Becoming an entrepreneur in today’s society is risky and exciting, and opening up your own restaurant in a world teeming with food options is even more so. You have to be able to stand out from the crowd with what you offer, and the first year is usually a make or break for most small restaurants. Here are 5 things you should know to get you started when you launch your restaurant to help make it a success!
1. Write a Business Plan First!
Although you might know what you want and you have your goals set and your eyes on the prize, you will be amazed at how much writing your plan out will help you realize what you have neglected to think about.
In your business plan, you should include a clear idea of what your restaurant will look like, who your target market will be, a general idea of your menu and pricing scales, and information on your financial data – how are you going to get your start-up capital? What are your long-term income and expense forecasts? How will you make it through the slow months?
Additionally, have a marketing plan, employee hiring and training costs, and a list of the challenges you expect to face (and there will be challenges! A good idea is to go to other small restaurants who have been successful and ask for their suggestions. Most small business owners are happy to help others). Even though it sounds like you are jinxing yourself, don’t forget an exit strategy just in case. Better to have one and not need it than need it and not have it.
2. Carve Out Your Niche, and Make It Yours
There are restaurants all over your city. There are probably even restaurants that serve the same style of food you are planning to serve. Research your competition. Poll people who go to those places and see what attracts them to each one. Then figure out how you can make your restaurant stand out from the crowd. Maybe you have an all-you-can-eat meal one night a week, or a live band. Whatever you choose, find a way to make your niche different than all the others.
3. Understand Your Target Customers
This sounds like Restaurant 101, but really, this needs to happen ASAP once you decide to open a restaurant. If your target customers are senior citizens, then your location needs to be selected based on their predominant locale. Sticking your business in the middle of a busy downtown street that caters to young businesspeople will likely deter your target market from visiting your restaurant.
Locale is important, and so is the atmosphere of your place. Once you choose the location and have determined how you’re going to attract your customers, design the interior of your restaurant to reflect your target audience. In keeping with the senior citizen market example, if your atmosphere is loud music and vibrant colours, you’re not likely to entice the people you need for your restaurant to be a success.
4. Hire the Right Team!
Ever walk into a restaurant and the host(ess) is leaning on the podium on their phone, popping bubbles with their gum? Or talking to a co-worker and ignoring you? In chain restaurants, you stay anyway because you don’t expect any different. In a small restaurant, people will walk out when they see that.
Have a dress code that befits your target market (see above) and stick to it. Flip flops, short shorts, wild hair and crazy piercings are not your best choices for your senior citizen audience. They might be great, however, if you are looking for a younger market.
Whoever you pick, remember that friendly beats experienced hands down all day. People are more likely to repeat a visit with an inexperienced but friendly server than a rude but experienced one. Inexperience can be trained. Rudeness is a character trait that is ingrained.
5. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise!
Going back to the target market section (see how important it is??), determine the media that best pertains to your wanted audience and find the best (and cheapest) way to advertise to that group. Advertising is critical during your first year, so don’t skimp on this part. You have to let people know you are there.
However, research has proven that the best form of advertising for a restaurant is word of mouth. I remember that after Andres and Irene wedding many guests were hiring the same restaurant for their ceremonies. So focus on giving your customers when they are there the most amazing experience possible, and your advertising costs will pay for themselves. You might even eventually be able to cut this spending altogether.