The restaurant business is one of the most competitive industries to enter. You have to create an atmosphere that attracts customers, food that keeps them there, and an experience that brings them back again. It’s a tall ask. A lot of small business entrepreneurs start a restaurant without the proper preparation and end up closing before they really have a chance to get going. If you’re trying to figure out how to run a restaurant business and be successful, here are seven tips to apply as you figure out how to run a restaurant business.
1. Hire A Good Chef And Team
One of the main keys to learning how to run a restaurant business is having a good team to back up your goals. While you might be the one with the dreams, you can’t execute them all on your own. Hiring the right team members will ensure that you’ve got the help you need to take on different tasks and make sure that your restaurant is successful from the start.
The first team member you need to make sure you’ve got locked down is your head chef. Your chef is like the star quarterback for your restaurant. You’ll want to find a chef who’s got years of experience in preparing delicious, top-quality dishes. Customers will follow a chef they know they love, so if you can hire a great chef for your restaurant, you’re one step closer to running a successful restaurant business.
The next step is to hire a support team. This could consist of a manager, waiters, sous-chefs, hosts, and whatever roles you need to be filled to run your restaurant. You don’t have to hire a full team before you get going. In fact, it’s better that you start slow and only fill the essential positions to see what you really need to run smoothly. To find your team members, you may consider working with staffing services companies or even posting job listings on local group pages or websites. Starting slow will also help as you try to build up funds. You don’t want to hire a huge team and then struggle to pay their wages.
2. Create A Specific Atmosphere
Another big part of learning how to run a restaurant business is creating a specific atmosphere at your location. The atmosphere and experience you create around a visit to your restaurant are some of the key things that will bring people back time and time, after your food of course. It’s a good idea to visit a few other restaurants that are along the same vein of food and experience that you’re hoping to achieve to get some ideas of what is successful and what isn’t. If you want to create a family-friendly option, visit family restaurants. If you want to create a high-class, upscale experience, visit fancy restaurants. Of course, make sure never to directly copy or steal ideas from another restaurant. You can’t be successful if you build your foundation entirely off of someone else’s idea.
The atmosphere and environment you create in your restaurant will not only impact the customers, but it will directly impact you and your employees as well. This is why you have to be sure of what you want before you go for it. You also need to be sure that the employees you hire are willing to stand behind it as well, as they will be the face of your restaurant and can make or break the experience for customers. The last thing you want is to walk into your restaurant every day only to cringe a little because you don’t love the atmosphere you’ve created.
Once you’ve decided on the experience you want, build upon it. You can do this not only by ensuring that your employees are willing to help make it happen, but also by emphasizing it with decor. The way you decorate your restaurant will help greatly in making sure your customers have the experience you’re hoping for. For example, a family-friendly restaurant should have warm, inviting colors and comfortable seating. An up-scale restaurant should have modern tones and expensive-looking decor. As you may be starting off on a budget, don’t push away the option to thrift furniture. You can find some great pieces that might just need some furniture refinishing to become the perfect accent for your restaurant.
3. Keep An Emergency Fund And Create A Budget
A big part of learning how to run a restaurant business is ensuring that you have an emergency fund prepared before you even open. This may be difficult as there are quite a few large upfront costs when opening a restaurant, but you need to be prepared for anything.
An emergency fund will be vital if your restaurant experiences a slump early on. As you are working to get your name spread and let people know about your new restaurant, you may not have a super steady flow of customers and income. The emergency fund will cover vital costs, such as rent, utilities, wages, food, and more in the case that you experience a lull in income.
You should also know that many restaurants lose money within their first six months. So as you budget and plan for how much you think you’ll need for an emergency fund, keep in mind that you will likely not be making money in those first few months as you attract new guests and get your name out there.
Finally, as you are planning for finances, a budget is key. If you don’t have a lot of business finance experience, some of the best accounting books for entrepreneurs will teach you all you need to know. You may also consider hiring an accountant to help you keep track of money and your budget as your startup.
4. Create A Memorable Brand
Did you know that 90% of guests do research a restaurant online before they decide to eat there? That’s more than any other type of business. So it’s no surprise that one of the biggest keys to running a successful restaurant is focusing on digital marketing. That’s why as you learn how to run a restaurant business, marketing and online presence will be one of your greatest tools.
The first step is to create a website for your restaurant. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, though it should look clean and be user friendly. The most important part of website development for a restaurant is clearly posting information like your hours, menu, and forms of contact. Once you’ve got those basics down, you can start adding other information, like a picture menu, information about the history of your restaurant, and more. Make sure though that your website matches the atmosphere of your restaurant. That could mean matching colors, posting pictures of your restaurant, or using the same font on your website as your sign and menus.
Once you’ve developed a basic website that serves the previously mentioned purposes, you should focus next on creating social media. This is a great place where you can post images of your food that will quickly draw in new guests. Some of the most followed profiles on social media are food-related profiles. Creating social media platforms also allows people to tag your restaurant when they visit. The more people share your restaurant, the more free marketing you are getting.
5. Location Is Key
Similar to creating a specific atmosphere, a big part of learning how to run a restaurant business is learning that the physical location of your business will have a lot of impact on your success. Consider the other restaurants present in a city before you settle on opening your business there. Look for places that have gaps. For example, if you’re thinking of opening an Italian restaurant, a city with three other well-established restaurants is not the best location for you, regardless of how good your food is. Because the other restaurants are already established, you will be battling to convince customers to leave something they already know and take a risk trying something new.
Where in a city you choose to locate your restaurant is also vital. You want to find a place that can draw a crowd. If your restaurant is tucked back in the city, away from the shopping district, you may have a harder time building awareness of your restaurant among the citizens of the town.
As you learn how to run a restaurant business, you’ll also have to keep in mind different options for how to stick to your budget. You may want to buy a space in the busiest part of town, but those buildings also generally tend to be more expensive. Take your time. Don’t buy the first location you find in your budget. If you’re considering a property, visit it at different times of the day to see what traffic is like around it. Take your time and you’ll find the best place for your restaurant. You’ll also need to remember that the building you purchase needs to have a commercial real estate lease, rather than a residential lease.
6. Take Care Of The Building
Once you’ve found where you want to have your restaurant, you need to consider how to take care of the building. While you generally don’t want to purchase a building that needs a lot of repairs, this could be a way to get around your budget. Especially if you are particularly handy or have friends that are skilled, such as painters or carpenters, this may be a great option for you. However, remember that it could delay your opening time.
When you purchase a commercial building, it’s quite different than a residential building. Making upgrades and additions will add to the value of the building, but it’s not like a house that you can just sell for a profit. Once you’ve purchased a commercial building, you’re quite stuck with it. Learning how to run a restaurant business is also about taking care of the building your restaurant is in. So you need to take good care of it to keep it in good quality for time to come. This means investing in new commercial roofing, refinishing flooring, painting or re-wallpapering the walls, and more.
7. Create A Unique Menu
Building your menu is arguably the most important part of learning how to run a restaurant business. The food you offer is the main thing that will keep guests coming back time and time again. Creating your menu is not something you should go about lightly. There will be a lot of trial and error. But once you’ve found the unique menu that fits your restaurant, you will be one giant step closer to having a successful restaurant business.
One thing you may consider trying as you work on creating a unique menu is having lots of different people test your food. Host a dinner party where everyone tastes items that might go on your menu and leaves comment cards. Enter cooking competitions to test specific meals. Try a pop-up restaurant to test dishes you are more sure of on actual customers. If you do have friends and family try your food, consider letting them comment anonymously so they answer with total honesty.
You may also consider trying new and different dishes that are not so common in your area. You could offer some vegan options for common dishes, such as tacos made with jackfruit “meat”. You could create a “super healthy” menu by adding fruit and vegetable supplements to some of your dishes for enhanced nutrition. Whatever you try, remember that a lot of “foodies” like to try new and unique things, but don’t go too crazy. If you want to keep a consistent flow of guests, you will need to have reliable options for them to eat as well.
Running a restaurant is hard work. You have to take into consideration the food, the marketing, the funds, your employees, and a lot more. If you put the proper work and research into it, you’ll be able to experience the fulfillment of creating a good experience for both you as a business owner and your customers. Good luck as you learn how to run a restaurant business.