It all started with a glass of wine. I was having dinner with a client out of town who was thinking about starting a restaurant of his own. The decor was simple, yet beautiful. The food was perfectly prepared and beautifully plated. The drink menu was full of craft beers, local whiskey, and perfectly-pairable wines. My client wondered aloud, “Where do I even start?” Over the next few months, as we researched and planned and prepared for the launch of his very own restaurant, we shared many glasses of wine -- in the name of taste-testing, in the name of stress-management, and finally, in the name of celebration. Here’s what we learned along the way.
Starting a business is a big job, and it takes an incredible amount of planning and careful foresight to pull it off. When it comes to the restaurant business, even the most careful plans can fall through, so it’s important to remember that having a backup plan is essential. One of the best attributes a restaurateur can have is the ability to think on their feet and smart decisions under stress. It’s not always easy, but with a little preparation and research, you can learn how to do it.
Keeping costs down is another huge part of owning a business, especially in the foodservice industry. Business may be slow some days and booming on others; you may have competition from local businesses or from online companies; or, you may have staffing issues that can lead to payroll problems. Making your business a success without breaking the bank is essential.
Keep reading for some great tips on how to get started.
Get a Good Lease
The location of your restaurant is a big key in how successful you’ll be, as it can make or break the amount of business you do. Finding the best lease for your needs is essential; you may need to learn to negotiate a bit, especially if the building needs work or if it’s been empty for a while before you found it. Talk to the landlord about waiving rent payments for a certain amount of time so you can get your ducks in a row and open up without stress.
Always Pad Your Plans
When thinking about the financial end of your restaurant planning, it’s a good idea to pad your estimates. This will ensure that you aren’t always operating on a tight budget with no wiggle room, and it will reduce your stress during the process as well. It’s hard to plan for such a huge project when you’re feeling anxious about money, so give yourself a little leeway.
When it comes to funding your business, it can be hard to find a good loan that will meet all your needs. Personal loans are often easier to secure than business loans, but these can come with a lot of fine print. Make sure you do your research first; you can start with a site like Consumers Advocate.
Don’t Overdo It on Decor
You can create a lovely restaurant without spending a ton of money on artwork and lighting. Look for economical ways to fill your place with all the decorative elements you want; you can find items you like in higher-end stores and then look for similar pieces online, or go with a minimalist theme and focus on making sure the dinnerware and table settings are immaculate.
One of the best ways to keep costs down both at work and at home is to go green as much as possible. In a restaurant, this might mean using energy-efficient lighting, installing a programmable thermostat, reducing food waste, and keeping shipping needs at a minimum. The good news is that not only will these actions help save you money, they’ll also be a great draw for customers who are interested in living an eco-friendly life.
Utilize Local Vendors
Using locally sourced ingredients can help save you money while also supporting small businesses, so look for farms in your area that can supply you with meats, fresh veggies and fruits, and milk, and research local vineyards to see if you can strike up a deal on fine wines. Supporting the local economy is a great way to gain allies who can help mentor you, as well.
Starting a restaurant isn’t easy, and it often comes with many pitfalls and setbacks that can be stressful. Remember to take time for yourself during the process so you can reduce those feelings and enjoy building up your project. Cheers!
Kyle Ann Robertson
Chief Writing Officer at Ifcorkscouldtalk.com and BBWalsh.com