Starting a restaurant is an incredibly daunting task. And, if it doesn’t seem daunting to you, then you’re forgetting something. It’s not as simple as making good food, though that is a core ingredient. It’s a full company, with marketing and advertising, employee contracts, health and safety regulations and all of the rest of the myriad of complex and intense elements to running a business. However, if you get the balance just right, it can be one of the most rewarding and exciting challenges to do, with limitless possibilities for further iterations. Starting out is tough and, without experience, you’re likely to run into a whole host of first-time problems, which will hamper your progress and, in some cases, kill your concept outright. So, with that said, here are the top 10 beginner mistakes you should be looking to avoid.
This is the most basic, ground-level issue to run into: a problem with the idea, or there being an absence of one altogether. Sometimes the initial idea is ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to run a restaurant?’ Sadly, if this is all you’ve got, then I would advise you stop and think before doing anything else. There are so, so many restaurants. Even clever concepts for restaurants are already being done 10 times over. You have to have some reason to believe that your restaurant is more likely than others of its sort to bring in customers. Before you can state this, you shouldn’t get started.
“You can have an incredible restaurant design and concept, but if it’s in the middle of nowhere, or in a neighborhood with hardly any activity, you’ll almost always run into issues,” says Shruthi Mandeep, marketing manager at Writinity and ResearchPapersUK. Restaurants are very expensive to run, so not drawing in customers is going to be a very damaging thing. Similarly, choosing too popular an area, where rental cost will be sky high, could end up killing you as well.
At the beginnings of a restaurant’s journey, there’s a tiny sample base from which reviews and other self-marketing elements can be drawn. If you have a server who is a liability you have to get rid of them. The reason being that all it takes is one bad review at the start to really damage your potential and a rude employee will guarantee that for you.
Branding is vital. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t have it no one can find you, no one will remember you, and marketing is almost impossible. So, nail that down.
Being a restaurateur is, without a doubt, an industry in which it is vital that you take yourself and your establishment seriously. Sure, you don’t have a Michelin star yet, but you have to be open to the possibility of having one in the future, if that’s your goal.
OK, so, obviously this is important. But bad food doesn’t necessarily just mean bad tasting. “Bad food for a restaurant can mean a whole load of things. It means that the food might taste bad or it might be bland, or it might be unoriginal and boring. Or, it could mean that it’s too expensive for the restaurant, clashes with the restaurant’s design and branding or even that it’s not a cuisine that is appreciated in the area it is in,” says Hamish McLaren, food business writer at DraftBeyond and LastMinuteWriting. Make it tasty, but also make it right for your restaurant.
Staff: train them, support them, teach them, help them to continue to grow and appreciate their job. Happy staff, in the kitchen and out front, make for happy customers without question. So, invest heavily here.
Designing your restaurant is one of the most fun aspects to starting a restaurant. There’s a lot to decide and it’s the part in the process when it all starts looking like what you dreamed of. But, mishandled, it can be a money drain. Don’t get carried away. Improve as you go.
Guests don’t just care about food. From a restaurateur’s perspective guests undergo a journey. This journey has to be crafted; from the moment they open the door to the moment they head home.
If you’re in the game because you’re a cook, then get a business partner who understands business. Restaurants are businesses, get used to it.
Prepare yourself for it to be a rough ride full of late nights and stress, but if you come into it all well prepared, you might just find that your dream of creating something really special for everyone to enjoy, comes true. A little perseverance, a little luck and a lot of hard work.
Oliver Portwood is a contributor to Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays with a background in culinary marketing. Specializing in marketing strategy, he often attends marketing events as well as offering his expert advice through online magazines and blogs.