By restaurateurs for restaurateurs: Advice for opening in 2020

By restaurateurs for restaurateurs: Advice for opening in 2020
Dew Smith

By Dew Smith

Table of Contents

    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.

    Key things to research are:

    Costs 💰

    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.

    Hiring/staffing 🤝

    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

    Location 📍

    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.

    When building out your restaurant concept, try to answer these key questions:

    1. What will your level of service be? (Fine dining, fast casual, etc.)
    2. What type of cuisine will you offer? (Pizza, baked goods, Thai, etc.)
    3. What makes you stand out from local competition? (Vegan, locally-sourced, farm-to-table, organic, etc.)
    4. 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.

    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.

    Here’s how to approach your staff management:

    1. Hire employees that align with you and your restaurant’s core mission and values
    2. 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
    3. Engage your staff through team-building activities, transparent communication, and ongoing training and professional development that hones their skills

    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.

    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.

    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.


    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.

    Final thoughts

    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.

    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.

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    Dew Smith
    Dew Smith

    Hey! I'm Dew, the Brand Strategist at 7shifts. I cultivate 7shifts' social and content garden, and I'm always looking for ways to grow our network of restaurateurs, local talent, and tech companies.