You Can Start A Restaurant And Win With Your Own Concept

Starting a restaurant guarantees you’ll have competition. Staying ahead of the competition means you must have at least one significant differentiator that provides value to the customer no other business can offer.  This is a business principle. There is corollary that also says; when it comes to the business of restaurants no differentiator is needed; just deliver a great customer experience and good food.

If you are thinking of opening a restaurant you can win with your own concept.  Successful restaurants are successful for a variety of reasons, but it is the coming together of all these reasons that create a winning restaurant.  It has to be your combination – your concept.  No one thing will ensure a winning formula; it is a number of things that must all work harmoniously together that create success.

What questions should you ask to create your concept?

Let’s start by saying that it is not the fad that makes a restaurant succeed.  Some restaurant owners try to differentiate themselves through a single recipe or dish, or a style of interior design, perhaps oriented toward children or to create a cultural experience that drives business.  Yes, there can be some short-term gains in business that initially attracts customers to ”try it out” but all of these fads are only good for a one time experience; in other words, they don’t drive repeat business.

So the questions you should be asking go something like this:

  • Do you have good tasting food?
  • Is your service meeting or exceeding the customer’s expectation?  
  • Do you have flexibility in your service styles to accommodate different types of customers?  
  • Do you have a good location that helps drive foot traffic?  
  • Is your facility clean, painted, fresh, and in good condition?  
  • Is your staff friendly and sensitive to customers?  
  • Have you trained your staff on the menu and the art of the up sell? 
  • Do you meet regularly with your staff to find improvements from their face to face customer experiences?  
  • Do you create a working environment that provides positive constructive feedback?  
  • Is there anything about your restaurant that isn’t quite right, such as signage?  
  • Have you paid attention to the details around a start to finish customer experience?

Getting Started In 10 Steps

How to start your own restaurant startup begins by first getting into a frame of mind with the right attitude toward creating a working environment that wants to improve the customer’s experience.  If you start this way, the likelihood of success dramatically increases.  That leaves you with the mechanics of starting a restaurant, which look like this…

  1. Step 1: Decide on a restaurant type and concept
    You are the expert, or you have someone who is an expert, at cooking.  The type of food that you are good at cooking is going to have a significant influence on the type of restaurant you start.  Since the quality of food is a critical element of a successful restaurant choose a concept that works for you and your culinary team, even if your concept is a quick serve experience.
  2. Step 2: Write a restaurant business plan
    Once you have a concept you should then write your business plan.  Putting your plan down on paper will help you think through most of the important aspects of your business, such as location, style, size, menu, and most importantly, your financials.  Having a financial plan gives you something to track as you start to set up your business, so that you can immediately catch overspend early to make better decisions that you may otherwise regret when or if times get tough.  (For help on writing your business plan, see our suggestions <link>)
  3. Step 3: Choose a Name
    Your restaurant name is very important.  Choose a name that is easy to remember, easy to pronounce, and relevant to your business.  Don’t go too off track with the name, as quirky or funny names tend to lose their appeal after a short time.
  4. Step 4: Select a Good Location
    Everyone in retail business knows that location is very important to a successful business.  If you are a restaurant that may not depend entirely on foot traffic then an easy and convenient location is fine.  On the other hand, if you are a business that will be dependent on foot traffic then choose your location wisely.  Better to pay a little more in your lease that will be covered in added business than by killing the business due to a poor location.  And when you think you found the right location, think about it twice and get other people’s opinions before taking the big leap.  Listen to what others say!
  5. Step 5: Arrange Financing, if Needed
    If you need financing the time to speak with your local bank or investor is early.  Before you sign your lease having found the right location, get your financing arranged.  Your business plan should have the financial guidance and information needed to complete the transaction.  If you are considering a loan, start with your local banks, and get multiple offers before making a decision on a lender.
  6. Step 6: Apply for Licenses and Permits
    Once your financing is in place, all systems are now “go.”  It is a matter of logistics to get everything prepared for opening day.  The first of these logistics is to get the paperwork started for your licenses and permits.  You may need building permits if you are doing significant construction; you will need a business license, and you may need other permits depending on whether you are serving alcoholic drinks.   The key is to start the paperwork early once all systems are “go!”
  7. Step 7: Start Your Opening Day Planning
    How to open a restaurant begins with preparations to create awareness prior to opening day; it is critical for your success.  Start with social media with a great Facebook page, Instagram, and possibly other social channels relevant to your restaurant concept.  Then consider building a website that includes lots of pictures.  Descriptions of your business and an easy to read menu are important on your website, but studies show that it is the pictures that ultimately get people into your business.  (After opening day put effort into managing your “likes” and references on your social sites, as well as to monitor Yelp reviews to make sure that your reputation stays positive.)
  8. Step 8: Build, Setup, and Hire
    Now the rest of your logistics can be done.  Prepare your restaurant interior, build out your kitchen, hire staff as they are needed, and get all your technology setup and ready.  (See here for a list of small business technology.  <link>)  As the work is done, keep an eye on your business plan financials to make sure you stay on track.  Also, double-check all the work being done for you so that the quality of work you expect is met.
  9. Step 9: Design and Test Your Menu
    Now the key to your successful restaurant should be centered around the food.  Yes, you want to give your customers a great experience, and the tables, service, atmosphere, and setting are all very important, but without great food even the most entertaining restaurants struggle.  But before you just write-up a menu and “go” have some prospective customers review the menu to give you feedback.  Ask questions like:  What is missing?  Do you understand all the descriptions?  Would you make any changes?  Is it easy to read?  …and so on.
  10. Step 10: Opening Day Training
    Now you are just about ready for opening day.  Before that big day, bring all your staff together and make sure you get them trained.  There are different types of training you should do.  Start with technology training, such as entering orders into your point-of-sales system, how to run payments, and most importantly, what to do in exception cases, such as with a declined card payment, or problematic customer.  Also, train your staff in the expectations of customer service, such as what to say, do, and respond in different situations.  Lastly, have your staff practice with potential customers the few days before opening day.  Create various scenarios that give them a chance to show their skills.

These steps can help ensure a great start to your new restaurant business.