If you have always had an idea at the back of your head that you want to get into the food business, there is no time like the present. With skyrocketing numbers of consumers wanting to eat out or order food home, there is always a place in the market for new players. However, there are a few things you might want to think about as you get started.
Given that there are restaurants a dime a dozen every corner, you should be clear on what is unique about your venture. Build a vision around what you want to do and what you believe makes your restaurant unique. Create a solid business plan that will detail your research on the market, its current trends, the demands around it, research on where you plan to position yourself, who your target demographic will be. Also, ensure you have a marketing plan in place keeping your target customer in mind. The marketing plan should be complemented by a budget and a financial projection before you start your business. Once you have all this in place, ensure you create a synergy between your unique idea, current market trends and where the restaurant industry is headed. In the end, everything is about timing and strategy. Try to align your restaurant layout, décor with your vision for the restaurant.
Like every business, you have to be in a place where it is easy for your target customer to find you. Yes. Location is of paramount importance in the restaurant business. Choose a place frequented by your target customer and make sure you are visible. Also, try to think ahead and choose a place that has the potential for growth as an area as well as for your business. While you have to find that fine balance between cost and value, remember that a strategic location doesn’t always have to be expensive. Look out for spaces that will allow you to expand if you do well instead of going in for a huge investment in the beginning. Starting small gives you the advantage of expanding in more than one location in the future.
If you are not yet ready to rent out a fancy place, consider having a strong online presence and start taking online orders. The concept of the delivery only kitchen is on the rise and many small businesses are taking this route.
When it comes to food, you have to consider taste as well as pricing. Do your research and test out your ideas not just with your friends but with people who may be able to tell you what you don’t want to hear. Being open to honest feedback is the best way to tweak and build an amazing menu. Encourage feedback and try to make changes based on feedback. Try to be objective about the menu. If your menu allows for customization, understand if that would be welcome with your target audience. Typically, those who are in a hurry like to take what is available and do not have the time to ponder over choices. So, in that case, you would want to give options but keep them limited. However, if you are having an experiential kind of set up, you may want to allow your customers to participate in the process of creating their meal. However, make sure you have trained staff who will assist them and suggest combinations if need be.
That brings us to the next most important part of starting a restaurant.
Pen down all your needs and try to find the right people. Try to involve them while procuring other things around the restaurant like service related necessities. Make an informed guess-estimate on resources along with your budget and projections to arrive at the capital you need to open your restaurant.
Like all life lessons, you may not get everything right the first time. So plan a soft opening to help you evaluate whether you want to ramp up or down your resources. This includes your staff, resources in your kitchen and everything else.
Understand your demand and try to find vendors who will make fresh produce available to you in a timely and efficient manner. When you plan on sourcing, plan your logistics simultaneously and remember to work that into the cost. You may find that getting something at a slightly higher rate if it is closer works to your advantage due to logistic costs.
The food industry has a responsibility to keep its guests safe and prevent any illnesses caused by food. Hence there are many regulations at every level for a restaurant to adhere to. Talk to a legal counsel to help you understand the steps involved and ensure you have all the permits and licenses in place for your restaurant.
The next system you have to understand and invest in is a payment processor which will handle credit card and debit card transactions for you. Keep in mind that you have to choose a payments processor that accepts all major banks cards, doesn’t have any hidden costs and does the job in a timely manner. You may want to think of investing in a point of sale system which is intuitive and will help with manage data around your restaurant like inventory tracking, tip reconciliation, menu adjustments, employee time. In addition to these, look for a system that will help you manage all this data and give you valuable insights on your customer, their feedback, trends based on orders, etc. These insights can help you grow as an entrepreneur.
Once you have researched and made your decision regarding all the above, you are all set to realize your dream of opening your own restaurant. The next steps for you to focus on are:
1. Plan your soft launch in such a way that you have most of your concept out there and make sure you can learn from the feedback.
2. Ongoing marketing strategy to keep yourself in the news and ride the trend that is current.
3. Participate in community events and encourage free sampling of your fare.
4. Plan on how you will build a self-sustainable model of marketing on social media.
In the end, it is the first step that is the toughest yet the most significant. So go ahead and realize your dream. Good luck!