The process of opening a restaurant from start to finish can be, and should be, an arduous one. It requires a tremendous amount of research and determination, and it can easily get overwhelming. Often clients ask, “What should I be doing?” It’s the right question, but not easily answered. Why? There is a whole array of things that must be done simultaneously in opening any business, but especially one as complex as a restaurant.
So, where do you start? The best place to start is with a plan, of course. Without one, it’s like shooting from the hip. Just trusting your instincts is a recipe for failure. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you are unlikely to get anywhere worthwhile.” So you begin with a business plan, a proven foundation of success and the road map to your dream becoming reality. A quotation worth remembering and putting into practice is, “Failing to plan is planning to fail” from The 7 Habits of Highly EffectivePeople, Stephen R. Covey).
Let’s outline two important steps necessary to create a successful business plan:
1. You must have an idea of the type of restaurant you want. That means coming up with a well-thought-out concept, visualizing it with graphics, and describing in writing. Your entire business plan will evolve from this: how to bring that dream restaurant to life; how to give it its unique personality; and what makes it different from other restaurants.
2. Study successful restaurants in order to formulate a model that fits what you have in mind. You don’t have to copy them, just determine why you think they are successful. Is it their food? Is it their friendly service or atmosphere? Most likely it will be all three, fitting together to form a total concept: great food, prompt and attentive service, and a comfortable, if not unique, atmosphere.
I like to use the example of a three-legged milking stool to drive this point home. If one leg is weak, then the whole stool is weak and collapses, hopefully not with you on it.
When I suggest learning from observing other successful restaurants, keep this thought in mind. Your restaurant idea must be uniquely yours. Combine the best parts of other successful restaurants into your own creative version of what you want. Perhaps it’s the personal service and unique food presentation that you have enjoyed at one restaurant, or the decor theme at another. Blend all the elements that you feel make those restaurants successful into your own total concept of food, atmosphere, and service, and you will have created your own original.
First, make an outline of what your business plan will include. Remember, BE SPECIFIC! Writing a business plan forces you to think through where you are going, how you plan to get there, and it is a tried and true road map to success. By organizing your thinking, you are more able to translate your thoughts to paper (or a computer screen) and watch a rigorous plan of action begin to take form.
THE BUSINESS PLAN
The Executive Summary: Your Executive Summary should be brief and two-fold, containing:
1.) A well-thought-out, condensed version of the business plan, a blueprint in developing your restaurant concept.
2.) The executive summary provides a banker, or potential investor, an insight into your thinking and an implied promise for profits. Condensed and to the point, the executive summary gives your potential investors the essence of the business plan without having to digest the entire document, and creates an immediate interest to read further.
The Company Structure: Describe the legal business entity that you have selected to conduct your business. Your accountant and lawyer will advise you based on your personal circumstances.
Restaurant Service Categories: How will you deliver service to your customers? Are you thinking of table service, with a wait and bus staff, or the limited staff of fast-food or fast-casual service systems?
Your service concept will determine the qualifications required of the employees you will hire and the pay scale appropriate to each.
Service: What attitude and personality should your service staff display? How will they interact with your customers? From behind a counter, in a fast food setting, or up close and personal, taking and bringing orders directly to the table with a smile. Good service, plus a pleasant attitude of your wait staff goes a long way in bringing your customers back.