You've decided to open up a restaurant? That's great! You undoubtedly have your own recipes you want to share with the world (or have partnered with someone who does), and feel that your idea is strong enough to make a living off of. There's a few things you may not realize, though, that might temper your excitement. We're all for encouraging you to start your own business, but be aware it'll be a little more difficult than you expect. It takes more than having the right supplies and equipment here are some helpful tips to consider before opening your own restaurant.
Not everyone is a restaurateur
Brutal first step, we know. Still, take a look at how many restaurants that have opened up around you, just to shut down later that year. Look at shows such as Restaurant: Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares; businesses fail all the time, and in this tough economic climate, even more so than the past.
Location, location, location
It matters in all businesses, but just be logical when it comes to location when opening a restaurant. While placing a burger place across the street from a McDonalds might be a bold move, the longer hours and cheaper costs they can afford will always put you at a disadvantage, even if yours is the superior burger. Likewise, putting a high-cost, high-culture restaurant in a low-income area is just a bad idea all-around. Unless people are planning to drive a distance to get to your restaurant, you won't have much clientele.
Plan to spend money
However much money you think you need to open it, plan to spend more. You'll break stuff, repaint stuff, have to fire and retrain staff, throw out product as you learn the quantities you need, and more. There's a high (and costly) learning curve, so you'll have to spend money to just figure out what your future holds. Dinnerware has to be frequently replaced so be sure to buy in bulk if possible.
Be clear in concept
If you're a Mexican restaurant, don't stray away too far from that concept. If you're a fish place, hamburger meat should likely not enter your doors. When your clear in your concept, it's easy for word to spread. Find one thing you're amazing at and focus on that, and have everything else build around it. It's better to be known as “that great chicken place in town” than “that pretty decent chicken, ribs, pork, and fish place in town.” People will drive good distances if you have “the best of the best,” and locals will go for that and the variety of menu items that support and meld well with your focus.
You may be lucky at opening, and have help readily available from family and friends, and for cheap. Don't ever let your business falter because of personal ties with others. If your daughter or son can't crack it as a waiter, don't have them. You'll invariably have to spend money on wait staff, cooks, and more. While much the restaurant industry is low-paying, you'll have to build a small army of people who can do whatever needs to be done. You are their general, and you're going to war.
If you're coming from a corporate world, or have only cooked in your own personal kitchen, you may not have interacted with the “unwashed masses” that'll eat at your establishment. You will have people who storm out over an accident, you will have people turning back food, and you will have people that will dine and ditch. You will have staff that steal from you, whether it be time, money, or product. You will have arguments with contractors, you will learn to fear any and all health inspectors.
Make your customers fall in love with you
You will have your regulars who have entertaining stories, you will have your public champions who make a point to tell people how good your food is and how surprisingly reasonable your prices are. You will have your people who cut you a deal, you'll have your employees that go above and beyond the call of duty and make your restaurant a stand-out.
Fluidity is important
Did you want all-new machinery? Costs may make that impossible. Are you heart-set on a dish that hasn't been selling? You may have to heavily revise or cut it. Being set in stone means you're more likely to break. Instead, follow the guidance of Bruce Lee, and be like water. Fluidity can adjust and improve.