These past few years have been anything but kind to the restaurant industry. The pandemic caused strife across almost every industry, but travel and leisure industries were amongst the hardest hit. In fact, since the start of the pandemic, over 10% of all restaurants in the U.S. have had to permanently close.
While it may have seemed like the restaurant industry was doomed, business owners and restaurant professionals alike banded together to revolutionize the industry to accommodate for the new reality we live in. Moving forward, the restaurant industry is going to continue to change, paving the way for new types of businesses to enter the field.
Starting a restaurant right now may seem like an insane idea, but with a sound plan and the right preparation, you can follow your dreams and open a restaurant, even after the pandemic. Here are some helpful tips to get you on your way to success.
Start with a Plan
Every business, no matter how large or small, should start with a business plan. This is what will guide you through the creation of your new restaurant, as well as help you establish your long-term goals
As you begin to think about becoming a restaurant owner, start brainstorming for as many elements of your prospective business as you can. Thinking about things like what type of food you’ll serve, what the name of your restaurant will be, how many employees you’ll want to hire, and whether or not you plan on investing greatly or starting a restaurant with no money early on will make the planning process easier.
When creating your strategic business plan, make sure you include the following elements:
- Executive Summary
- Restaurant Description
- Starting Menu
- Market Analysis
- Operational Breakdown
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Projections
Being as thorough as you can when creating your business plan will keep you on track when you actually open your restaurant.
Consider Alternative Food Service Offerings
As mentioned before, the pandemic has completely changed many aspects of our society. While change can be difficult to adjust to, it often opens doors to new opportunities or ways of doing things. As you begin to think about becoming a restaurant owner, make sure you are aware of any new types of restaurants that have started since the pandemic. You may find your skills or goals are better suited for an alternative food service business.
For years, most restaurants offered the same type of experience. Diners would go in, be seated, waited on, and then served a meal all at the restaurant. Over the years, there have been some changes made to the standard dining process. The rise of “fast-casual” and quick service offerings throughout the 2010s showed us patrons were ready for new experiences. Then, the pandemic helped accelerate this evolution as restaurant-goers are now seeking even more alternatives to a traditional sit-down restaurant.
The ghost kitchen is one of the most popular types of restaurants to come out of the pandemic. Ghost kitchens are restaurants that have no physical retail location for customers to visit. Instead, diners are able to order food for delivery only. These offerings are great for new business owners as you don’t need to waste time or money on maintaining a dining room, hiring more staff, or worrying about creating a unique dine-in experience.
Besides ghost kitchens, look into options such as catering or a food truck as another way to break into the restaurant business. The best thing about any of these alternative restaurant business models is if you build up enough of a dedicated following, you can always open a traditional restaurant in the future.
Budget Accordingly and Secure Financing
Starting any type of business in the post-pandemic world is going to come with some heightened anxiety. Future markets are still unpredictable and people are generally worried about something like this happening again. Taking the time to think about your financial situation now may help you identify any troubling business trends in the future.
Restaurants can be costly businesses to run. With ever-changing vendor costs, expensive equipment, and staffing costs rising, it can be difficult to keep profit margins high. Setting a strict monthly budget will help you visualize where you may be wasting money and where you may need more money early on. It can be easy to start spending like crazy when you first open a restaurant, but having a budget set should help you stay on track.
In addition to setting a budget, it’s important to figure out how you want to finance your new business venture as early in the process as possible. Securing financing earlier on will allow you to purchase things like expensive restaurant equipment and real estate right away. For most new business owners, funding usually comes from an outside source such as a low-interest rate personal loan or similar loan product. If you’re wary about taking on outside funding, you can try to either tap into local grants or try to bootstrap your restaurant yourself. Whatever way you choose to finance your business, make sure you have enough funds to open your business the right way.
Lean on Restaurant Technology
If anything positive has come from the pandemic, it’s that there has been an increase in the adoption of technology across almost every industry. This is especially true for the restaurant industry.
As a brand new restaurant owner, you have the opportunity to incorporate technology into your day-to-day operations from the very beginning. There are endless ways technology can improve your restaurant. Testing and trying new technologies in the early stages of your restaurant’s lifecycle will allow you to see what tools are the best for you and your business. If you’re able to, sign up for demos and trial periods for different pieces of restaurant and business technology before you even officially open.
Some tech offerings that may be worth looking into are:
- Online Ordering System
- Online Reservation System
- Menu QR Codes
- Inventory Management Software
- Employee Scheduling Software
Post-pandemic dining habits have changed drastically. Customers will be looking for more convenient and streamlined dining experiences. Implementing a working website that allows customers to make reservations, order food, and see the menu will put your restaurant in a good position to win over diners. If you need assistance with building out your online ordering system, be sure to check out our capabilities.
Other tools, such as an inventory system or employee scheduling system, will help keep your operations running smoothly. Automating as many of the back-of-the-house tasks as you can, will provide you with more time to focus on more important tasks, such as menu development or serving guests.
Adopting different tech tools will help your restaurant automate tasks, more efficiently serve guests, and remain more competitive in an ever-changing industry.