What Does It Take to Launch a Successful Restaurant?

It could be a Wine Bar with small plates, or a BBQ theme or a Create Your Plate concept. Whatever you decide, it is critical that the environment and “vibe” within the restaurant places the guest firmly inside the experience you’re attempting to create. Don’t confuse the guest with a concept that’s disconnected. As I often remind my clients, “everything touches everything else.”

BY GARY OCCHIOGROSSO – FOUNDER OF FRANCHISE GROWTH SOLUTIONS.

Tripwires to avoid – Desire and passion will only get you so far. Create your business plan as a road map.

For many people, opening a restaurant is a dream. One of the many things I find so interesting about the restaurant business is the blend of creative artistry and the detailed and challenging business aspects necessary to be successful. As an Adjunct Instructor at NYU’s School of Professional Studies, I teach restaurant concept development and business planning. On several occasions, I have been asked by my students to summarize the top issues that one must consider when planning to open a restaurant. Generally, regardless of the type of restaurant, the planning and considerations are the same. I’ll cover a few of the top line elements here.

At the beginning of the process, you should write a simple business plan. It would help if you thought about the many pieces of the puzzle connected to a successful outcome. Many novice restaurateurs, very often chefs, only consider the food component, but there is so much more. A well thought out business plan will include creating a unique concept, a competitive analysis, site selection, financial projections, equipment needs, staffing, and of course, the menu.

Let’s start with a concept

It’s essential that your restaurant offers a unique experience. It could be a Wine Bar with small plates, or a BBQ theme or a Create Your Plate concept. Whatever you decide, it is critical that the environment and “vibe” within the restaurant places the guest firmly inside the experience you’re attempting to create. Don’t confuse the guest with a concept that’s disconnected. As I often remind my clients, “everything touches everything else.” For instance, you wouldn’t use elegant tableware in a fried chicken restaurant or disposable plates in an upscale steakhouse. As obvious as this may seem on the broader elements, it’s essential to take that idea to every detail of the restaurant concept, no matter how small. Everything from the paint color to the music to the tabletops to the wall hanging must work together. The decor elements, the menu, and the service level need to provide the guests with a seamless experience that, when done well, goes almost unnoticed because it’s natural and authentic.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

Building a clientele is never as easy as hanging a sign over the door. It takes smart planning, execution of marketing, and living up to the promise in your mission and brand position statement. You should never assume, “if you build it, they will come.” Questions to ask yourself are; how will my restaurant connect with people? Why does my restaurant exist? What type of people am I looking to attract? What do they read or watch? How do they spend their spare time? What is the best way to reach them? Your concept should appeal to a particular, selected audience. There is no such thing as “everyone is my customer.” Knowing why and for whom your restaurant exists is crucial to success. Your marketing plan should offer compelling reasons why that guest base should frequent your establishment regularly. Is the concept created for health-conscious people? Is it aimed at Millennials or Baby Boomers? It is a full menu or dessert brand or a convenient, fast food, value-based concept. Your social media, print ads, and community outreach should focus on one single audience with one single message. Once you’ve built a loyal base of customers and repeat business, then you should consider expanding your base by marketing to others in the area with a proposition that appeals to them.

Your People Plan is Key

A great team will help you win everyday. Hiring great people is the first step in delivering service excellence and a consistent product to your guests. Your mission statement “the why” along with a corporate culture that emphasizes respect for employees, commitment to your guests, service to the community, and concern for the environment will guide you when selecting your staff. It’s not enough to hire people with restaurant experience; they should also understand and be excited about the mission of the restaurant. If not, they will go through the motions with an inauthentic approach and often fail at exceeding guest expectations. Examine your corporate core values and hire people that match it. Next, supply your staff with comprehensive, ongoing training and the proper tools so can they carry out the day to day tasks flawlessly. Hire for qualities, train for skills.

The Market and Competition

Understanding the market area where you’d like to open your restaurant is a crucial element to the plan. Carefully research the demographics to ensure there are enough people in the area that match whom you believe will embrace your concept. When looking for your location, work with an experienced commercial broker that can supply you with data to help you choose the area and the site correctly.

A full competitive analysis is also essential. For example, check the pricing of your competition. Be sure you’re not over or underpriced for the market. Check other services they offer, such as delivery and online ordering. Spend time in the market area, dine several times at as many competitors as possible, and position your restaurant to address the missing needs in the market. Having a unique value and selling proposition will keep you ahead of the game. Remember, everyone is vying for the same consumer dollars, so you need to create points of differentiation that will help your establishment stand out from the competition.

Consistently Great Food

Your menu must not only be relevant to the concept and the market but should be prepared and served perfectly every time. Restaurant guests expect dishes they grown to love to have the same flavor and high quality each time they visit. Inconsistent products can lead to disappointed guests, bad reviews, and slumping business. Your menu should be not only delicious but also simple to execute. The more straightforward the menu, the less chance of mistakes in preparation. Consistency increases guest satisfaction. Some chefs and “foodies” create menu items that are too complicated and require a highly skilled professional in the kitchen. This approach is fine if you intend to open a high-end restaurant staffed with high price personnel, but not in a fast-casual or family restaurant setting. A winning menu is simple, fresh, relevant, and great tasting. A competent chef can assist in developing dishes that are unique and great tasting that are also simple to produce with less skilled labor. If you have aspirations of owning more than one location, then simple execution, and consistent products are a must to achieve the goal of operating multiple restaurants.

Cash Is King

There are many reasons why restaurants fold. It could be the wrong concept, poor choice of location, not correctly researching the competition, poor service, an uninspiring menu, or bad food, to name a few. That said, the negative impact of undercapitalization may be the most frequent cause of restaurant failures. Knowing how much money you need to launch the restaurant is only the tip of the iceberg. You must assess ongoing cash needs while the restaurant is newly opened and gaining momentum. It may take many months for a restaurant to break even and then eventually become profitable. Being able to support the financial needs during this phase is often the “make or break” challenge that many new restaurateurs cannot overcome. A well thought out projection model that you create with the help of a professional financial advisor can save you from the frustration, negative financial impact and heartbreak of a failed restaurant. Considering capital needs for the first twelve to fifteen months is not only prudent but essential to the success of any new restaurant. You must be prepared to cover the operational costs and expenses as the restaurant “ramps up.” Carefully consider your cash needs and how much working capital you must have on hand, ready to deploy.

Have A Plan And Follow Your Dream

Owning a restaurant can be personally rewarding and profitable. Many people have built great restaurant companies following these simple guidelines. Desire and passion will only get you so far. Create your business plan as a road map. Your plan will help you stay on track when dealing with the many moving parts of launching and successfully operating a new restaurant.

For information on hiring the right restaurant consultant to help you get started visit: www.franchisegrowthsolutions.com

Millennials Drive Menus In Fast Casual Restaurants

MILLENNIALS DRIVE MENUS IN FAST CASUAL RESTAURANTS…. These Newer Concepts must not only live up to the marketing message but also ensure that their operations can provide consistent, quality products in every location…. Their business models must be replicable and easily managed.

By FranchiseMoneyMaker Contributor

As recently as 15 years ago the idea that you could grab a nutritious, healthy and still tasty meal from a drive-thru or fast food restaurant was unheard of. It wasn’t until the post Y2K era that fast food consumers became concerned with what they ate. As the Millennial generation started spending money on food outside the home the industry has been “forced” to move toward healthier, high-quality menu alternatives. Once begun this movement toward fresher, greener menus has continued to accelerate at an ever increased pace.

Does Better for You equal Better for Business

Consumer attitudes regarding the link between diet and health have shifted. Data shows that Millennials and aging baby boomers are taking a more proactive approach to healthy eating. Many have adjusted their dietary choices to promote better health. The demographic with higher levels of education and more disposable income is at the forefront of this trend. These health-conscious consumers take the time to research before they dine out. In addition, they seem more willing to pay higher prices to ensure that what goes into their bodies is nutritious.
With this new consumer focus on nutrition, sustainability and ‘clean food’ comes a revolution in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry. According to a recent article in Business Leader, 83% of Americans believe that fast food from traditional Quick Service franchises is not healthy. This has created the rise of the ‘better for you’ brands that now compete with fast food giants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC. For example, healthy quick service brands such as Dig Inn, By Chloe, and Sweetgreen are creating their own niche by specializing in organic, locally sourced meal options that contain more vegetables and fewer calories than traditional burgers and fries.

Quality comes with a Cost

As enticing as these food offerings may be to our palate Consumers may find themselves paying almost double what they would at a traditional fast food location. Locally sourced, organic and sustainable food suppliers still see this segment as small compared to conventionally processed ingredients, so access and availability remain a challenge. As a result, many healthier focused chains are developing altogether new selling propositions by positioning “value with reasons” as a way to compete with the traditional fast food chains of the industry. These “better for you” concepts post nutritional information, health benefits as well as the sourcing and methods used in their products. The emphasis is on local, clean, humanely raised and organic.

One such concept is Salad and Go. Branded as a healthy drive-thru option, Salad and Go offers large salads, smoothies, soup and breakfast with an “Always Organic” list of ingredients. In addition, the brand highlights their competitive prices. Salad and Go currently has in 10 locations in the U.S. with plans to nearly double that number by the end of 2018.
Another U.S. chain, LocoL, offers food made only from local ingredients. Founders & Chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson claim “We at LocoL want to live in a world where eating healthy doesn’t take a lot of money or time.”
New quick service food concepts like these are branding their menu items as healthy, high quality alternatives to the sugar, fat, and salt-heavy meals provided by traditional fast food franchises. Recently developed QSR concepts give consumers a choice. Whether it’s organic, farm to table, all natural, gluten free, vegan or humanely raised, the race to innovate and meet this rising consumer trend has never been more of a priority in the Quick Service Restaurant segment than it is today.

Forcing Innovation in Traditional Brands

As new brands continue to make their mark in the minds of U.S. consumers, established brands are attempting to keep up with changing demands. Fast food chains such as Taco Bell have promised to use cage-free eggs and reduce artificial ingredients, and McDonald’s has started selling antibiotic free chicken, and now cooks many of its items to order and offers more salads. It is yet to be seen if that alone will be enough to keep the long-standing leaders in the QSR industry on top.

Serving up Quality, Quickly and Consistently

These QSR pioneers are faced with the challenge of living up to the expectations of an informed, proactive consumer. These newer concepts must not only live up to the marketing message but also ensure that their operations can provide consistent, quality products in every location. Their business models must be replicable and easily managed. This may also prove to be a challenge when food is being prepared to order using fresh locally sourced ingredients instead of processed or precooked menu items. If they can accomplish these tasks, the potential for growth is unlimited.

Regardless of the challenges facing these new “better for you brands”, the move away from traditional fast food to healthier quick service food options is unstoppable. As a means to address consumer concerns, in late 2017, the FDA announced new regulations requiring large restaurant chains to add calorie counts to their menus by 2018. This, combined with health-conscious consumers, will continue to push these new QSR chains to sharpen their competitive edge by offering a wider variety of great tasting, healthier options. As I see it, the success of the “better for you” fast casual concepts will depend on their adaptability to trends, consistency in product, as well as the price point and expense management.