Opening a restaurant is tough. There is so much to do and so little time to do it.
You need to hire a wait staff and cooking staff, you need to rent commercial space, you need to order food, obtain the proper licenses, pass health inspections, and so much more.
These are all big jobs on their own. But what many restauranteurs forget is that there are many “little” jobs that you will need to do, all of which are time consuming and challenging.
Here are six such challenges that you should expect to face if you are looking to start a restaurant.
Challenge 1: Restaurant Menu Development
Developing a menu is no easy task. Here are a few mistakes that new restaurant owners make:
- Offering menu items that are unpopular in a specific area
- Putting too many items on the menu
- Poor design choices
- Taking their own photographs
Solution: Instead of writing your menu based on foods you like and want to serve, check with your cooking staff and see which foods they are most qualified to cook.
Take a list of those foods, break down the options by ingredients and see which foods are local and affordable. Take that smaller list and determine which options are most likely to attract customers.
If you discover that your customers like a certain dish, roll with it. Don’t be afraid to adapt and make sure that you cater to what your customers want, not what you want.
Challenge 2: Building Local Appeal
Every restaurant owner wants to be the talk of the town. There is no secret recipe to success in the restaurant industry, but there are many steps you can take to carve out your own segment of your city’s market share. You can read this article for more restaurant marketing ideas.
Solution: Turn to the Internet to build local appeal in your business. Every restaurant out there has business cards and flyers. You need to learn how to leverage technology and social media.
- Advertise on local subreddits
- Pass out coupons at local meet ups
- Purchase advertising space on search engines like Google and Bing using geographic keywords
- Create social media accounts for your restaurant and use them properly
- Advertise on Facebook to your target audience using geographic ranges
- Engage in guerrilla marketing
- Sample your foods to the public
There is no one solution to build local appeal. The best you can do is to develop a strategy and execute it.
Challenge 3: Creating Atmosphere
Food isn’t the only aspect of the restaurant experience. A lot of customers like a restaurant that has a pleasant atmosphere.
Solution: People do not eat out for the food. They come for the experience. Food is everywhere. If a person wants, he or she can eat at home or go to a fast food restaurant.
Restaurant patrons visit you because of the atmosphere. Some affordable solutions to building a pleasant atmosphere include:
- Hiring local bands to play music
- Hosting a trivia night
- Developing a theme and sticking to it
Think of a classic 1950s diner-style restaurant with authentic waitresses and music. People are not paying expensive prices for a hamburger and fries, they are paying for the atmosphere and the overall experience.
Challenge 4: Improve Your Restaurant’s “Concept”
No matter what type of restaurant you decide to open, there is always room to improve. Who would have thought that McDonalds would one day serve salads and wraps? The best restaurants learn how to adapt and improve on their business model.
Solution: Many restaurant owners believe the food comes before a paycheck.
Owning a restaurant is a business and the bottom line should be your number one priority. You may want to own a Jamaican-Asian-fusion-1950s-diner, but local restaurant patrons probably wouldn’t want to eat there.
However, if you see an opportunity in your local market and believe there is demand for it, take advantage of it.
Challenge 5: Inexperienced Staff
We all wish we could hire reliable hospitality staff, but they are a rarity in the modern workforce. Even restaurants with the best food can fail if they are represented by inexperienced staff.
Solution: It is one thing for wait staff to be inexperienced. The knowledge and finesse required to staff the front of house can be learned well within a few weeks.
However, with the cooking staff, it is more challenging. If you do not have the money to hire more experienced staff, consider creating a work-study program for your staff, where they learn at a culinary institute in the morning, and work in your restaurant in the evening at a reduced rate.
They will learn more and earn certificates and you will gain a more experienced staff at a more affordable rate.
Remember, finding the right staff takes time, but you need to be willing to invest in them if you want them to buy into your dream.
Challenge 6: Increasing Your Income
Many restaurants fail in their first few years. The allure of opening a restaurant and getting paid to serve food seems attractive to many, but the rate of failure in this industry is staggering.
Solution: Instead of resting the financial future of your restaurant on how many seats are filled each night, consider creating additional revenue streams.
You have to find ways to make money that go beyond your menu. Maybe you market a local attraction and sell merchandise related to it. Perhaps you hire a delivery bike messenger deliver your food. Or, you host event nights where you show the latest television shows, sporting events, or movies, on large screen televisions for your guests.
It’s Hard Work Opening a Restaurant
There is a fantasy out there that owning a restaurant is an amazing experience where you can enjoy food, friends, and football. The reality is, running a restaurant is also a 24-hour job.
If you do not have the funds to hire staff for specific duties, for proper restaurant menu development, or to build an atmosphere, you will need to do these tasks yourself. But that isn’t always easy and it can quickly become overwhelming.
No matter what you decide, you have to develop and execute a solid business strategy for your restaurant if you want to be successful.
Paul Ormerod is the Managing Director of Nisbets Australia, and is passionate about helping hospitality businesses succeed by providing a one stop shop that makes catering equipment simple