Whether we’re talking about a potential partner, a job interview, or a restaurant launch, first impressions matter. Your grand opening is the first time you formally introduce your business to the community, so you’ll want to put your best foot – and food! – forward. It’s also a valuable opportunity to create awareness, build hype, and establish important relationships that will help your restaurant grow. To achieve all this and build a community of satisfied customers, it’s vital that the whole process be approached thoughtfully and strategically.
To help you plan for opening day, here are seven tips for all you ready-to-launch restaurateurs:
1. Cover the Basics
I use the word “strategically” for good reason: you can’t dive headfirst into a grand opening event without your fundamental marketing elements – things like your logo, website, brand, and business plan – securely in place. Knowing who you are, what you’re about, and where you’re going will build consistency into your business, which is a key part of effective brand management.
2. Know Your Staff
In addition to branding basics, it’s important to have your staff lined up and adequately trained. After all, these are the people that will represent you and your brand, so you need to know you can trust them to do what needs to be done. It’s also a good idea to consider bringing on additional staff for your grand opening; this prevents you from having to worry about small details and, instead, focus on charming your guests.
3. Focus on Your Product
You might throw one heck of a party, but what you’ll really be remembered for is your product. As you build your menu, keep in mind the type of atmosphere you want to create. Are you fast food or fine dining? Relaxed or ritzy? Don’t be afraid to narrow your focus to food items and concepts that play off your strengths. If soup is your specialty, then showcase it!
4. Sneak Peaks
New restaurants pop up all the time, so why should anyone be excited about yours? Social media, when used correctly, is a valuable tool to let your business be known and build a loyal following. By posting regularly on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you create a shared experience and engage your future customers, helping them feel like they’ve been along for the ride since Day One. Do this, and you’re sure to have a crowd lined up in eager anticipation of your opening day.
5. Look Before You Leap
Let’s talk about the difference between a soft launch and a grand opening. Typically, a grand opening takes place a few weeks after your restaurant is in full swing. This allows you time to work out any unexpected kinks with staffing or other operational details. Your soft launch, on the other hand, is considered a “mini grand opening” of sorts, often limited to your closest friends, family, and business contacts. These events are a great way to build buzz and prepare you for the “real deal.” Encourage attendees to post about their experiences on social media and on review tools like Yelp .
It’s highly unlikely you’re the only business owner in your neighbourhood, so look for opportunities to collaborate and cross-promote with nearby businesses. If your restaurant is down the street from a flower shop, for example, consider approaching them for your event décor.
7. Keep it Legal
Sometimes the sheer excitement of officially launching your restaurant can cause you to forget about the legalities of owning a business. Make sure you’ve researched and obtained all the required permits, licences and insurances. Boring, right? Maybe, but you definitely don’t want your first day to become your last.
With these tips in your toolbox, your grand opening is bound to be a grand success!