency at which they occur in the future. Understanding and following your local health codes can help you prepare to pass an inspection with flying colors. Make doing so a normal part of your restaurant’s business operations so that when the inspection happens your employees are prepared and it will be business as usual for them.
Customer service isn’t usually what gets consumers in the door (that’s your marketing), but it’s what gets them to come back. It can make a huge difference in how profitable your business is. There are many aspects of customer service you should be aware of, from how employees interact with customers to how efficient the systems in place are. A POS system can improve profitability in many ways. This, of course, is provided that the system is functioning efficiently and properly. Having a streamlined checkout process is a good way to end the customer’s experience on a positive note.
Build for Efficiency
Speaking of efficiency, it’s a good idea to build it into your restaurant, literally. You may need to pull in some experts here, but if you can pull it off, you’ll make working life for your employees much easier. Design your kitchen layout to promote smooth, efficient operations, with clearly defined areas for different tasks. You want to avoid people having to cross paths as much as possible. Similarly, try to arrange the front of the house to flow smoothly. This can help minimize collisions and the need to stop the flow of work to wait for a path to clear.
Before you open your doors, you’ll need to hire your crew. Deciding who to hire and what position a person should fill can make or break your restaurant. Know what you want in a chef, your general manager, shift leads, and anyone else in leadership positions or positions of responsibility. The quality of your back of house staff will have a strong impact on the quality of the food your guests receive. Your front of house staff will have a similar impact on the overall experience your guests have. Choose your staff wisely from the start. Continue to do so after you open as well.
In order to make a profit off of your restaurant, your management staff will need to successfully control costs. Some costs, such as the rent for your site of operations and utilities aren’t ones that can really be controlled for. Labor and food costs, on the other hand, are much easier to control. Having excess staff on hand or wasting food will drive up these costs, and steps should be taken to correct either occurrence. As the owner, you should understand what a reasonable goal is for each of these areas and clearly communicate your expectations with your management staff. Be prepared to be flexible, especially at the beginning, as finding the right level of staffing and training staff to minimize food waste will take time.
Maintaining the quality of your food and service is critical to the success of your restaurant. It’s imperative that your chef chooses the correct quantity and quality of ingredients. All staff should utilize a first-in, first-out system. Such a system helps utilize ingredients before they need to be thrown out. If ingredients do need to be thrown out, keep track of what and how much so adjustments can be made to orders in the future. Don’t forget to protect the quality of the customer experience as well. Train employees to deliver exceptional service and provide both correction and positive feedback as appropriate.
The food industry, while subject to the necessity to adapt to circumstances, will likely always be around. That doesn’t mean success is guaranteed, of course. You’ll need to set your restaurant up to succeed and run it properly. If you get it right, you should find yourself doing well. After all, everyone needs to eat.
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