Items to Consider Before Opening a Restaurant

Is starting a restaurant right for you?

Launching your own restaurant brings a host of challenges, from writing a business plan to marketing your establishment. A new restaurant can fail for many reasons, but much of the time it simply comes back to poor planning in one area or another. Here are 10 key things to consider before you open your restaurant. Think through each of these to give yourself a better chance at succeeding in this challenging but rewarding industry.

Patience and Perseverance

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Many people dream of opening their own restaurant, but they don’t realize the amount of work involved. Restaurant owners need to work long hours either performing or overseeing tasks, such as finances, ordering, scheduling deliveries, food preparation, and customer service.

Restaurants aren't a get-rich-quick opportunity. A successful restaurant requires patience and perseverance. You will need stamina and a good support network.  

Restaurant Concepts

Stores and restaurants building exteriors in an upscale strip mall
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There are many factors that will influence your choice of restaurant concept. Think about your intended customer base first and foremost. Families, singles, and college students will gravitate toward different types of establishments. 

Determine the amount of money you're willing to invest. Decide whether you want to start small and grow, or start big. It’s important to have a defined concept in mind before you begin to write your business plan.

Location, Location, Location

Outdoor tables at a restaurant in the West Village
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A good location is vital for any restaurant, and not all locations are equal. Factors to consider include visibility, traffic—either on foot or by car—size, and cost. When you have found a place, you should have a clear understanding of your financial obligations. If you're renting, you need to know what renovations you'll need to cover, and to be sure that information is included in a written agreement between you and your landlord.

Restaurant Equipment

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One of the largest expenses in opening a new restaurant is buying commercial-grade equipment. It can quickly eat up much of your startup capital. The good news is that restaurant equipment is durable, and buying certain pieces second-hand can save you a lot of money.

Second-hand restaurant equipment can be purchased at local auctions or stores, or online shopping sites such as Chefmark.

The Menu

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You might want to create a restaurant menu first and build your concept around it, or vice versa. Either way, creating a restaurant menu is more than just writing up a list of dishes with descriptions. It should represent your restaurant concept and be geared for your customer base. For example, if your location is near a college and your customers are largely college students, you may want to feature quick menu items that can be eaten there or taken out, such as soup, sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

It's important to understand food costs and how to maximize your profits. You should also consult a creative person who can assist with the menu design.

Healthy Children's Meals

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Restaurants across the country are under pressure to create healthy children’s menus, and fast-food giants such as McDonald's are including various options in their kids' meals. The good news is, this doesn't have to be a big hurdle for small restaurants. There are many ways to improve the nutritional value of restaurant meals that are both easy and affordable. Sometimes all it takes is reworking your menu placement and training your staff to highlight healthy options.

Restaurant Management

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Effective restaurant management includes both front- and back-of-house operations. Managing a restaurant includes handling finances, inventory, public relations, and human resources, among many other things. A passion for food will only get you so far. If you've never worked in a managerial capacity in a restaurant, get some training, or better yet, get some experience.

Customer Service

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The promise of good food will lure customers to your restaurant, but good service will keep them coming back. How you handle customer complaints, show customer appreciation, and promote your restaurant is important for return business in a field where the customer is always right. 

Restaurant Promotions

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Promotions are a fact of restaurant life, and something you'll have to think about regularly in your business. They're a good way to bring in extra business during slower shifts such as mid-week evenings, or even in slow seasons. Restaurant promotions can range from the standard happy hour to specialty tasting dinners, and they can run nightly, weekly, monthly, or less frequently. Don't miss a chance to bring in new business by neglecting these opportunities.

Restaurant Catering

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Adding catering services offers an opportunity to increase sales and expand your customer base. Catering options can be on site or off premises. Opportunities include business catering, holiday catering, or large events such as weddings, as well as community fundraising events.

Catering is ideal for restaurants that already employ a trained staff and own much of the necessary equipment. 

The Advantages of Technology

Consider investing a portion of your startup capital in top-of-the-line technology. It can go a long way toward simplifying the startup process, as well as day-to-day operations. Selecting the right point-of-sale (POS) system is a good place to start, and it can help you manage inventory, track the popularity of menu items, and control costs.