In the early optimistic stage of planning your restaurant, you imagine providing delicious affordable meals to customers who eat, pay the bill and come back for more. At the end of the day, you have money in your hand to buy fresh ingredients for tomorrow’s enthusiastic crowd of diners. The reality however, is a little more daunting.
Your customers stubbornly choose a simple pasta dish rather than fresh lobster; you wince at the waste of an enormous steak left almost untouched; worst of all, you don’t have enough customers to cover your ongoing costs.
With a little patience and perseverance you can transform your new venture into a profitable and popular restaurant. The following tips will help you keep ahead financially while raising your local profile.
DON’T BUDGET FOR OVERNIGHT SUCCESS
Allow yourself 12 to 18 months to establish your restaurant. No matter how enthusiastic or determined you are, this will probably be a lean year. Make sure you have enough financial breathing space to enjoy the adventure, rather than watching any first-year profits being swallowed up by interest rates. No matter what grand plans you have for the future, start small and modest – you can always expand later!
Your dream of a five-star French restaurant is unlikely to materialise if all the local diners are young families or the late-night drinking crowd. Some diners are happy to eat a familiar dish without the hassle of preparing or cleaning up afterwards; other diners are prepared to pay for a memorable three-course gourmet experience. Whatever your target audience, your customers want an eating experience they would never enjoy at home.
Take some time to figure out what your immediate market seeks from a restaurant. Market research might tell you there are no fine dining restaurants in the area – this may highlight a gap in the market, but it could also indicate a lack of local interest in fine dining. Create your menu around your customers’ requirements, even if this involves steering your venture into a slightly different direction than you originally planned.
It is difficult to be versatile if you have already invested a huge amount of capital into a certain décor or specific equipment. Take some time to see what your customers want before purchasing expensive tools and accessories. By setting aside a little spare capital, you will also be more pragmatic about the early teething problems as you establish your style and reputation.