August 26, 2015

Starting Your First Restaurant: The Basics


The following blog post is a guest article provide by Dan Scalco of NetWaiter.

Food-service operations are in high demand as consumers today would rather dine in or take out than cook themselves. And while the restaurant industry is not the easiest to get into, now would be a great time to take the plunge.

If you have your mind set on starting your own restaurant, this guide will give you a good idea of the steps you’ll need to take.

Establish a Clear Concept

Developing the footprint for your restaurant is more than just coming up with an idea and name. First you need to decide on a style — upscale, midscale or quick service. Which category your restaurant falls into depends on the food you will sell, the price of menu items and how quickly food can be prepared.

Waiting twenty minutes for your surf and turf dinner is acceptable at an upscale steakhouse, but that steak Panini ordered from the drive-thru better be ready in two.

Figure out where your establishment will fall based on these factors and then further fine-tune your concept by making sure the food you serve complements the experience and establishment that goes with it.


Acquire Funding

How you will start up your restaurant depends on your personal resources and ability to get loans. The US Small Business Administration is a good place to learn about government programs available and gain insight on funding your first restaurant.

Having a partner, or two, also helps cover the cost of your venture, but don’t let the offer of money blind you into making a bad business decision.

Be selective in who you add to your team, and be sure to have a partnership agreement drafted — even if you’re going into business with your brother or best friend.

Create a Business Plan

When you know exactly what you’re pitching, it’s time to put it all in writing. Creating a business plan can be a time-consuming feat, but it’s a key component to starting a restaurant.

Your plan should include the concepts mentioned above, details on the menu and prices, funding and finances (how much money you’re starting with, expenses, your income, etc.), marketing strategy (including which social channels to be on), and employee procedure (how you’ll obtain, train and retain your staff).

It’s also beneficial to include foreseen problems so that you can address them along with providing effective solutions. Although it may seem morbid, you should also have an exit strategy in place in the case that you should need it down the road.

Choose Your Location

Where you serve your food is as important as what you serve. There are many things to consider.

For example, the cost of rent (does your sales-and-profit projection warrant this amount of spending?), retail traffic from surrounding businesses (are you dependent on pedestrian traffic?), available parking and accessibility (how easy is it for customers to get to this location?), layout and floor plan (is the kitchen and dining area adequate?), and restrictions (are there any restrictive ordinances in place?).

It’s also smart to do a little research on the history and future of this location. How have businesses done here in the past? Could future development help or hurt your restaurant?

restaurant menu

Build the Menu

When crafting a menu for your restaurant, the focus is obviously the food. Today’s diner wants an easy-to-read menu with short descriptions and a simple design.

Those with special diets should be able to determine which dishes are meant for them through a special section or a clearly marked key.

To ensure success, it’s also necessary that your menu caters to current trends. Vegetarian options, an emphasis on natural ingredients, and fusion food are just a few of the demands the industry is seeing today.

While it may take some creativity blending your concept with consumer preferences, it’s necessary to give the customer what they want. Even if what they want differs from your own menu ideals.

Hire Staff

Hiring qualified employees can be challenging, but you need the right people to carry out your concept and keep customers coming back.

Your HR program should reflect what you’re looking for in a staff member. During the hiring process, try to eliminate as much confusion as possible by creating clear job descriptions that list responsibilities and expectations. Have an employee guideline in effect that supports the training process and makes new hires aware of your company’s mission and standards.

When deliverables are clearly communicated you can be more confident that the person you’re hiring will be able to fulfill the needs of the position.