If you’re going to do this the right way, treat your business as a legal entity, not just a hobby.
When you hear the phrase “operating a restaurant from home,” it might not compute. After all, the purpose of a restaurant is to serve as a place where people can go and dine. Obviously, you’re not going to invite hoards of patrons into your home.
But, for as uncertain as it’s been, the COVID-19 pandemic changed something about the industry.
There’s no denying that the pandemic wreaked havoc. As of May 2021, 14 percent of restaurants across the country had closed permanently.
Those that thrived throughout the pandemic often had to develop new strategies to stay afloat. That’s why businesses like DoorDash and GrubHub became more popular than ever. You can still take advantage of this “shift” by taking your restaurant knowledge and cooking skills and offering a meal-prep service or even an “order only” restaurant from home.
The best part? It’s easier than you might think. Let’s cover a few tips that can help you get started.
Be Prepared in Every Way
Before you so much as chop an onion or come up with a restaurant name, do your research. If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown us, it’s that it is very possible to start a successful business from home, but only if you’re fully prepared to do so.
When that business is a restaurant, it’s important to understand the legalities that go along with it. Laws regarding food-based businesses are often very strict—as they should be. Your research should cover:
- Zoning laws
- Food production
- Safety requirements
It’s also important to keep your home-based restaurant and your personal assets separate. If you’re going to do this the right way, treat your business as a legal entity, not just a hobby. That will allow you to carry separate business insurance and it will make things much easier when tax season rolls around.
Make Sure You Have the Space and Support
Once you’ve done your research and know you can build a safe and legitimate restaurant business from home, remember that you still have to live there.
If you have a spacious, practical kitchen in your home, you’re already ahead of the game. But that isn’t a reality for everyone. Even if you’re the only chef working, you’ll need to have some support to get your business off the ground. At a minimum, you’ll likely need to hire:
- Someone to take/process orders
- Someone to deliver the food
- A marketing manager
- A dishwasher/cleaner
As your business grows, you might also want to consider adding a prep cook or two.
If you don’t currently have the space, it could be a perfect time to consider buying a new home. That’s a big step, and it’s imperative to understand the hidden costs you might face, including interest rates, closing costs, and insurance. But, you can’t grow your business without a functional kitchen.
While your support system will include people working for/with you, it also needs to include your friends and family. Your spouse and children still need to be able to feel comfortable at home, which will require you to adopt a healthy work-life balance. Your entire family may need (or want) to get involved in the restaurant. That’s a great idea, but it can also cause conflict, especially in your marriage. Be careful if your spouse wants to get too involved and your marriage is on thin ice. If you were to get divorced, a business valuation may be required, and you might lose half of what you’ve worked for.
Brand Your Business
Even if you’re the greatest chef in the world, no one will know about your restaurant without the proper marketing strategies and business techniques. If you want to take your business management skills to the next level, consider pursuing an MBA. You’ll learn the ins and outs of how to operate your business successfully.
It’s also a good idea to either do some market research on your own or work with a marketing company that can build a better business brand for you. A home restaurant is still something unique, which can entice diners to give it a try – especially if your food is brought directly to their door!
So, be quick to develop a name, a theme, a food style, and a process. Connect with your target audience(s) via social media and your website, and be sure to answer questions as often as possible to make people more comfortable with the idea of a home restaurant and what it can provide them.
The industry is changing. You can be a major part of that right now by jumping on the latest food delivery trends. When you do it the right way, you could be part of the movement that turns these trends into the norm for diners who want a personalized experience.
Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.