The National Restaurant Association has projected that this year will be a record year for the dining industry with $683 billion in sales expected. As celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse, might put it, “Bam!” This means the time is right for foodie entrepreneurs to jump in with both feet.
And while the restaurant industry is notorious for being unforgiving to owners, when armed with the right strategy, entrepreneurs can make a run at success.
A solid launch calls for more than great food quality, hospitality and cleanliness, according to Omar Loya, co-owner of the Los Angeles-based Cities Restaurant. “Opening a successful restaurant requires more than just time and money," Loya says. "It also requires laying down a foundation before the doors open.”
The following are seven steps that entrepreneurs can take to ensure a successful restaurant launch:
Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.
-- biochemist and Nobel prize winner Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
1. Do your homework. Spend time conducting due diligence. Successful small businesses differentiate themselves and offer something that's missing in a community. Conduct a needs assessment by asking area residents and professionals what they like that they can’t get locally and then fill that need.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
-- Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci
2. Keep it simple. The fewer the moving parts, the easier it will be to manage the restaurant -- not to mention it will be cheaper to operate. Don't aim for a menu that's all things to all people. Instead, the menu should provide options that are appealing and consistent with the restaurant's mission and vision.
Many believe effective networking is done face-to-face, building a rapport with someone by looking at them in the eye, leading to a solid connection and foundational trust.
-- author Raymond Arroyo
3. Network. long before the restaurant opens its doorsm,Network with members of the local community. Invite members of the community to view the progress of the restaurant's construction. As the owner of a new restaurant, attend chamber of commerce meetings. Work closely with representatives of local government and community groups. By the time of the grand opening, the entire community should be well aware of the restaurant's existence.
Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.
-- U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan
4. Be a member of the community. Have the restaurant become the go-to location for community gatherings, fundraisers, holiday parties and political rallies. All the new visitors and increased exposure will benefit the restaurant. Use it as an opportunity to gain a reputation as a community-friendly establishment, resulting in greater patronage and exposure.
Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. Create a plan for the future. Many restaurants owners lack vision. But the entire staff, from the owners and managers to the servers, should understand the restaurant's vision and mission. Owners need to stop being tactical long enough to be strategic so as to ensure a future for the establishment.
You must always be able to predict what's next and then have the flexibility to evolve.
-- Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff
6. Be nimble. Be quick.
The advantage of a small business is its ability to change course “on the fly.” Running any business requires making adjustments. Owners, managers and other staff must constantly be on the lookout for things that don't work and make immediate changes. Unfortunately, many small business owners get caught up on the day-to-day and fail to stop, look around and analyze things to see if their plans are working out as expected.
Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them.
-- author William Arthur Ward
7. Be opportunitistic.
Small business owners must always be on the lookout for new opportunities consistent with the restaurant’s mission and vision. Such opportunities may include collaboration or filling newly discovered unmet needs. Such opportunities may not last very long. Taking early advantage of a new option may provide long-term benefits.
There is no secret sauce to a successful restaurant launch. The food industry is highly competitive, with new restaurants entering the industry daily. Owners must have a strategy beyond outlining the basics. With the right strategy, the right staff and the right menu, the new establishment will not just amount to another statistic of a failed restaurant and instead be counted among this year's success stories.