There’s no doubt that owning a restaurant is one of the most rewarding endeavors out there. Giving owners the opportunity to share their incredible culinary skills with the world and enjoy a fast-paced, sociable way of life, not to mention the chance to be at the forefront of food trends, for many it’s a lifelong aspiration. And with exciting trends emerging in the US restaurant industry, it’s the perfect time to launch a restaurant yourself.
To help you realise your dreams of owning an eatery, we’ve outlined the four main steps to launching one successfully.
Having a unique concept for your restaurant will help set it apart and entice customers. This involves thinking about the type of restaurant you’d like to own and the service style you’ll use, as well as the food you’ll cook. Typically, the best concepts come from a place of passion and by spotting a gap in the market.
So where to start? Well, serving food you love is an obvious jumping off point. Once you’re set on your cuisine of choice, you then need to find your niche. A good way to do this is to carry out market research to learn what your competitors are doing. Say you want to run an Asian restaurant, for example, but discover that, as well as Indian and Chinese eateries, Vietnamese and Thai restaurants are everywhere. This would show you that there’s perhaps a gap in the market for a restaurant serving alternative Asian cuisine like Cambodian or Nepalese.
Of course, the food you make isn’t the only consideration when it comes to launching a restaurant, and the environment and general feel of your eatery is just as important. It’s essential that every element of your restaurant, including the decorations, menu design and background music, is coordinated and works well together. This helps to create a coherency that enhances the in-restaurant experience immensely.
Once your concept is created, the next step is to start finetuning your menu. This affects various elements of your restaurant, including the kinds of equipment you’ll buy, the staff you’ll hire, your target audience and even your eatery’s location. For instance, if you want to run a seafood restaurant, you’ll want to hire poissonniers (fish chefs), while to make fancy baked goods you’ll not only need to employ patissiers (pastry chefs), but get the right equipment too.
When it comes to your location, it’s critical that this is in line with the type of restaurant you’re running. For example, you’ll want to pick a more affluent area for a fine-dining restaurant so that the residents can afford your food. If you’ve grabbed yourself a cut-price deal on a restaurant space in a college town, your menu should be cheaper.
After your concept and menu are sorted, the next stage is to get your finances in order. You’ll need to obtain enough funding to meet the main costs of running a restaurant, which are:
One of your biggests outlays will be your rent, and the more sought-after the location, the more it will cost. For example, it costs over twice as much to rent in New York’s Manhattan and Brooklyn regions than it does in Los Angeles’s priciest district, with New York having more than twice as many inhabitants overall.
According to Upserve, a restaurant management software company, a restaurant should aim to keep labor costs between 20% and 30% of its gross revenue, so bear this in mind when financing things. You also need to consider fit-out costs, including equipment and decorations.
Having insurance is critical, especially public liability cover, which “protects your business if customers, suppliers, or members of the public suffer property damage or personal injury as a result of your business’s activities.” Claims like this are common in the restaurant industry, particularly personal injury as a result of food poisoning, so it’s better to be safe than sorry by having a comprehensive insurance policy in place. Otherwise, you could have to pay out huge compensation fees.
Marketing is essential to the success of your endeavor, helping to attract people to your restaurant and create brand awareness. According to Gourmet Marketing, you should spend between 3-6% of your sales on marketing.
In order to be able to legally open and run your restaurant, you need to meet certain laws and regulations, including the following:
Setting up a business requires picking a suitable structure. The one you opt for will affect the taxes you pay and how you borrow money. Check out this article about restaurant business structures for more details on this.
Restaurant owners need various permits to operate legally, including a certificate of occupancy, a food service license, a food handler’s permit, a liquor license and a building health permit.
Failing to adhere to food safety and pest control regulations may result in you being fined or even being shut down. For more information on food safety standards in the US, read this guide by the FDA, and for the lowdown on pest control regulations, check out this article by Smithereen, a pest control company.
It’s critical that your restaurant isn’t violating any competition laws. For instance, if you worked at another restaurant in the past, make sure that your employment contract doesn’t have a non-compete clause, as opening your own establishment could infringe on this. While you should also ensure that your recipes, restaurant name and concept are original.