Restaurant Consulting

10 Tips on Starting a New Restaurant from a Restaurant Consultant

By Daniel Kezner

Opening your own restaurant is an exciting journey that requires careful planning and execution. The restaurant business is about mastering the fine details, from the ambiance that greets the customers to the comfort of your salad forks. Every detail counts. This meticulous attention to detail and careful planning set the stage and ensure a continually successful venture. In this guide, we’ll look at ten essential tips that we, as restaurant consultants, carefully consider with every customer we serve. These insights aim to equip new restaurant owners with the basic knowledge to turn your vision into a reality by highlighting critical aspects of launching and running a successful restaurant. Let’s dive in.

1. Craft a Unique Restaurant Concept

A strong concept is the foundation of a new restaurant. It’s a decision that sets the tone for everything that follows. There are two main approaches to selecting a concept. The first is to conduct market research to identify what your target audience loves. This involves understanding local demographics, existing competition, and emerging trends. By aligning your concept with market demand, you can increase your chances of attracting a steady customer base. The second approach is to focus on what you are deeply passionate about and allow the quality and uniqueness of your food to be the primary draw. This means developing a concept based on a cuisine or style you can execute better than anyone else in the area. 

Regardless of the approach, passion is a non-negotiable ingredient. Running a restaurant can be immensely fulfilling, but it’s no walk in the park. It’s challenging and demands dedication. Your passion will be your strongest ally in inspiring your team and customers. It’s the key ingredient for creating a memorable dining experience that keeps them coming back.

2. Location is Everything

Like the real estate market, location is everything in the restaurant industry. It can be the determining factor in your success. Great restaurants have failed simply because they were too hidden, inconveniently located, or misaligned with their target market’s hangout preferences. While there are rare exceptions of restaurants that thrive regardless of location due to a strong reputation, these cases are extremely rare. Building this kind of status takes years if not decades. For most new restaurateurs, picking a strong yet affordable location is crucial. 

It’s worth considering partnerships with real estate developers seeking food and beverage partners. This mutually beneficial arrangement can give your restaurant a prime location while adding value to the developer’s property. The right location increases visibility and enhances accessibility for your target clientele, setting the stage for a busy, successful business.

3. Design Your Menu Like an Engineer 

Your menu is your primary asset and a critical factor in defining your restaurant’s identity and reputation. A well-crafted menu can be a compelling tool for storytelling and brand-building, turning first-time visitors into regular patrons. Developing a compelling menu requires careful consideration of several aspects: 

  1. Menu development is about balancing your unique offerings with familiar favorites to ensure the dishes reflect your restaurant’s concept while appealing to your target clientele. 
  2. Menu engineering also plays a pivotal role. It involves designing the menu to influence customer choices by strategically highlighting profitable and popular items. 
  3. Your menu’s layout and descriptions should be crafted with consumer psychology in mind. The menu colors, fonts, photos, and descriptions all significantly affect how much your customers spend.
  4. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a great drink menu. Alcoholic beverages typically have a higher profit margin than non-alcoholic drinks and food preparation and can significantly boost your revenue, so consider obtaining a liquor license if possible. 

4. Consider the Cost of Every Good Sold 

As you design your menu, carefully consider the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). This critical financial metric represents the direct costs of producing your food and drinks. It’s a balance that can make or break your business. Your food and beverages may be fantastic, and your customers may love them, but maintaining long-term profitability is impossible if their production costs are too high. 

To manage COGS effectively, consider the price and availability of your ingredients, the food and beverage distributors you work with, competing restaurant prices, the portions you serve, and how to minimize waste. It’s also essential to review and adjust your menu prices regularly to reflect changes in supply costs while remaining competitive and appealing to customers. Remember, running a successful restaurant isn’t just about delighting customers with quality offerings. It’s also about financial sustainability. Keeping COGS in check is a crucial part of this equation.

5. Excellent Service Ties It All Together 

Fantastic service is the key ingredient that ties everything together in your restaurant. It’s the difference between a one-time visit and a regular customer. Your concept can be innovative, your location prime, and your menu exceptional, but they quickly lose their strength if your service falls short. Poor service can overshadow even the most exquisite dishes and vibrant atmospheres. 

The service experience is a significant part of what guests pay for, so be ready to invest in thorough staff training to create a hospitality culture and consistently monitor service quality over time. Remember this phrase: customers may forget what they ate but will always remember how they were treated.

6. Manage Labor Costs with Effective Scheduling 

Labor costs are the service equivalent of the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). They represent a significant portion of your operating expenses. If you don’t manage them well from opening day, they can become one of the biggest financial drainers in your business. Overstaffing during slow periods can inflate expenses unnecessarily while understaffing during peak times can lead to poor service. It’s a delicate balance that requires careful planning and a strong idea of your restaurant’s business flow.

The key to controlling labor costs lies in efficient staff scheduling and management. We recommend leveraging scheduling technologies to optimize staff allocation and reduce labor costs. Another benefit of well-trained employees is they are generally more efficient and can handle a higher workload, reducing your labor costs further. Effective labor cost management is not just about cutting costs; it’s about maximizing the productivity and satisfaction of your team.

7. Make Sure Your Business Plan is Feasible 

Gaining a clear understanding of all the details involved in the previous six tips will allow you to determine the feasibility of your new restaurant concept and its startup costs. Each element – from concept and location to menu, service, and cost management – plays a pivotal role in determining whether your restaurant will succeed. It’s essential to analyze how these components work together to create a viable business model. 

  • Are your offerings aligned with target market demand? 
  • Is your pricing strategy sustainable, given your supply and food costs? 
  • Can you deliver quality service while managing labor expenses effectively? 

These questions are crucial in assessing your restaurant’s overall health and potential. Once you’ve collected all this information, you might consider hiring a professional to review your business plan and complete a feasibility study. These assessments can provide invaluable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your concept and point you toward any adjustments you need to make. It will also help you identify strategic decisions that can significantly increase your chances of success.

8. Marketing for Small Business Owners

With a feasible restaurant concept and all the details ironed out, the next step is to develop a strong marketing plan. While investing in marketing is essential, remember that restaurants thrive on word-of-mouth above every other form of marketing. Customer reviews often have the final say in the success of your restaurant. So, your primary marketing strategy should be making delicious food and providing memorable service. Your second greatest weapon is building a solid online presence and leveraging the power of social media and influencer marketing. 

Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and TripAdvisor provide huge opportunities to showcase your restaurant’s offerings, ambiance, and unique experiences. Influencers can amplify your reach, bringing your restaurant to the attention of a broader and often more engaged audience. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands on people with large audiences. Every customer that walks through your doors can become an influencer for your restaurant. They just need a great experience.

9. Master the Turnaround Balance 

Once your restaurant is up and running and your marketing plan is in full swing, your focus must shift to mastering the art of turnaround. Turnaround refers to the rate at which you serve and seat customers. Efficient turnaround is crucial for maximizing profits. This makes quick-service restaurants a strong business model. For a full-service restaurant, the name of the game is serving as many customers as possible without compromising the quality of their dining experience. This involves a delicate balance. You want to ensure that each customer enjoys their time, feels valued, and never feels rushed while managing table occupancy times and seating as many customers as possible during each rush period. 

Efficient turnaround relies on strong dining room table management, attentive service, and a streamlined kitchen operation. You must monitor peak times and adjust staffing accordingly to maintain this balance. Another thing to consider is implementing a reservation system to predict better and manage customer flow. 

10. Continually Refine Operations 

Turning your new restaurant into a well-oiled machine is a longer-term process that will inevitably involve some trial and error. As a new restaurant owner, you can set yourself up for success from the start by establishing clear procedures and standards for every aspect of your operation, from kitchen workflows to customer service protocols. Then, you must continually assess and revise operations until every element is perfectly fine-tuned. Regularly review your processes, solicit feedback from staff and customers, and be open to making adjustments. This will help quickly identify inefficiencies and areas for improvement and ensure that you stay responsive to changing circumstances and customer needs. In the beginning, this will be a daily exercise. Over time, you will need to do it less and less.

Final Recipe Notes for Restaurant Success

Starting a new restaurant is a multifaceted adventure that goes beyond just serving great food. It’s about creating a harmonious blend of concept, location, menu, and financial acumen, all while ensuring exceptional service and efficient operations. By understanding and applying these ten crucial tips, you’re not only preparing to open a restaurant but also setting the stage for long-term success and customer satisfaction. 

Remember, the restaurant industry is dynamic and constantly evolving, so stay informed, be willing to adapt, and always be ready to refine your approach. With passion, perseverance, and these guidelines in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making your restaurant dream a thriving success.

Meet The Author

Daniel Kezner

CEO / Owner
From training staff to designing kitchens to refining brands, we’ve done it all during our 25+ years in the industry. And we can help you get it done too. We’ve developed the strategies to make it work....and that’s what makes us the consultants who can help you get where you want to be.
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