The premiere season of FX Television’s’ The Bear signaled big changes for the Original Beef of Chicagoland, the fictional restaurant run by Jeremy Allen White’s Carmy Berzatto. We saw an old school sandwich shop transform into a testing ground for new menu items, different workflows, and the latest tech.
Every operator knows these big changes are never easy. Not for the staff, who are used to preparing the giardiniera with the same balance of sour and spice. Or the longtime guests, who grow attached to a familiar menu and certain service style. So while The Bear season one ended with the promise of an entirely new concept, the brainchild of sous chef Sydney and Carmy, season two explores how that sausage gets made (with a side of extra giardiniera).
From the mom-and-pop sandwich shops to chain salad spots run with meticulous precision, every restaurant business hits a crossroads where evolution becomes not just likely, but necessary. It’s more than changing the name on the sign and dimming the lights. Whether you’re doing a seasonal refresh or something entirely new, evolving your concept requires reliable partners, smart planning, and a dedicated team.
Create a solid business plan
Not every restaurant has Sugar Berzatto, Carmy’s sister who joins the restaurant team as project manager of the new concept. Whether you’re a Carmy, sketching out slow-cooked business ideas on empty pizza boxes, or a Sydney with her spiral-bound binder of proposals, a solid business plan requires management and buy-in.
A restaurant business plan will help you gain support of investors, track the project timeline and success, and help you define a budget. Opening a new restaurant, or conducting extensive renovations, can require local and state permits and approval which need to be factored into your timeline. As we’ve learned from The Bear, the more extensive the restaurant changes, the more wrenches will be thrown in your way. Identify a realistic opening date, and make peace with the fact that opening night might be a few weeks after that date.
Develop—and set up—your new menu
In the quest for “thoughtful chaos,” Carmy and Sydney finally rid Carmy’s home kitchen oven of denim and get to work chopping, sautéeing, straining through a fine mesh sieve. But developing a new menu for a fresh concept requires more than gorgeous plating and seasonal ingredients.
The new menu also needs to be profitable. Ensure a profitable menu from the start by creating dishes across the profitability matrix. If you’re working with an existing tech partner, get support with setting up your new menu to ensure all the items and modifiers are accurate. This will help you get a more accurate cost of goods as you launch your new concept. If you’re looking for a new tech partner, look for a restaurant pos system with a flexible, customizable back of house and detailed reporting so you can measure the popularity and profitability of your new (chaotic yet thoughtful) menu.
Plan for renovations and big expenses
Sydney and Carmy’s new concept pitch—family style, two tops, booths, Danish design, tasting menu at the bar, window on the side for sandwiches—is short. But we quickly learn in season 2 that the final bill is anything but. It’s a facelift and a gut job all in one.
Restaurant renovations are expensive and require patience and trusted contractors. For restaurants without a hidden stash of cash in the San Marzano tomatoes, working capital loans for small business can help pay for new equipment or solve short-term cash flow needs. If you’re working with investors, you’ll have sales and revenue data at your fingertips with accurate information coming straight from your point-of-sale.
Determine your tech needs
New concept means new tech needs. Perhaps you need another station to cover a bigger service area, or a handheld pos system for your servers as you pivot from grab-and-go to sit-down service. Find a tech partner that can meet your changing needs as you adapt and grow and strike “restaurant tech” off your list of headaches. If you’re anything like Sydney and Carmy, you have enough problems to deal with—switching tech partners mid-stream shouldn’t be one of them.
Consider staffing and hiring
Opening a new concept can mean growing your team or training your existing team members on a new service style. For Sydney and Carmy, it’s both. Shifting from fast casual to a more elevated sit down dining concept means culinary school for Tina and Ebra and a wearisome hiring spree for Sydney where one candidate can’t work Fridays and Saturdays.
With labor management software in your toolkit, you can schedule smarter and communicate shifts and tip distribution to your staff more efficiently. Streamlining labor management into a tool that syncs with your point-of-sale helps ensure compliance, plus simple clock-in processes make onboarding easier.
Restaurants, at the core, are about two things: food and service. But as we learn from the second season of The Bear, you can’t avoid the mess, hard work, and difficult relationships that come with the deal. Whether you’re in the kitchen or on the floor, applying for city permits or laminating pastry dough, you feel those pressures tenfold when you’re evolving your concept or opening a new restaurant. Change is never easy, but as The Bear shows us, it sure is worth it.
Scott Youkilis leads SpotOn’s Restaurant Advisory Council & Brand Ambassador programs, driving brand awareness and business development for restaurant owners assessing their current technology needs. With 30+ years of experience in the Bay Area, Youkilis also works with state restaurant associations to position SpotOn as the preferred tech partner.