How to Start a New Restaurant
Opening a new restaurant can be daunting. There are so many things to consider – from choosing the right location to finding financing to selecting the right name. And, of course, buying equipment and hiring staff.
Concept, Location, and Name
The first step in opening a new restaurant is deciding what type of restaurant it is going to be. Do you want to open a high-end fine dining restaurant? A casual 1950s-style diner? Do you have a specific type of cuisine in mind, such as Italian, French, or Indian? Perhaps a microbrewery or a pub.
Location, location, location. It can make or break a restaurant.
Before you sign a lease for your restaurant location, do your homework. Is the restaurant located in a busy area with plenty of foot traffic? If not, is there enough parking? Have several other restaurants opened and closed in the same spot?
The most enjoyable part of opening a new restaurant can be selecting a restaurant name that means something to you. It can be a family name, a play on words, another meaningful turn of phrase, or it can reflect the theme or location you chose, such as Broadway Diner or The Highlands.
The two most important reasons you need a restaurant business plan. One, it helps you see potential problems in your restaurant plan, such as not enough of a population base. Two, it's virtually impossible to get financing without one.
Financing is what prevents many from opening their own restaurant. Although it is somewhat more difficult to get financing for a restaurant, due to their higher failure rate than for some other business types, it is not impossible. Between banks, small business agencies, and private investors, there are several financing possibilities.
Show up to your financing interview prepared, and show potential investors that you've thought through the mechanics of opening, running, and generating profit from a restaurant.
Common licenses and permits for restaurants, regardless of the state, include liquor licenses, signage permits, separate permits for outdoor space, and workers' compensation. And remember, many licenses and permits take several weeks, even months, to be approved. So once your financing is squared away, start filling the paperwork.
A common-sense rule about designing a restaurant is that you never have as much space as you first thought you did. Even the most cavernous of spaces fill up quickly when you start adding commercial kitchens, walk-in refrigerators, a bar, restrooms, and a waiting area. A restaurant's design should be a balance between aesthetics and seating capacity, keeping practicality in mind.
Choosing the right color for your restaurant will help you establish a strong brand and help you establish a welcoming ambiance for customers.
Menus, Equipment, and Staff
A well-written restaurant menu should be descriptive, easy to read and have a clear, uncluttered layout. Also, it's better to use an attractive font and high-quality paper than muck it up with generic art found on the internet.
Once you have your restaurant design down, you can start purchasing commercial kitchen equipment and furniture for your dining room and other areas in the front of the house. To save money, consider buying used equipment from a reliable source.
Commercial equipment with the Energy Star logo can cost more at first but will pay for itself many times over, and it's better for the environment.
As you get closer to opening day, hire for both the kitchen and the floor. Kitchen staff, waitstaff, and bartenders are all integral parts of most any restaurant, and you want to hire the perfect person for each position.
If you can, hire people with experience in the foodservice industry, and if you're hiring a chef you don't know, don't be shy about asking to test-tasting their food first.
Advertising is a must for most new restaurants. Today, you can supplement social media advertising such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with more traditional advertising, such as newspapers and radio ads, depending on your concept and the diners you want to reach.
Don’t overlook the power of a good website. People can't taste food online, but an aesthetically-pleasing web presence can entice diners.