Someone gets divorced every 13 seconds in America. Someone else opens a business. Someone else becomes a viral sensation. This is a country of infinite possibility, but also plenty of complexity. It can be a very tough place to be when you’re thinking of opening a restaurant business, but with the right preparation and knowledge, you can make your dream a success.
Opening a restaurant business is different from opening many other types of businesses. Things get more complex when you involve food. You are also involving people’s health and safety when you do that. At the same time, you need to stand out among a slew of other restaurants that are fighting for the same customers.
You never know what will sell someone on becoming a regular customer. The food is certainly part of the equation – a large part – but the ambiance, location, and décor of your establishment can also play a role.
Juggling all these disparate factors can be overwhelming. Start by learning these 8 helpful tips for opening a restaurant business.
1. Find the Right Building
Finding the right building for your restaurant is crucial. You need a building that can not only accommodate seating for customers, but also a kitchen for your staff, dumpsters and so much else. It’s a good idea to write out what you need before you even start your search. This can help you keep your priorities in mind as you search for a location for your restaurant.
You also may need to contact a real estate agent. They can help you find a commercial building that is perfect for opening a restaurant business. It may require some extra cash, but it’s a bad idea to go it alone when searching for a location.
A good real estate agent should also know the area. They might know where other restaurant businesses have set up. There could be a good reason that multiple restaurants are clustered in one spot, a reason you might not have thought of on your own.
An agent can also help you avoid problems you might not know about. You have your priorities, but they are experts in real estate, so they might notice problems with a building that you could overlook.
2. Remember that Location Matters
Finding the right building for opening a restaurant business is about far more than the structure itself. The old adage holds true here: Location, location, location.
It’s all about location when it comes to opening a restaurant business. Even in an age when we all have so much technology with us, foot traffic and word of mouth are still hugely important. That’s why you will need to find a location where customers can see you bypassing by and decide to come in.
Even if customers find you online, they will want to know that you are conveniently located. That can be tough, as areas like the downtown of a city or town are going to be more expensive in terms of things like rent and utilities. You will need to balance your costs with the accessibility of your location and how good it is for customers.
Of course, all of this does not mean that online business is any less important. Even when people find a restaurant thanks to walking by or word of mouth, they will still often immediately pull out their phones to look up things like prices and menus. No matter where you are located, you still need a stellar online presence in order to be successful in opening a restaurant business.
If you aren’t super comfortable with technology or simply don’t have the time, you can contact a mobile marketing agency for help. These experts can get you up and running online and mobile so that customers can find you no matter where you – or they – are.
3. Think About Your Niche
Once you have a location, you should think about what you’re going to use it for. You probably already have an idea of the type of food you want to serve. However, opening a restaurant business that is successful is about more than just that.
You also would be well-advised to have a niche. Anyone can buy wholesale Mexican food and open a Mexican restaurant. What makes your Mexican restaurant special and unique? Maybe you cook some family recipes that no one else has. Or perhaps you use different ingredients than most Mexican restaurants.
Whatever the case may be, knowing your niche can be extremely powerful in terms of making you stand out and earning you lifelong fans and customers.
Another niche you might try in this day and age is health. A lot of people are more conscious about their health now than they have been in the past. Whether you have a Mexican restaurant, a pizza joint, an ice cream shop, or any other type of restaurant, you could think about what you could do to make your offerings healthier and therefore more appealing to a certain audience.
It isn’t just healthy ingredients, though. These days people are also more sensitive to food allergies and health conditions. For example, if you run a pizza place, offering gluten free pizza crust as one of your options can open you up to a whole extra segment of customers whom you’d miss out on otherwise.
4. Remember Safety
No matter what you’re serving, a kitchen can also pose some risks. There are of course risks related to fire and sharp tools. There also could be risks like food poisoning and the like.
You should know what your risks are likely to be while opening a restaurant business. There are some simple things you can do to minimize risks, such as having fire sprinklers and fire extinguishers that are working and easily accessible.
These simple steps might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget about the basics when you have so much to do opening a restaurant business. Don’t lose sight of the simple things when you are running around trying to make everything perfect before opening.
You should also have your location inspected for safety and know that your neighbors are up to code if you have neighbors. Often, restaurants can be shoulder to shoulder in downtown districts. This means if something happens to one, it has the potential to happen to every restaurant on the block.
5. Sort Out Waste
When you own and operate a restaurant, you will produce waste – a lot of waste. It isn’t just food. It’s also the packaging, menus, utensils, dirty water, everything. You will probably be producing a lot more waste than you’re thinking of right now and you should be prepared for that so that it can’t become a problem.
Commercial waste disposal is a crucial service for anyone opening a restaurant business. Make sure you have access to dumpsters and that there is a waste disposal service in the area prepared to handle what you have in store.
This is easy to overlook, but it has major consequences for your business. If waste is left unattended outdoors, it could attract pests and rodents. Those pests will eventually find their ways inside your restaurant. The last thing you want is an inspector or customer discovering a mouse in your restaurant. That could have big financial ramifications.
So make sure you have a plan in place for waste before you even get up and running. You can talk to other nearby businesses if you aren’t sure where to start.
6. Find the Cracks Before You Open
Another thing to do before you open, is to find all the cracks. By that, we mean that you should thoroughly inspect your location and ferret out any structural damage before you increase the load on the building.
Of course, it’s important to have a professional inspector also do this work. They will find many things that you would not be able to find due to lack of knowledge.
However, you should do your own inspection as well. An inspector knows the building, but you know your business. You will notice things like stoves that don’t heat up quickly enough or wracks that are hanging too low.
It’s a good idea to address even these relatively minor issues before opening a restaurant business. You will have more than enough to do when you are open to the public. You don’t need extra maintenance chores to be an immediate extra burden on your and your employees.
It isn’t just the small things, either. If you have a damaged roof, for example, you should contact a commercial roofer before you ever open your doors. Get that work done now so that you don’t have to close back down as soon as you open in order to make time and space for major repairs.
7. Stock Up On Supplies
You also want to make sure you are well stocked before you ever open. Opening a restaurant business is not cheap and that can make it tempting to skimp on some of your supplies when you’re setting up, but it is vital you do not do this. If you need propane, ice, utensils, tablecloths, or anything else, you should stock up before you open to the public.
As with necessary repairs, lacking certainly needed supplies can stymie your opening. You want to avoid that at all costs. The first few months and years of your restaurant will be crucial to your longevity and success. If you have to slow down your pace or close because of something like falling short of basic supplies that can have severe long term consequences.
It is a good idea to make a list before opening a restaurant business of all the things you think you need in order to run. Don’t just think about a single day. Think about the big picture. How long will your pots and pans hold up? When will you need new tablecloths? Can your cutlery keep up with demand?
If you can, make a long term plan around your supplies. Plot out how long your items will last before they need replacement. Then, even if you can’t stock up right now, you will at least know how long of a timer you are on before something becomes critical.
As with most aspects of opening a restaurant business, it’s all about planning and forethought. The more careful and deliberate you are upfront, the better your chances of success will be. You can’t plan for everything, but you can plan for a lot and you absolutely should take advantage of that.
8. Know the Law
One thing that’s especially hard to plan for when opening a restaurant business is the law. You aren’t a lawyer, so you may find yourself seeking one for advice and counsel as you open your business. There is a lot that goes into the law, from liability to injury to taxes.
Many people find legal concerns overwhelming. That is why there are experts to help us in these fields, though. You don’t want to leave this for later and find out that you are in a bad situation. Contact a lawyer as early in the process as you can to sort out your questions and concerns.
You might feel comfortable with the law as it relates to your everyday life. However, there are different concerns and complications with regard to business law. You could contact a specialist like a franchise contract law attorney to get into the nitty-gritty details you don’t have the expertise to handle.
Even after opening a restaurant business, when you are fully up and running, you still might have a lawyer you keep in contact with. When you have the business income to report on and employees and customers to manage, the law can become very complicated very quickly. Don’t waste your business’s time or money by trying to go it alone when there are legal experts who can help you with the ins and outs of business law and taxes. You will probably get a better result in the end and suffer less heartache and hassle by talking with a lawyer who is an expert in the field.