When seeking to start a business, most would-be entrepreneurs will seek a business idea that will appeal to a broad section of the public. The larger your target demographic, the greater the chances of success.
There are many types of businesses that fulfil the above brief, but opening a restaurant is perhaps the most common – and the most interesting – of the available options. People love eating out; every year, the average restaurant spend per person in the US is over $700, and the interest in new venues and types of food never seems to wane. If you’re looking to start a business that will enjoy broad demand from the get-go, then a restaurant could well be the best choice for you.
However, opening a restaurant is quite unlike any other type of business, and there are three distinct life stages you’ll need to be aware of – and plan for – before you decide to take the leap.
Stage One: The grand opening
The grand opening is arguably the single most important life stage for any restaurant. While you could open your doors to customers quietly, and hope for word of mouth marketing to help you grow, such a plan is far from ideal. For the most part, modern restaurants need to open with a splash – seizing the chance to court publicity from the local press and interest from patrons, making their mark on the scene and encouraging curious diners to step inside.
Unfortunately, managing a restaurant launch can be challenging – your business will be receiving the most amount of attention it will ever receive at a time when you, and your staff, are still learning the ropes. It’s therefore worth considering a few “trial” evenings, where friends and family visit and act as customers for the evening; this can help to ensure the entire operation works exactly as it should, and gives you the opportunity to iron out kinks without the glare of publicity. When you’re confident everything is functioning as it should, you can move to considering grand opening ideas for restaurants in order to draw much-needed attention to your new establishment, build hype, and – hopefully – begin to cultivate a long-term customer base.
Stage Two: Transition to normality
The first few months of any restaurant’s life tend to be a whirlwind of activity; there’s the grand opening and the associated festivities, you’ll likely find that you need to make a few adjustments to your overall management processes, and your staff will need time to become accustomed to their roles.
During this stage, you’ll still enjoy more attention than a long-established restaurant; your grand opening and launch marketing should still be working hard on your behalf, and you should still enjoy plenty of customer – and potentially even press – attention. As a result, it’s best to use this stage to refine the way your restaurant operates; perhaps you need new staff, or there’s a menu item that has not been as popular as you may have hoped and should ideally be replaced. This stage is the time to make the tweaks necessary as you switch from “start” mode to more long-term plans, learning about how your restaurant functions now it’s open to the public and what you can do to achieve maximum efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Stage Three: The search for continued appeal
After a year or so, your restaurant is no longer the hottest new establishment in town – which can take a little getting used to after months of attention. However, you do now have valuable assets: the reviews and praise of all the customers who have visited your restaurant since it opened. You’re no longer the shiny new restaurant that people are curious to try; you can become the restaurant that people want to try because they have heard good things about it.
It’s helpful, then, to refocus the way you market your business, emphasizing the satisfaction of your previous customers and focusing on dishes that have received particular acclaim. In addition, focus on your online reviews on sites such as Yelp; if any issues have been identified, work to rectify these as soon as possible.
Finally, consider setting new goals for your restaurant now that you have the turbulent first year behind you. Perhaps you’d one day like to expand in size so as to cater to more diners per night or offer a different type of cuisine; or maybe you’re thinking bigger, and would love to open a second restaurant under the same brand in a new city. Now is the time to focus on these future plans and strategize ideas that can help you make those dreams a reality.
As with any kind of business, you will need a solid business plan in place in order to start your own restaurant – but you also need to consider the changeable nature of the restaurant world. By including thoughts and plans specific to each of the the three distinct restaurant life stages, you should be able to ensure that you can create a business that captures and keeps the interest of the general public.