Startup Advice

How to start a restaurant

Charlotte Harwood

Are you a budding chef ready to launch your own eatery? Then follow these tips.

One of the keys to a successful business is to offer something that people want or need, and few cover both quite as much as restaurants. You’ll find them on high streets up and down the country, offering every cuisine imaginable and giving diners the chance to sample foods from all corners of the globe.

Far from just a popular way to spend some time (and money), running a restaurant is the dream of many a budding entrepreneur – but it isn’t a simple venture. In fact, it’s hard work. Really hard work.

If you’re an aspiring restauranteur, there are a few basic pointers to follow if you want to succeed in the competitive industry of hospitality – so here’s what you need to know before you get started.

There’s more to it than just food…

Restaurants are about more than just food these days. The ambience, décor and even the type of cutlery you provide all add to the dining experience, and with tastes becoming ever-more discerning it’s vital that you get every element spot on. It’s easy to create a restaurant in the image of what you like, but you need to think about what your potential customers are looking for if you want to be successful.

…but don’t bypass substance for style

You could create the perfect restaurant setting, but if the food isn’t up to scratch then that’s a waste of time, effort and money. After all, the menu is what people are really there for, and if it doesn’t live up to expectations then your fledgling business won’t even have the chance to get started. And with sites like Trip Advisor giving everyone the chance to be a critic, you’ll soon hear what people think – and so will everyone else.

So by all means go to town decorating your restaurant, but remember that the food is the heart of the business. Make sure you’ve got some top notch suppliers lined up, a skilled chef, and a menu that’s priced accordingly.

Prepare for long hours and little pay

Most will read that and run a mile, but if you’re passionate about starting your own restaurant then you need to be aware of the realities. Running a restaurant is hard work and requires dedication. You’ll have to work long hours with little in the way of breaks, and for the first 12 months or so you’ll need to plan how you’ll live without much (or any) pay.

Check the numbers like income and expenditure, and work out how much you can afford if you decide to give yourself a salary. If you’re keen to make it as a restauranteur, you might have to put investment in the business before your own pay packet.

Know your costs

It’s a fundamental aspect of any start-up, and can make or break your business. If you’re starting a restaurant, you need to know how much everything will cost – and it’s not just the premises and food that you need to take into account. You’ll also need things like tables and chairs, cutlery, table linen, crockery, cooking equipment, staff – the list goes on.

It’s a pricey business to start, with the general consensus suggesting that you’ll need around £50,000 to do it, so work out how you’ll fund everything before you start writing up the menu.

It’s all about good customer service

In the restaurant business, you can’t afford to slip up on customer service. One mistake is all it takes to create a ripple of negative reviews, so make sure that you keep your eye on the ball. Consistency is key, so have a system in place to monitor service at every level – from the kitchen through to front of house.

You want first time customers to become regulars, and regulars to become advocates of your restaurant. Keep them happy and the restaurant will sell itself.