Eating out is one of life’s great pleasures, whether it’s grabbing a takeaway from your favourite restaurant after work, or enjoying a blow out celebration meal. Many people who enjoy eating out have thought about opening their own restaurant from time to time, but where do you start?
A survey conducted by Pragma Consulting found that almost a third of people in the UK dine out at least once a week and almost 15,000 new restaurants open every year. These stats show that the market is growing, but the restaurant industry can be highly competitive, especially in the current climate. If you want to make starting your own restaurant a reality, be prepared to put in long hours, a lot of hard work and put together a watertight plan.
Lack of planning is often cited as the main reason for restaurant failure so it’s vital to consider every aspect before you begin. With this in mind, see our guide below to learn more about some of the key points you need to cover before starting your own restaurant.
Is starting a restaurant right for me?
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to think about whether starting a restaurant fits in with your personality and lifestyle. You’ll need to be self-motivated, hard working and comfortable working in a front facing role.
You’ll also need to be patient and resilient, and prepared for setbacks and the unpredictable nature of running your own business. You’ll also need to be realistic about how much time you can invest personally. For example, will you do your own accounts and bookkeeping or hire a third party? Will you work in a front facing customer role or run things behind the scenes? Think about your strengths and what you can bring to the industry but don’t be afraid to ask for outside help.
Choose a concept
Your restaurant concept is key when it comes to standing out in a competitive market. Some aspects of your concept may be based on location; will you be serving city and office workers who need a fast turnaround? Or are you based in a more rural area that can offer more relaxed, rustic dining?
An original concept can help your restaurant stand out and decrease the competition; after all, it’s no use opening a pizza restaurant if there are several others in the area. Market research is very useful when it comes to choosing a restaurant concept and it will give you an insight into what would work best. Market research gives you information about the local area, your target customer base and the existing restaurant competition. Take the time to carry out detailed market research and use this to help you decide on a concept.
Find the right premises
Location is everything when it comes to opening a restaurant. You might have the best concept in the world, but your restaurant won’t be successful if you can’t attract a customer base. Think about footfall in the surrounding area; are there lots of offices nearby, or nearby transport links?
Premises in a busy city centre will naturally have an advantage when it comes to the amount of passing customers, but expect to pay much higher prices in rent. You’ll also need to think about practical facilities like the kitchen and storage space. If you’re buying an existing restaurant then chances are that you’ll have everything you need, but if you’re converting a building then you’ll need to add in extra equipment.
A walk-in cold room is a good idea if your restaurant is on the larger side and many can be adapted to fit the layout of your premises. You’ll also need to make sure that your chosen building has all the suitable plumbing and heating requirements. The needs of a restaurant are very different to that of an office or residential building, so arrange a professional building survey beforehand if you’re not sure.
Your restaurant business plan
A business plan is absolutely essential, especially if you’re applying for external funding like a bank loan. Your business plan should cover how you’re aiming to grow the business over the next three years, as well as a summary of your business concept and target customer base.
A thorough business plan should also include a sample menu, menu costs and price margins, competitor analysis (based on market research), how much funding you’ll need and how you plan to pay back any loans. You’ll also need to include a detailed breakdown of the business’s overheads; this includes all outgoing payments, such as staff wages, rent, utilities and food and drink.
Once you have a solid business plan, it’s time to secure funding for your restaurant. It’s very difficult to turn a profit in the first year, but don’t let that put you off. It’s important to be realistic about how much money you’ll need up front and even if you do turn a profit, expect margins of around 5% in your first year.
There are several options for financing a restaurant, including a business loan, government grants, crowdfunding, or a small loan from the Start Up Business Company. Many people use a mix of different funding, for example an investment of their own personal savings that’s then supported by a bank loan. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to have enough money to cover six month’s worth of expenses with the expectation that you won’t be turning a profit during that time.
The amount you spend on staff will depend on how large your restaurant is, but the general rule states that staff shouldn’t account for more than 50% of your overall costs. Many restaurant owners work there themselves in order to save money, so be prepared to pay yourself a very low wage during the first few months (or no wage at all in some cases).
The right staff are key to the success of your restaurant, so look for outgoing, friendly people who can cope well under pressure.
Marketing your restaurant
Marketing is another key focus which can have a big effect on your restaurant’s success. You don’t have to spend a fortune on advertising but you’ll need to build a strong online presence to help spread the word about your business. Ensure you have a fully functioning website and a strong social media presence. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram are great ways to interact with customers, showcase your food and promote new menu items or loyalty programmes.
It’s also a good idea to create a mailing list so you can email customers about upcoming discounts, new menu changes and one-off events. Using effective SEO keywords can also help to boost your website’s presence online; if you have the budget then you can hire a marketing agency to do this for you, or take a look at GoDaddy’s guide here.
Commercial refrigeration, air conditioning and more – from Ian Hobbs Technical Services
You can’t start a restaurant without the right facilities, so if you’re in need of commercial refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing and more, get in touch with the experts at Ian Hobbs. We’re proud to offer comprehensive services for your business, from commercial fridge display, to walk-in freezers, electrical services, plumbing and heating.
We’ve built an excellent reputation amongst customers in Bristol, Bath and across the South West and we’re available 24 hours a day for your peace of mind. We specialise in finding bespoke solutions for your business and we also provide repairs and maintenance for your facilities, on top of high quality installation. For more information about any of our services or to discuss your needs, don’t hesitate to give us a call today or visit our website.