12 Hot Business Ideas

Burger Restaurants

Where's the beef? You'll find it in burger joints with a twist.

It seems that even with today's high gas and energy prices, Americans always have a buck for a burger. In fact, so much attention is on this American staple that it's one of the smartest startup ideas around. The secret is making yours a burger joint with a clever twist.

Husband-and-wife team Tim and Liza Goodell, 41 and 36, respectively, just added 25 Degrees, a Hollywood burger and wine bar, to their impressive list of restaurants. Offering deluxe toppings such as caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and a variety of high-end cheeses, this isn't your typical burger joint. And neither is the sophisticated setting of crystal chandeliers, leather booths and velvet wallpaper. The 1,700-square-foot restaurant opened last February and is already on track to bring in $1.5 million in 2007. "Hamburgers are the most commonly eaten food in the United States," says Tim, who plans to open several more locations in the West. "Any restaurant has got to have a burger these days."

Ivan Brown, brand manager of ground beef at Cargill Meat Solutions, a Wichita, Kansas-based ground beef producer, couldn't agree more. According to Brown, 8.5 billion burgers were served in commercial restaurants during the 12 months ending March 2006. Appealing to all age groups and income levels, entrepreneurs can beef things up with upgrades, customization and flavor. Give consumers high-end toppings, the freedom to create, and spicy, ethnic and untraditional flavor options, and this is one item certain to keep the grill red-hot.

Ready to cook up your own burger restaurant? Here's how you can get started.

Immerse yourself in the industry. Opening a hamburger restaurant may sound simple, but get some sound experience at a restaurant before jumping in headfirst. Says Tim, "[You've] got to know the numbers and the percentages well in order to succeed."

Set yourself up for success. The restaurant industry is a competitive marketplace, says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association in Washington, DC. "Anyone considering launching a new restaurant concept has to be extremely diligent in doing a rigorous business plan and identifying not only the market area, but the demographics within that market area and [whether] they are aligned with the product offerings."

Know who you're serving. Study your target market, and take the time to get to know what they want and expect. According to Brown, customers today are willing to show you the money as long as they get plenty of options, flavor and quality in their burgers: "They're willing to pay a little bit more, but they want their money's worth."

Keep an eye on the economy. Overall, the restaurant industry is exploding. In fact, according to Riehle, 47.5 percent of all food spending is allocated to the restaurant industry, and that percentage is expected to surpass 50 percent in the next decade. However, as fast as the industry is speeding forward, be aware of factors that might affect different industry segments. For example, recent studies have indicated that the high energy and gas prices have hurt the casual dining segment while leaving fast food and high-end restaurants practically untouched. Tracking the economy will help you determine what your customers are willing to spend their disposable money on.

Let your imagination run wild. Differentiate yourself from the competition by using your creative thinking. Says Riehle, "[Hamburgers] will always remain an American favorite, but there are a lot of enhancements and tweaking of the basic menu item that can [be done] and are being done."

Burger Rstaurants:

Nonmedical Home Care
The boomers are aging, and this market is booming.

Tomorrow's forecast? Gray. According to the Census Bureau, 13 percent of the popu-lation will be over the age of 65 by 2010. By 2030, the figure will jump to 19.6 percent. Many older people want to remain in their family homes as long as they can, so savvy entrepreneurs are rushing in to provide a range of nonmedical home care services that help them age in place. "We call this 'pre-assisted living,'" says Val Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice in Washington, DC. "You help people perform the simple functions of daily living and don't let them get so run down that they wind up in assisted living or the emergency room."

However, the biggest obstacles to breaking into nonmedical home care are often the seniors themselves, who are reluctant to acknowledge their needs. "Almost every call I get is from people who tell me their parents don't want any help," says Andrea Cohen, 49, co-founder and CEO of HouseWorks in Newton, Massachusetts. "You have to have a staff that's trained to work with seniors and help them become comfortable with the choices you offer." With 2007 sales projected at $11.9 million, HouseWorks provides personal care assistance, companionship, home modification, cleaning and relocation services.

Before you start a nonmedical health care business, consider the following.

Start strong. "You're dealing with human lives in this business--if you screw up, people won't refer you again," says Cohen. Be sure you make the proper investments in your staff and infrastructure before you take on any clients.

Make connections. According to Cohen, most of your clients will be referred by health-care providers such as assisted living facilities and hospital systems. "The discharge planners need to get patients out of the hospital or rehab quickly," she says. "If your response is quick and professional, it helps them get their job done, and they become your champions." Cohen says she's built relationships with discharge planners by saying yes whenever they call--even on Friday afternoons, by filling last-minute requests, and by always having a live person on the line to talk to them.

Choose the right location. You should balance two important factors when deciding on a location for your corporate offices, Cohen says. You want to be in an affluent enough area so that there will be a large number of people who can pay for your services out-of-pocket, but the offices also need to be accessible to the home health-care workers who will be your field staff. Look for a location that is well-served by public transportation.

Focus your marketing on adult children. Most seniors are unwilling or unable to acknowledge their need for nonmedical home care, so don't focus your marketing efforts on them. Instead, develop thoughtful marketing strategies aimed at adult children that educate them and help them navigate the maze of long-term care considerations. Your website should be succinct and easy to understand, using fonts and colors that are kind to the older eyes of both seniors and their middle-aged children.

Have a solid sales team. Cohen says that many people going into this kind of business fail because they don't understand the value of a vigorous sales staff. She explains, "When the phone rings, there has to be someone there who is comfortable selling the service."

Hire the right people. "The most important part of home care is the person you put in the home," Cohen says. "You want someone who is hardworking, naturally enthusiastic and solution-oriented."

Nonmedical Home Care for Seniors:

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This article was originally published in the February 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: 12 Hot Ideas.

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