Owning a restaurant is a lot of work—sometimes 24/7—but you’ve given it a great deal of thought, and you’ve decided to go forward with it.
People tend to frequent their favorite restaurant for three reasons: 1) The food and atmosphere are favorable; 2) The staff is knowledgeable, helpful, and courteous; and 3) The restaurant is close to their home or office. Keeping these in mind, your restaurant should hopefully have all of the resources necessary to be successful.
However, getting a restaurant ready for the long haul and getting a restaurant ready for opening day don’t always go hand in hand. There are certain things that you need to take into special consideration. Below are a few tips to help you have a grand opening day.
Choose your chef and staff wisely.
Choosing a chef, especially for finer dining, is critical because a chef can make or break your restaurant. Good food is essential, and a chef whom meets all your needs is not necessarily going to be easy to find, so you’ll want to begin your search early and take your time.
In addition, a chef may have many ideas, even requirements, regarding the menu, ambiance, and staff. Once you choose a chef, you will want to work closely with them regarding the subsequent steps.
Although you probably have several chefs ready to go, you want to put thought into the chef you’re going to have working on opening day—and it isn’t always going to be your most experienced one. Work with the chef that you feel can work well under pressure and help keep your staff calm. Hopefully your opening day will be your busiest.
It’s also important that you take this same approach when it comes time to hiring your opening day staff. You want servers who know what they are doing and can work long hours but stay positive. If you think a server needs a bit more training, opening day is not the time to let them shine.
Location, location, location.
Once you’ve done your basic homework, it’s time to choose a location. This is probably the most important step, just not the first one. Depending on the type of restaurant you’re opening, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Proximity to homes and offices: Little out-of-the-way cafes can be romantic, but for your first venture, you should probably take the safer route and choose a location near other successful businesses.
- Parking: Whether you’re looking for a downtown location or little neighborhood corner café, parking is a major consideration. You’ll want ample places to park, even if you don’t have a large parking area, so you may want to consider street parking and possibly even valet.
Consider looking at other restaurants, and take notes.
Take the time to visit as many restaurants within your chosen niche as possible. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel; what works in one establishment will most likely work in yours as well. And take notes: what did you like about the restaurant, and what did you dislike? And what do you think would work for you or work if it were simply tweaked?
These are things to keep in mind as you continue to run your restaurant, but opening day will also need all the help it can get. If you can learn from others, particularly the opening day of other restaurants, then you’ll have a leg up on this competition.
Who will be your vendors?
Now, it’s time to start looking for vendors, suppliers of your meats and vegetables and whatever else you’ve decided to serve in your restaurant. When interviewing vendors, cost is a consideration, but you have to also consider:
- Taste: Sample everything, keeping in mind that they want your business, so they are serving you the highest quality and freshest samplings available.
- Reliability and Availability: It’s great if a vendor’s food tastes great, but if you can’t get it delivered to you in a timely fashion, it doesn’t do you any good.
- Referrals: Any successful vendor will welcome your asking for a list of referrals. But don’t stop there – actually contact everyone on the list and interview him/her extensively.
When it comes to opening day, you want to have the freshest food possible and make sure you’re working with a vendor that can deliver under pressure. You never know if there is going to be a quick need for a product since you have never had your restaurant in operation, so choose wisely.
Don’t dismiss the details.
There are many little details you need to ponder, and your chef will be instrumental in helping you with these finishing touches. While choosing your building and vendors is crucial, don’t dismiss the details. People notice things like the pattern on your china, white tablecloths, wallpaper, comfortable chairs, placement of the tables, and even smells! Don’t disappoint – pay attention to each minor detail.
Now it’s time to open your restaurant. You’ve made splendid decisions, hired a great chef and staff, trained them to perfection, and now you’re ready to greet your customers. Work hard, never stop trying to improve and you’ll build memories and family traditions for generations to come. Mangia!
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