Starting a Restaurant Business - Your Guide To Strategic Success

Published on:
April 19, 2024
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Starting a restaurant business can be a wholesome endeavor, imagine seeing all your hard work and sleepless nights finally come together. But as rewarding as the outcome sounds, it can be a long way before you get to the point where your business becomes fully operational.

After the first year, 27% of restaurant ventures failed; after three years, 50% of those restaurants had closed; and after five years, 60% had gone out of business. At the end of ten years, 70% of restaurants that had started a decade earlier had failed.

And when it comes to the restaurant business, the entire industry is highly dynamic as it is competitive. We have Michelin Stars on one hand who constantly deliver and carve a name for the ages, whereas, on the other hand, we have fads that often fizzle out because they’re centered on one idea or theme.

To help you get on the right track this strategic guide will fill you in on the do’s and don’ts of starting a restaurant business, even if you have no experience.

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Is There a Shortcut to Starting a Restaurant Business?

It turns out that now may be the perfect time to start your restaurant.

According to research, the food service sector is expected to rise from $2,646.99 billion in 2023 to $5,423.59 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 10.8% during the projection period.

Opening a restaurant and setting it up for success requires careful consideration of several factors. You need a restaurant concept before you can do anything else. What are the menu items? How upscale is it going to be? Selecting a perfect location is the next logical step after coming up with a concept. It impacts your rent and customers, this is a crucial choice for restaurant owners to make. 

After deciding on a site, the next step is to get down to the brass tacks, which includes creating a menu, designing the space, and hiring staff. Expenses associated with opening and operating your business should also be considered.

Launching a restaurant is no easy feat, while there is no exact recipe or shortcut to make it work but opening a restaurant can become a reality for you with the right amount of talent, strategy, hard work, and dedication. 

Why Lots of Restaurants Don't Make It

There is a lot of hard work that goes into opening a restaurant. 60% of restaurants, according to some figures, close their doors for good in the first year. Many factors contribute to this, but inadequate resources, a flawed concept, inept leadership, and a mediocre location are among the most prevalent.

A lack of a defined idea is a major factor in restaurants' failure to succeed. Make a final decision on the kind of restaurant you want to run before you launch for business. 

Is your restaurant planning to provide a more casual dining experience or a more luxurious ambiance? When you have a concept in mind, your branding and marketing materials must represent it. 

Another reason restaurants go out of business is because they just can't make enough money. For this reason, you should always check that your revenue is sufficient to cover your expenditures and establish a realistic budget.

Attracting and retaining customers is a key factor in the success or failure of some restaurants. Your marketing and branding efforts must be consistent with that idea if you want to achieve success.

Are you curious about the 60% failure rate in the restaurant industry and how you can avoid it?

A kickass business strategy should be the first step to starting a restaurant business.

10 Steps To Starting a Restaurant Business

Step 1: Choose a Unique Restaurant Concept

Think carefully about the concept you want to implement at your restaurant. Do you want to target just a small number of rich customers and residents? Or are you more interested in appealing to middle-class customers? Get a feel for who you're selling to before you open your business.

Since even restaurant owners eat at other places, you've probably seen a need in the market that you should address. Does the concept of combining Greek and Japanese cultures pique your interest? Perhaps new spins on old breakfast staples spark your imagination. 

No matter what you come up with, it has to be fresh and exciting enough to spark your entrepreneurial spirit. Think about these questions as well:

  • What kind of service do you wish to offer?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What makes your brand unique?

Step 2: Create a Business Plan

Creating a comprehensive business plan is essential; it calls for preparation and structure. Outlining the basics, going into depth, and summarizing your objectives can show prospective investors that your restaurant will be successful. 

Approach it like digging into the "4C's": customer, consumer, channel, and context.

With this, you should aim to:

  • Define your target market: Do you intend to market to baby boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Zers, retirees, or elders with your new venture? Once you've identified your target market, it's important to learn their buying habits, motivations, and where they receive their products. You can utilize this information to create a tailored product or service.
  • Define your USP: Determine what makes you unique from the crowd. Determine your competitive advantage by studying the actions of your direct and indirect rivals. In this case, radicalism is not required, but relevance is. Establishing a kid-friendly space that offers healthy kid-friendly meals might be enough to set you apart from the competition if you're aiming for young families.
  • Define your restaurant style: Do you intend to launch a full-service restaurant, quick-service restaurant, coffee shop, or bakery? Pick the one that works best for you in terms of your work schedule and personal preferences; each of these channels demands a different strategy, operation hours, and investment.
  • Select your food type/menu offering: Think long and hard about the food you want to offer before you begin to organize the event. Get a feel for what your target market is ordering right now so you can change your menu items appropriately. These days, a lot of people are looking for gluten-free or allergy-friendly options, supporting local farms, or becoming vegetarian or vegan.
  • Define your brand: The logo, images, menu design, music, and even staff uniforms all contribute to your branding, which in turn conveys your business's values and mission. Customers will have a better idea of what they can expect from your restaurant. Consider long and hard how you want to present yourself and who you want to be.

You need to put your business strategy to the test after you've completed developing it. Gather feedback from a subset of your target audience by contacting them directly. Everything from a quick survey of passers-by to an extensive market analysis might fall under this category.

Step 3: Secure Funding

If you don't have a secret stash of cash lying around, starting a restaurant business isn't cheap. You'll need to raise a substantial amount of money to pay for all the startup fees and keep the company going until it begins making money. 

A well-researched budget that accounts for the cost of permits, equipment, restaurant maintenance, staff compensation, and other expenses may increase your chances of approval when applying for financial resources. 

Making a long-term budget for capital expenditures is a smart way to handle a tight financial position. The purchase of reservation software and other features that will make your restaurant more user-friendly will need capital.

Find the most suitable source of capital for your company:

  • Finance options for businesses include long-term loans, equipment finance, lines of credit, and small business administration loans.
  • Donations from charitable organizations or state and regional governments 
  • Involve a private investor as a partner and split the earnings.
  • Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe

Step 4: Obtain Licensing And Permits

When opening a restaurant, there are a number of licenses and permissions that are required, such as those for the sale of alcoholic beverages, the handling of food, and more. To save time and avoid lengthy lines, find out what the FDA restrictions are in your state and submit your application early. Due to the complexity of this procedure, you may choose to retain legal representation. 

Some required licenses include: 

  • State-specific Business License: Required and varies depending on the state of operation.
  • Employee Identification Number (EIN): Essential for official employee hiring and payroll setup.
  • Foodservice License: Mandatory; preceded by a thorough food safety inspection.
  • Liquor License: Enhances sales potential by permitting the sale of alcohol.
  • Certificate of Occupancy: Specifies legal use and permitted occupancy types for buildings.

Step 5: Find a Prime Location

"Location, location, location."

You've heard it said before.

Actually, there are cases when it isn't true. You don't have to be in the trendiest new retail location unless your business is highly dependent on foot traffic; there are other considerations to take into account when choosing a site.

You should think about the following:

  • Rental Budget: Determine rent affordability based on sales and profit forecasts.
  • Customer Accessibility: Assess how customers reach your restaurant—by foot, car, or public transport.
  • Regulatory Constraints: Be aware of neighborhood ordinances such as noise regulations and delivery time restrictions.
  • Proximity to Competitors: Analyze neighboring businesses and competitors' impact on foot traffic and consumer behavior.
  • Future Plans: Consider the neighborhood's evolution over 2, 5, or 10 years, including ongoing development projects shaping the local landscape.

Step 6: Design Your Space

This is where it gets fun (or not, depending on who you ask)! The front-of-house and back-of-house layouts are essential when creating a design plan. If you are overwhelmed by the task, consider hiring a professional if you have the financial means to do so.

While the exact proportions may vary from one restaurant to another, a good rule of thumb is to allocate 45-60% of the total floor space to the dining area, 35–35% to the kitchen, and the rest to storage and offices.

Make sure that the kitchen and dining spaces flow together seamlessly by giving careful consideration to their arrangement. 

At this point, you should also consider the technological needs of your food company. Whether it's a point-of-sale system, kiosks, iPads, or audiovisual components that enhance the ambiance and showcase certain items, these components must be seamlessly integrated into the overall design of your establishment.

Above all else, your dining space is not the place to skimp. Discovering the perfect atmosphere and furnishings to greet clients is crucial to achieving success on this stage, where the magic occurs.

Step 7: Find Suppliers

Before the first dinner service, restaurants must be entirely set up.

Ovens, fridges, fryers, commercial dishwashers, and other related appliances will be necessary for your kitchen, and they may be rather costly. While you could find certain places furnished, you might also have to purchase or rent some items.

Tables, chairs, barstools, etc., for your dining room, are the next item on your list of necessities, along with dishes, glasses, linens, and silverware.

If restaurant managers want to make sure their customers never go hungry, they need also to establish relationships with reliable food suppliers. Going hungry due to a provider that can't be relied upon is the last thing anybody wants to happen. 

Step 8: Build a Great Restaurant Menu

Get the ball rolling on your menu as a test run. One option is to have a dinner party using the food you've selected and invite people to provide honest feedback. However, invite more than just your own circle of friends and relatives.

Think of it as a chance to show off your culinary prowess while staying within your budget and increasing your profit margins. Seems simple, doesn't it? 

It is not easy to strike a balance between making a menu that is functional, attractive, and economical. You can reduce some of the pressure by enlisting the assistance of your team of chefs to refine this technique. 

If customers don't like the flavor, it won't matter how much you love the flavor of the food you're providing. To acquire people's authentic views, you could consider about asking for feedback via a method that permits anonymous comments.

Do a market study as well. Go out to a few different eateries to get a sense of what the going rate is. 

Step 9: Hire Skilled Employees

You are the squad captain in your role as a restaurant owner.

This leaves the responsibility of thoroughly screening all employees, from wait staff to dishwashers and sous cooks, entirely on your shoulders. Investing in skilled workers will increase morale and decrease turnover. 

The cost of labor rises in tandem with the minimum wage. Poor scheduling, time theft, and needless overtime are frequent causes of increased labor expenditures; if you can maintain a handle on these issues, your profit margins will remain relatively intact.

Step 10: Develop a Marketing Plan

Your dream restaurant is finally up for business, and now is the time to let everyone know about it. Develop a web presence and social media accounts by consulting your company strategy for information on your brand, goals, and positioning. And remember to address your intended listeners by name at all times.

  • Content Strategy: Leverage various content formats like videos, blogs, reels, and newsletters to engage and educate your audience.
  • Email Campaigns: Execute targeted email marketing initiatives, including newsletters and promotional campaigns, to reach your database effectively.
  • Social Media Promotion: Amplify your brand's reach through boosted posts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
  • Online Reputation Management: Monitor and actively participate in review sites such as Google, Yelp, OpenTable, and FourSquare to maintain a positive online presence.
  • Food Delivery Platforms: Expand your reach by partnering with popular food delivery/order apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Postmates.
  • Collaborative Opportunities: Explore partnerships and collaborations with food festivals, pop-ups, and special events to increase brand visibility and attract new customers.


Everything You Need To Know About Restaurant Reporting For Streamlining  Business Operations

Last but not least, be ready to break the mould, work hard, and never give up. Those are the three principles of success. 

Although the bottom line is the most important indicator of success, it is essential to monitor and analyze several indicators to reevaluate and adjust your business model on an ongoing basis.

Getting a new business off the ground is never easy, but the reward is worth the effort in the end.

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