The wolves are at the door and you are wondering how you could have possibly gotten into this situation. You owe the chicken man a fortune, Boby Linen has cut you off, your liquor bill is past, past due and you are just waiting for your payroll checks to start bouncing.
During the tossing and turning of those sleepless nights you awaken, startled, and pray to everyone that someone will ride to your rescue.
If you never want to appear in this movie you need to take some foundational precautions from the beginning of the process that will insure stability, growth and success. The business isn’t brain surgery; it is merely a series of systems, promotion, service and value.
Here are a few hints on how to achieve a good night’s sleep.
1). Before you open the doors of your new culinary kingdom be sure to have your checklists, inventory sheets, systems and procedures in place and ready to be implemented. Playing catch-up once you open is almost impossible.
2). Do not overspend on your remodel, build-out or expansion. This calls for a budget – and someone who will stick to it. If you happen to be a spending BonVivant make sure your account or book keeper has to sign off on all purchases while in the construction stage.
3). Work order changes will kill you before you have a moment to take your last gasp of fresh, free air. Don’t think that the construction foreman who his placing pieces of paper in front of you requesting your signature is asking for an autograph for his wife. You are signing your future away with every change you make in the construction process. Most contractors make their profit through change orders.
4). Deal with your vendors before you open – offsite – and attempt to lock yourself into a contract price for items that you know will fluctuate in the marketplace. If you meet with the vendor onsite you will be bragging about how beautiful your place will be. You see expensive lamps, tables, china and silverware. He sees dollar signs, a possible short run, and a dreamer who may or may not make it.
5). If you have never been in the restaurant business before remember that you know absolutely nothing compared to anyone who walks through your doors and has ever waited on a table for more than an hour. As a new owner a top priority is to learn as much as you can from everyone around you without letting them know you know nothing.
6). If you live in the pond you have to be nice to the Alligator. Don’t ever forget that. Treat your chefs, managers, waiters, and bus boys with the utmost respect. Even though you own the restaurant, they have a direct line to every one of your customers – the lifeblood of the business. Once you upset them because you were disrespectful, it could be over. By the same token, once they stop working for the team, trade ’em.
7). The cash in the register is not yours. Leave it in there. Don’t think that you are making money because there are a stack of bills on your desk. The only person who can tell you if you are winning, losing, or have a chance for survival is your accountant. And sometimes, you can’t even believe him. Analyze the numbers yourself once he gives them to you.
8). Learn how to take inventory in the kitchen, the dining room, and the bar. Although you will have numerous inventory volunteers there are only three people who should perform inventory: the chef, the bar manager, and the assistant dining room manager. Yes, you have to inventory the dining room periodically. Silverware doesn’t break. It only gets thrown away or borrowed by a wait staff who will never have you over there house for dinner.
9). Control spending on accoutrements that you believe will add value to the ambiance and therefore attract customers. This is a great theory and often it will work. However, do not invoke your addictive spending habits on your restaurant’s budget.
10). Shop your competition. Make sure that you are in line with what they are charging for the value they are selling. If the restaurant down the street is selling tacos for $9.95 don’t think you can sell a similar rendition and get $14.95. Your pricing has to be competitive and your value has to be comparable to your neighbor’s.
11). The Bonus tip – Have fun but train yourself and your staff in financial frugality.