Things to Keep in Mind Before Starting a Restaurant
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From an outsider's point of view, the restaurant industry looks glamorous and full of fun. It can often be this way too, but behind everything lies the need for a whole lot of grit, hard work, dedication and patience.
As someone who had no background in the hospitality industry, here was my exact line of thought and my naïveté dove right in and took over the reins of running a restaurant:
"I love food. I enjoy concocting unique dishes. No one else is offering what I'd like to in this sector. So let me start a nice restaurant with an interesting menu and people will come! I'll serve them my creations, chat with them and have a gala time. Best job in the world. Yay!"
Now a few years down the line and copious amounts of learning on the job later, the gullibility has gone, but the passion remains.
One could write a whole book on things to consider before starting your own food business. But keeping aside the more obvious ones like location, target market, investment, and so forth, here from my experience are some of the most important questions you need to ask yourself before you start a restaurant.
How much of your life are you willing to pour into this?
Like any startup, a new restaurant is something that'll demand your constant attention. It'll make you totally empathise with the emotions of a new parent. Love, joy, gratitude and crippling paranoia! Even when you aren't working, the restaurant is always at the back of your mind and this could get quite draining -- physically, mentally and emotionally. You won't have the time or inclination to do much else. Ask yourself if you are prepared to put in that kind of time and dedication into the project. Only if you are passionate enough to see it through until it becomes stable, will you be rewarded.
What is so special about your business?
In a highly competitive and saturated industry, if your restaurant has nothing unique to offer it can get snuffed out pretty quickly. Put a lot of thought into what would make your restaurant stand out from the crowd. Once you zero in on your USP, state it proudly and publicise it well. The uniqueness is what'll attract the crowds initially. After that, it's up to you to provide an excellent experience to keep people coming back.
Do you have the right support structure?
From family to business partners, grab all the support you can muster and put it into place before you begin. A restaurant is not something I'd suggest starting on your own. Surround yourself with people you can lean on or share the burden with. Also find a mentor with more experience than you to count on when you're in need of advice or simply some empathy.
Are you a people person?
In the hospitality industry, there is a lot of interaction required with guests. But more important than that is how good you are with your own staff. A happy and dedicated team results in a beautiful dining atmosphere. So either make sure you're a good leader or find someone who is, to help you.
What are you giving back?
In this era of social entrepreneurship, we all need to focus on what good we can put back into the world. It could be something as simple as caring about the wellness of your guests or doing charity work as a team. You could even be the pillar of your business community and help like-minded people grow. Whatever it is you choose, remember that a conscious business that adds deeper meaning and value to your life and the lives of people it touches is one that's bound to sustain for a long time.