Things to Consider Before Opening a Restaurant

Unlike some other businesses, the restaurant business is a difficult one to break into. As an owner, you'll work long hours, take a loss if perishable foods go bad before you use them, handle the marketing and public relations, keep the books, and hire and train staff, all while trying to turn a profit. It's a known fact that most restaurants fail within the first three years of opening, and that's largely because it takes at least that much time to start to see a return on your investment.

If you're still determined to open a restaurant and are prepared to put the hard work in, there are a number of things you should first carefully consider.

Choosing a Concept & Location

Deciding on a restaurant concept may seem like the easiest part of starting a food service business, but there is a fair amount of research and planning that goes into choosing what type of restaurant you'll have. One of the first things you'll have to think about is where you plan to open the business and what sorts of food options are already available to consumers. For example, if you like a location (let's call it Any Town, USA) that is already heavily populated with barbeque restaurants, you probably shouldn't plan on a barbeque concept. Or, if barbecue is your specialty and you can't imagine opening any other type of restaurant, you'll have to reconsider your location. Typically, a successful restaurant concept will be something that is new and exciting for a community, and will attract the local clientele.

Attracting the locals is something you'll definitely want to consider when finalizing your choice of location. Let's say you're dead set on opening a restaurant in Any Town. You'll want to find out how many people live there and how many of those people are employed. Does Any Town attract tourists from out of town or state? Is the restaurant site you're considering on a busy street, with both pedestrian and car traffic? Is the location easily accessible from major highways? Does the site have ample parking? These are all factors that could play into how successful your restaurant becomes.

Crafting Your Business Plan

Having a thoroughly researched and thought out business plan is an essential part of planning your restaurant business. A business plan is a document that you'll need to get financing from a bank or investor. It's a highly detailed report that profiles the type of restaurant you want to open and how you plan to make it a profitable business. You'll want to include information such as:
  •  Your chosen location and the associated demographics
  • Development strategies
  • The products and services you plan to offer
  • The structure of your management staff and personnel
  • Marketing research and planned strategies
  • A profile of potential competitors
  • Financial reports listing your sales projections, expected start up costs (including equipment, food, supplies, etc.), application of funds, profit and loss statement, etc.

Planning Your Menu

Can you run a successful restaurant without a cohesive, well-thought out menu? Probably not. The food on your menu is a large part of your restaurant concept and is what should drive your customers to return to your establishment repeatedly. Let's say you've chosen an all-American style burger joint as your restaurant concept. Your menu should feature several unique burger options (100 percent USDA beef, turkey, Kobe beef, etc.) with a variety of topping choices, but you should also offer some delicious appetizers, refreshing salads, and maybe even a pasta entre or two. Pricing your menu items is important, too. You want to make sure that you recoup the costs of the ingredients, plus some, but you don't want to overprice. You should also carefully consider your menu design, layout, and the possibility of changing your menu seasonally or offering weekly specials.

Above all, stay focused while planning to open your restaurant. It'll take a lot of time and effort, but if you do your research, plan properly, and are dedicated to hard work, you may find yourself running a successful eatery within a few short years.

John Soland is an experienced writer who has contributed to a number of notable publications. As a lifestyle expert, Mr. Soland is able to offer advice and insight on a multitude of topics, including those pertaining to business (

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