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Opening Your Restaurant: A Checklist for Success

Krista Fredrick

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Krista Fredrick | November 8, 2012 | 0

Come In We're OpenDo you dream of opening a restaurant?

Are you ready to wear a lot of hats at once? At minimum, it’s a job for a hard worker who understands and can handle such diverse concerns as cooking, bookkeeping, marketing and managing people.

You know it’s going to be hard. But you feel like you’re up to the challenge. These tips from restauranteurs who went through the wringer and survived could help bring those dreams a little bit closer to reality.

What’s your concept?

What type of restaurant do you want? Will you serve the food that you like to cook? Or are you thinking about a franchise? With a franchise, you get a built-in menu, ready-made marketing and instant name recognition. If you are cooking this business up from scratch, you’ll need to first come up with a menu that reflects your passion and your expertise. What are your price points? Is there a demographic market yearning what you have in mind?  These are all questions you’ll consider as you develop your business plan.

Got a good location?

Location, location, location. It is the one factor that can make or break your biz. Luckily, it’s also a variable that you control. Choosing the right location invariably depends on accessibility, local employment and the demographic makeup of the neighborhood. Once you’ve decided on a concept, find a place where the residents want what you’ll be serving, one where they will pay what you’ll be charging.

Got a good name?

It’s smart to give your restaurant a name that reflects its menu. It’s also smart to have a name that’s easy to recall (or spell, in case customers will be ordering online). Make a positive first impression with a name that tells the world who you are.

Remember: The menu tells your story.

The menu is what will bring customers in the first place. So the design deserves serious attention.  A clean, easy-to-read menu will guide your guests to the items they seek.  Dish names are as important as the layout and design of the menu, so make them descriptive and distinctive.

Get the right people.

The right staff is the right stuff in the restaurant business. Competent, trained staff is critical. No matter how fancy the cuisine or how talented the chef, the front of the house and back of the house employees must be efficient and knowledgeable. The ones who will be dealing with the public have to do it with grace and likability. Your entire team has to make each person who sits down for a meal feel truly welcome.

Get the right gear.

Equipping the establishment will probably be your biggest up-front expense. The bulk of your budget will go to outfitting your kitchen, your dining area and your bar. Here’s where the high failure rate of new restaurants can actually work in your favor; there is always used equipment available thanks to restaurants that went belly-up. Craigslist is a restaurant supply graveyard (or goldmine, if you’re an optimist). Pro tip: If you’re planning on getting used or leased equipment, make sure that you or someone on your staff is familiar with the items. You don’t want to get burned by paying cold cash for a stove that doesn’t work.

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