Are you opening a restaurant in 2020? Congrats! 🎉 And good luck. It’s going to be the ride of your life.
As you plan out your concept, location, menu, staffing, and marketing, take a read through the advice left by hundreds of restaurateurs to ensure you’re set up for success in 2020.
This advice were submitted by owners and managers of restaurants of all sizes, concepts, and locations in the forthcoming 7shifts Restaurant Labor Management Study in 2020 (subscribe to get your copy when it’s published!).
Advice for opening a restaurant from restaurateurs
1. Educate yourself
If there’s one thing to know when opening a new business—especially a new restaurant—it’s that there’s no such thing as “too much research.” Educating yourself and thoroughly researching every aspect of your new restaurant and your local landscape is only going to help you with fleshing out your plan.
Educate yourself on costs, hiring, and the market you are in before taking the leap. Be as prepared as possible to combat the hurdles that will come along. Make sure your numbers are right operationally, and keep costs as low as possible. Educate yourself on the staffing/employment trends and always be prepared to continually hire.
Ensure your business plan is real and not theoretical, in order to understand every operation cost you will come to a head with, and ensure positive cash flow.
Don’t underestimate your labor and rent costs. Spend time researching low rent prices with good location
Key things to research are:
Thoroughly research restaurant costs (operational, labor, equipment, etc.)—both for restaurants in general and in your specific locale. Prepare your budget in advance and leave room for “surprise” expenses.
Plan out your labor costs (costs associated with staffing) by researching average wages in your area, suggested training costs, and any benefits you’ll provide. You should also flesh out the type of roles you need to hire as well as the type of people you’d like to fill them—making the right hires the first time can make or break your restaurant’s success.
“Training before opening. You only get a first impression once” — Chris, Score on Davie
Researching the right location to open your business is a must—think of your concept and the type of people you would attract. Where do those people live? Where do they work? Where do they spend their free time? Opening the right concept in the wrong location can lead to low foot traffic and may force you to close your doors before the year is out.
“Choose your location wisely. Live-work-dine neighborhoods do not generate enough outside traffic to sustain a business if it is not designed correctly” — Daniel Reed Hospitality
2. Plan your concept
Determining your restaurant concept is critical, and having an idea of a concept is probably what led you to start on this restaurateur adventure in the first place. Fleshing out your concept will guide everything else you decide with your restaurant, including location, prices, menu, atmosphere, staff, business hours, and so on.
Established restaurateurs advise new restaurant owners to start small, focus on your passion, and stick to your concept no matter what.
Keep in mind what everyone else is doing, walk the fine line between ground breaking and comfortability.
Stay true to your concept and hire people who share the same level of passion as yourself.
Innovate. Make sure you’re building a restaurant of the future not the past. You have to be able to do more with less everything—make sure you can.
Focus on your service concept! Everyone can sell food and beverages, the differentiation is in the details. Create an experience.
Start with a small, focused menu featuring quality ingredients and hiring kind, skillful servers.
When building out your restaurant concept, try to answer these key questions:
- What will your level of service be? (Fine dining, fast casual, etc.)
- What type of cuisine will you offer? (Pizza, baked goods, Thai, etc.)
- What makes you stand out from local competition? (Vegan, locally-sourced, farm-to-table, organic, etc.)
- What will your atmosphere and experience be? (Romantic, family-friendly, etc.)
Answering these questions will help you build out your business plan with everything you’ll need to deliver your unique concept and experience to local diners.
Recommended Reading: How to Pick the Right Type of Restaurant and Create A Killer USP
3. Have an employee training & engagement plan
Your employees are the heart of the business, and you have to treat them as such to have a successful restaurant launch. Creating a positive environment for your staff is just as important as creating a positive environment for your customers—and will lead to a more profitable restaurant.
Just because you have money does not mean you’re going successfully run a restaurant, unless you hire the right managers and let them do what they do best without trying to dictate every decision and micromanage them.
As a manager, work for your staff and your staff will work for your customer. Happier Staff = Happier Customers = Better Higher Return Rate = More Sales.
Treat your staff with respect. Reward them. Make them a part of the business and not just another pair of hands.
If your staff love the environment and people they work with, they will work harder and stay despite hiccups along the road.
It's not a 9-5 job. Hiring the right people is key. If someone isn't cutting it, don't keep them. Good food and good people keep customers coming back.
Here’s how to approach your staff management:
- Hire employees that align with you and your restaurant’s core mission and values
- Train, train, train—on not only the role and responsibilities, but also the restaurant’s mission and concept so they can provide service that aligns with your business brand
- Engage your staff through team-building activities, transparent communication, and ongoing training and professional development that hones their skills
Recommended Reading: How to Build a Successful Employee Engagement Program for Your Restaurant
4. Know your costs inside and out
Raising enough capital to open a restaurant is one thing, but keeping track of where those costs are spent and minimizing overhead is another. There are many areas to keep an eye on when it comes to your restaurant costs—operational, labor, food, utility, equipment, etc.
KNOW YOUR COSTS TO THE MINUTE DETAIL
Projections are merely projections. Stay laser-focused on constantly monitoring costs.
Be conservative when laying groundwork or making infrastructure build-outs. Save some for an operating runway.
Many restaurateurs suggest focusing on labor cost, as it’s one of the easiest and most impactful costs you can manage and optimize at your restaurant. Scheduling efficiently based on your projected sales will help reduce your labor cost without running the risk of understaffing.
Keep your labor costs low during slow times.
Use a pos system and 7shifts scheduling. Scheduling is one of the hardest things to do 7shifts makes it quite a bit easier and holds lots of useful information you can look up very easily from previous years to compare.
Be aware of labour costs and make sure your business can run with lean staff over slower months. Make sure you chose the right time of year to open.
Labor is what you can control. Control it.
However, some restaurateurs suggest not to narrow in too closely to your labor costs—especially by cutting shifts or understaffing. By focusing on employee engagement, your sales will grow to balance out any staffing costs.
Do not put too much focus on reducing or cutting labour. If you have a strong training program that teaches staff to sell, work efficiently, and connect with clientele, it will drive your sales in a positive direction, which will balance your labor on its own.
Maintain your inventory costs and labour costs without affecting service and presentation. Never sacrifice speed for service, and never sacrifice service for speed
One thing that can drastically impact your labor costs, and can easily catch new restaurateurs off guard, is labor legislation. As one restaurateur advises, “make sure you know all of the labor laws in your area”—if you don’t you may line youruself up for some hefty fees. Luckily, platforms like 7shifts offer robust compliance features to keep you from having to pay any surprise legal penalties.
Recommended Reading: How to Manage Your Restaurant Labor Cost Percentage
Equipped with advice from seasoned restaurateurs, and your passion for food and people, you’re probably all set to open your new restaurant this year.
Ultimately, your success comes down to how well you plan, budget, and subsequently roll with the punches as the hurdles arise.
As the owner, you have to marry your business and give your heart and soul to it. It will reflect and you will gain a better reputation because of it.
Build strong systems and stick with them. Remain consistent day in and day out. Be willing to make change if it would positively present itself.
Set your plan. Stick to your plan. Be prepared to weather any storm.
Good luck out there!
This advice comes from hundreds of successful restaurateurs using 7shifts and was gathered in preparation for The State of Restaurant Labor Management in 2020 guide. Subscribe to stay tuned and get your copy when the data study is published.Subscribe me!