The restaurant industry is huge, with plenty of profit to go around – if you have the right business model and concept.
According to Rasmussen Reports, a public opinion polling company, about 58 percent of Americans go out to eat at least once per week. So the customer base is there, but there's a lot to consider before you open a restaurant to ensure you're successful.
- Concept: A business plan is vital to success. Your restaurant concept must be carefully planned and researched before you launch it. If you have a master's degree in business administration, you can craft the plan yourself, but if not, you may want to consider hiring a business consultant to streamline your idea.
Ideally, your concept should include what you plan to serve, how much money you plan to invest, how much money you need to borrow, and your expected profit. It's better to err on the side of conservatism and aim to break even your first year. Nestled among the financial details is your concept, which needs to be unique to draw interest. For example, Hash House a Go Go is a chain known for its extremely large portions and Southern fusion cuisine, Hooters is known for more than its tasty wings, and Denny's is a diner that serves breakfast 24/7.
- Location: Wherever you decide to set up shop, be sure your restaurant is visible. It should be easily spotted from the street on which it resides. Your parking lot is almost as important as your restaurant's space, especially if it's unique compared to its competition. If a customer can't find a place to park, you've lost business. Restaurants located off a highway are often busy.
- Menu: This is a big consideration when you're planning to open a restaurant. Study the food trends, and if they line up with your restaurant's concept, you should consider them for your menu. There are a few menu must-haves that you should include, such as meatless options for vegans and vegetarians, kids’ options so families can dine at your place, and a few desserts. Cost-saving menus include meals that use the same ingredients, so plan carefully.
- Hours: It's important to understand that as a restaurant owner, you won't have the luxury of taking days or holidays off. This isn't a 40-hours-per-week job. Expect to spend most of your time at the restaurant working with your staff, paying vendors, talking with customers, planning menus, and reviewing profit and loss reports. It's a rewarding career choice, but it's also a time-consuming one.
- Marketing: Have a plan to get the word out about your new restaurant. You can take advantage of the many social media platforms to market it. You should also look into joining restaurant coalitions so you can work with other restaurateurs to cross-promote. Many cities promote local businesses, so join a chamber of commerce and participate in food festivals to get the word out.
- Delegation: It can be difficult to trust others with your restaurant, but prioritizing and delegating is a must in this industry. You cannot do everything yourself, so be sure to hire and train staff to your specifications and then let go.
- Licensing and permits: Before you can open the doors to your restaurant, you need to make sure you apply for the proper licenses and permits. There may be several inspections you must pass before you can begin operation. Reach out to your city government to find out what you need for your restaurant. You also need to consider state and federal requirements, so do your homework long before you set a date for your grand opening.
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