Things to consider when creating your first restaurant...

So you’ve decided you want to open your first restaurant. Maybe you’re a chef who craves complete creative control. Or are you an entrepreneur who’s spotted a gap in the market? Whatever your motivation, there are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge...

Be open-minded about location 

We all aspire to be in our local hot spot— but keeping an open mind while scoping venues could make all the difference when establishing your debut restaurant.

Firstly, will your business rely on footfall? While this is usually a requirement for casual, spontaneous dining— people will obviously travel for the luxury of a Michelin-starred restaurant. And they’ll also go out of their way to experience something new and different— be it the cuisine, or a quirky venue. 

Could your restaurant be a ‘destination’ with the benefit of paying lower, 'not-so-prime-location' rent? Piggy-backing off the draw of a city can also work— as with the right offering, diners are prepared to start their nights on the outer fringes of the city before strolling into the centre later. 

Finally, it’s important to understand any potential legal barriers and regulatory requirements of your desired location (as well as their related costs). Doing your homework on operating in a residential area, for example, can reduce time, cost, and frustration down the line...


Carefully assess the unit

You think you’ve found the perfect location, but what about the unit itself? Was it a restaurant before, or will your business venture be a change of use? If so, there isn’t just the cost of fixtures and fittings to consider. A change of use will require significant investment in ‘infrastructure'— such as mechanical ventilation, extraction, drainage, heating, and cooling. You’ll be surprised just how much money is spent on things your customers will barely notice. 

In terms of size, you need to think like Goldilocks and try to find a unit that’s ‘just right’ for your business. Obviously it must have enough space for the covers you’ll need to achieve your revenue goals. But if it’s too big, the fit-out and running costs will really eat away at profit—in a sector that already has notoriously tight margins.  

Another thing to think about when choosing a venue is the landlord. If you’re considering renting a unit, familiarise yourself with the landlord’s requirements beforehand. Bigger landlords, such as retail centres, require significant amounts of detailed design and paperwork—with often time-consuming approval processes. 

Be realistic about your budget

This is obviously a key consideration for any business, but as a start-up in one of the world’s most competitive, low-margin sectors— missing something during budgeting can prove fatal...

So what exactly do you need to do to the unit? Consider this carefully because it will have a huge impact on costs. There’s a massive difference between rebranding an existing restaurant and a complete change of building use—with costs up to four times higher for the latter. It’s always useful to bear this in mind when considering the ‘bargain’ rent of a former shop for example...

Define your concept

Again, this sounds obvious— but that’s because the most important things are. Think about why diners should choose your restaurant over others. What are your points of difference and what type of person will they attract? Being clear about this from the start is key to effective marketing. 

While food obviously takes centre stage, it’s part of the much wider customer experience— which often starts long before diners set foot through your doors. You need to pay careful attention to the atmosphere you want to create and define how you will achieve it. It’s essential to consider every little detail—both in-venue and online. 

I view this holistic approach as the holy grail of restaurant success. And I’m witnessing more and more restaurateurs embracing what I like to call ‘immersive hospitality’. As the sector becomes ever-more competitive, the most successful businesses are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to customer experience... 

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