8 Tips For Aspiring Restaurateurs

A love of good food, happy people, and business is a great recipe for starting a restaurant. However, a great recipe is only as good as the chef preparing it. Too often aspiring restaurateurs let their ambition and appetite run ahead of the realities of restaurant ownership. According to a study conducted by Ohio State University Associate Professor H.G. Parsa 1 out of 4 restaurants close or change ownership in the first year of operation. That number jumps to 3 out of 5 after 3 years of operation, which comes to a roughly 60% failure rate. With the rate of failure so high it is vital that a restaurant start off on the right foot. Our list outlines 8 tips that can help you get the ball rolling on your food dreams.

1. Have a Vision – You need to know what type a restaurant you want to open. What kind of food do you want to serve, what type of patrons you want filling your tables, what experience do you want to give your visitors? These are all things that you need to figure out way before you look into locations and staff. You also need to be able to sell your visions to others.

2. Capital – this rule applies to anyone starting a business. If you do not have sufficient start-up capital it can be all but impossible to keep your restaurant doors swinging open. You will need enough money to cover all of your cost regardless of how much money you are generating. There are many ways to raise funds for your venture. Saving money, asking friends and family for contributions, and using kickstarter. While all of these methods are great they may not be enough. Going to a bank for a loan can help as well, but bank loans for startup restaurants can be hard to secure because they are hesitant to lend to a first time restaurant owner. Whichever way you go about securing the funds you need to make sure you don’t short change yourself.

3. Location, Location, Location – another tried and true business cliché rings true for the restaurant industry as well. Before you fire up the oven think about where your kitchen is located. All of us know some amazing restaurant that is off the beat and path, tucked away in a magical corner of deliciousness. However, we haven’t seen their books, we have no idea if they are underwater or not. And even if they are successful they may only be an exception, and not the rule. You will need to be visible to the world so securing a store front in a high traffic area is key. It may not always be possible to afford prime real-estate (again capital), but that doesn’t mean that you should settle for the shack on the outskirts of town.

4. Know What You Need – a restaurant should work as a well-oiled machine, and for that you need the right tools. Nothing can be worse than not having all of the ingredients, supplies, and equipment you need. Make a long list of everything you need, and even some things that you won’t need till later on. It is easy to overlook how much cleaning supplies you need, or not having enough humus in your salad bar. Make sure that if you need a cleaning company you have one lined up. Make sure you have a food supplier that you can rely on. Make sure you have a way to accept credit/debit payments.

5. Test Your Menu – A restaurant’s menu is obviously a key factor in its success. TSo if you want to make your menu stand out you need to see what works. You may have great ideas for tasty eats, but that doesn’t mean that will work out. Make sure that you test out every dish on as many people as possible. Fill every friend, family member, co-worker, and stranger to the brim with your concept dishes. Take their criticism and praise to heart. If a dish you think is great doesn’t test well don’t let your ego get in the way. You can always take a few of the dishes that you like that tested poorly and reserve them as a special menu item rather than standard fare.  The cost of a dish should always be a determining factor when creating a menu. No matter how delicious an item is it’s not worth losing money over. Also, try to keep the number of dishes on your menu low because having too many items often confuses guest and lowers the qualities of your food.

6. Menu Copy – now that you have tested your menu items and have settled on the final menu you need to spark the appetite of your patrons. The smells, sights and sounds of a restaurant are stimulating, but the phrasing on the menu is just as important. Make sure your dishes descriptions stimulate the mind just as much as the senses. Emphasize how your dish is prepared using phrases like slow roasted, wood smoked, pan-fired, hand-cut. Describe where the ingredients comes from locally grown, organic, aged etc … . You can also use humor to keep your patrons engaged in the menu.

7. Customer Service – with the advent of yelp and other review sites it’s more important than ever to offer the best possible customer service that you can. When you hire a staff you need to make sure that they understand this principle to the fullest. Never let your customers feel like their satisfaction and business is not important to you or your staff. Even if your customer is wrong you should try to accommodate them the best way possible. Even if they insult your establishment and your food still treat them with respect. It might be hard to keep your head, but in the end it is worth it.

8. Hire The Right People – servers, bus boys, and chefs make the world go round in the restaurant business. Your severs should be people that you can trust, one bad server can ruin the reputation of your whole establishment. The chefs should be people who get your culinary vision. People who will work hard to make sure the food is as perfect as can be and who  never take shortcuts in the kitchen. Bus boys and dish washers are often overlooked, but when your customers come to you with a complaint about a dirty glass or a filthy table you will know how important their presence is.

Honorable Mention 

Social Media – technology has been able to spread word of mouth at the speed of light. Engage your customer  base on Twitter and Facebook. Tweet new menu items, post daily specials on your Facebook page, take plenty of picture of your location and your dishes and post them throughout your social network. Using this tactic is the best way to advertise your business on the cheap. It also only takes a few minutes a day so you can focus on other task that keep your restaurant in tip top shape

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