Want to Open a Restaurant? Think These Thoughts First

Most chefs hope to own their own restaurantone day. From being able to call the shots in regards to menu, payscale and food sourcing, to the satisfaction any small business ownership brings, few dreams hold a candle to that of beingthe boss in one’s own food establishment. But starting a restaurant is a serious and complex undertaking—regardless of the amount of kitchen and cooking experience someone has. Before you take the plunge and dive into opening your own restaurant,consider whether or not you’ve got a good grip on what it’s going to take.

What Is Your Food Concept?

Your food concept is the starting point for your whole endeavor. Are you opening a steakhouse? A seafood place? A burger joint? A noodle bar? A farm-to-table fine-dining experience? A French and Japanese fusion restaurant? Whatever you’re trying to do, play to your strengths and to the types of food and cooking that interest you most.

How Should You Design Your Atmosphere?

A restaurant’s atmosphere needs to work with and complement the food concept. Your guests need to feel like your restaurant’s menu and ambience are in line with one another. When you’re weighing the atmosphere of a place, consider these factors:

  • Restaurant location
  • Lighting
  • Furniture
  • Dishware, glassware, flatware
  • Music
  • Server uniforms
  • Service type

Knowing how you want the space to feel to your guests is important. Always keep an image of your ideal space in mind.

Which Service Type?

The type of service you choose predominantly determines the kind of restaurant you’ll have, the type of foodyour patrons will expect, as well as the kinds of people who will dine with you. The three broad types of service are:

  • Quick-service. Also known as “fast food,” quick-service restaurants tend to have a more limited menu, and their food is prepared quickly and affordably.
  • Midscale. Midscale service occupies the vast middle ground between quick-service and upscale dining. Full meals are provided, but the cost is still generally affordable. Service at midscale restaurants can be limited- or full-range with some or all of the ordering and receiving of food taking place at the guests’ table.
  • Upscale.These restaurants offer complete table service and do not promote cost-savings as a selling point. They focus on ingredients, cuisine quality, menu, atmosphere and the like. Fine dining is at the high end of this type of restaurant.

What Is Your Ideal Demographic?

No restaurant, if it wants to be successful, can appeal to every type of potential customer. While you need to consider an age range—are you targeting millennials? Generation X? Baby boomers?—other factors must be taken into account as well. Will your customer base be affluent, or do you want to be more of a value-for-the-dollar? Will your customers be traditionalists when it comes to food and menu, or do you want to target a more adventurous group of eaters? What are the values of the demographic you’re hoping to serve? Imagine your ideal customer. Give him or her a name, a background story, a career, an income, hobbies, a friend group, worries, even allergies. Now,targetthat individual.

How Much Money?

There’s no way to take a shortcut on this part of the process. Do your homework. Check out the Small Business Association’s suggestions regarding zoning, permits and insurance. The list of things that are going to take money is substantial. There’s equipment, rent, insurance, utilities, renovations, salaries and more. Talk to other restaurant owners in the area and ask them what they wish they had remembered in their planning process. After you have a good sense of how much money you’ll need, bump it up another 30 percent just to be safe.

Where’s the Money Coming From?

There are many creative ways to finance any kind of business, but especially a restaurant. Do you want to take on a partner? What about a group of investors? Can you craft a solid business plan and secure a bank loan? Do you have savings? Whatever you decide, make sure that the monthly payment is something that you can afford even if it takes a while for your restaurant to truly be making money.

 The dream of owning a restaurant is one that comes with a slew of special deliberations. Before you start working to make it a reality, think through this list, so you can give yourself the best possible chance of opening a restaurant that’s a success.


About the Author: Jennifer Dole is a contributing writer and former chef, currently living in the Seattle area. She recommends Nisbets Foodservice Equipment for anyone looking to open a restaurant.

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