Starting a restaurant: 10 top tips

31 Aug, 2021
10 tips for starting a restaurant

Starting a restaurant when we are just begining to emerge from a global pandemic might seem like a properly stupid idea, but is it?

We’ve all heard the word ‘pivot’ a lot over the last 18 months and for many of us this has meant a complete change in what we do for a living, however, for others it has given them the ‘push’ they needed to do that thing that they’ve always been talking about, but haven’t had the courage to do.

If this pandemic has shown us anything, its that life is short, so if you are thinking of taking that big first step and starting a restuarant, we’ve got 10 great tips that will help.

1. Starting a restaurant – don’t do it for vanity

You’re unlikely to buy a football club just because you like the game (unless you are a Russian billionnaire), so why do the same when it comes to setting up and owning a restaurant. Make sure your desire to have your own gig is for all the right reasons, rather than just being able to tell people you’re a restaurateur!

2. Do your homework

The secret of a good local restaurant is knowing your customers and catering for them. Do your research. Does the area need an expensive fine dining restaurant, or would it be more comfortable with a casual dining place? Make sure you know the area, check out the competition and work out what their strengths and weaknesses are. If you can’t answer the question – what will make your restaurant stand out from the rest, you’ve still got work to do!

3. If it’s not you, then make sure you choose the right chef

As a restaurant owner if you don’t intend to be the chef patron then your best investment will always be in the head / executive chef you choose. If you haven’t got that major asset sorted, then forget it. Time, effort and money spent here getting a motivator, leader and someone who will bring customers back is essential to your restaurants success.

4. Decide who’s in charge

You need to trust the kitchen brigade that you’re paying and be able to develop and evolve them in order to retain them, but someone needs to be the boss and this responsibility ultimately lies with you. You need to know what’s happening in every area of your business from the kitchen to front of house. It’s not about being a control freak though – your ability to listen to your staff’s opinions and act accordingly will boost motivation and make you a better leader.

5. Communication and teamwork are key

The key to any successful restaurant is regular communication between management and the head chef. But it doesn’t stop there, all the staff have to be communicating well with each other and working as a team. Let’s not forget the customers either, make sure you’re listening to them too. At the end of the day they’re paying your wages.

6. Get the menu right

Long menus lead to confusion for everyone. They can have chefs running round like headless chickens, customers waiting or walking out, and all sorts of undesirable items going off at the back of the fridge. Start with a simple menu concentrating on quality produce cooked well and you’re on to a winner. Your chefs will be more efficient, the diners will be happy and there shouldn’t be much wastage.

7. Quality control

Ensuring quality and consistency in the kitchen is essential for a successful restaurant. Even if service is busy, it’s not an excuse for sloppy plates of food leaving the kitchen. If it’s not good enough, don’t serve it – it could ruin your reputation.

8. It’s your restaurant so keep it clean and organised

The absolute number one rule of cooking: your kitchen must be clean, and by clean we mean spotless! There’s nothing worse than an unhygienic restaurant, and your customers won’t like it much either if they end up with food poisoning. Make sure all your staff have the right hygiene certificates and set up a decent cleaning rota. Get to know your local environmental health officer as they would much rather help you than close you down. Anything less than a 5* rating and you’ve got work to do.

9. Be flexible

In the restaurant business you have to react instantly to changing trading conditions; Cutting down on overheads, reducing costs, changing menus, you have to react straightaway, not wait –  it’s critical you’re on top of what’s happening.

Flexibility is fundamental to any successful business, so try not to be too stubborn. It might be your baby, but that doesn’t mean the customers will love it as much as you do.

10. Don’t give up – starting a restaurant is tough

To have a successful restaurant you need fight, lots of determination and stamina. When things get tough, it’s hard to keep sight of your original dream, but if you work as a team, serve food you believe in and be realistic about how things are really going, you’re in for a much better chance of making your business thrive.

Bonus tip!

With only 1/3 of restaurants making it past their first birthday, make sure you speak to your accountant or your local business chamber to find out what grants and other incentives you are eligible for. There are a lot on offer as the economy recovers from Covid-19, and every little bit of help will enable you to lower your fixed costs while getting established.

Good luck with starting your restaurant. Let us know how you get on.

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