Most restaurant owners, and in many cases, restaurant mangers, are regularly dumbfounded at the gaggle of presumably intelligent examples of the human species who desire an involvement in restaurant ownership.
I am not speaking of the investor who calls his broker and buys shares of Cheesecake Factory stock and then parlays the winnings into adding Applebee´s to the portfolio. The miniscule private investor, who buys half a share of a potential goldmine and then walks and talks as though he is the principle shareholder doesn´t count either. I am speaking of the person who actually believes they can step in front of the stove, function at the rope, or behind the bar as a qualified guardian of ownership.
Peculiar as it may appear few of these people begin at the bottom of the business, acquire experience and grow into ownership roles. A growing number of people across the country make foundationless decisions to join the growing ranks of restaurant owners having no sense of hospitality business acumen. Nada. None. Zip.
What possesses a seemingly intelligent person to hear a cunning restaurateur´s story at a party and suddenly decide that´s the business to be in? Would someone hang a plumber´s sign on a truck and begin cleaning drains and changing pipes without knowledge? What lunatic would decide to build a house without any formal training? What fool would show up at a home, claiming to be a tree surgeon, a landscaping expert, or an excavation master and start performing the allotted task as though a master? Yet, restaurants open continuously under these circumstances.
The desire has spread so rampantly that prime time TV is even promoting inexperience restaurant baptism on Desperate Housewives where one of the husbands has decided a pizza joint is the place to be.
There are certain steps one takes in opening a restaurant. And, although I am sure there are as many theories on restaurant openings are there are recipes for ribs, if you are an inexperienced, untrained restaurant junkie who just has to have one here are a few tips to get you on the right course. If of course, you really believe opening a restaurant with no experience is the right course.
1). Location– Everyone says location, location, location is the most important aspect of the business. It is very important, however, if you have a great concept, tremendous food, reasonable prices, and a staff that makes everyone feel as though they are special guests they will find you. Find a location that you can afford, in a decent area, with some parking. The best food in the world will never be served if customers find it inconvenient to park.
2). Menu- Design a menu that you are familiar with and that you enjoy eating"?¦and cooking. Eventually you may have to cook it even if that isn´t your original intention. Also make sure that the menu appeals to the trends in dining and that it is not so far out of the box that it proves to be the final nail in the casket for an unknown, undercapitalized, restaurant owner without any experience.
3). Capitalization– The thought of taking your idea to a venture capital firm and having them pony up the cash- or even a letter of credit- for an unknown is as hallucinogenic as thinking central casting will be calling for the next Tarantino movie. Actually you may have a shot at the Tarantino movie. VC´s want very little to do with unknown concepts. Plus, there is such a vast array of celebrity brand chefs that have a track record why gamble with you when they can go to Vegas with the likes of Bobby Flay? Your credit cards, your family, your friends, and a lot of others who you can talk into thinking your concept will last longer than the shelf life of the first produce order is your best bet for funding.
4). Concept– You have to have a theme. A design in mind would be a great help. To open with merely a menu and some food is suicide. People go out for ambiance and entertainment. Make the place special. Think of something that hasn´t been done before in your area. Read the city magazines and find out what´s hot. Tapas is so hot in New York right now that the small plates are making appearances everywhere. If the Tapas bars in your town are non existent, find out why, Become a culinary pioneer.
5).Knowledge- Get some, somewhere. Don´t think for a moment you can step into this without any hands-on experience. Go to work- as a dishwasher- at a friend´s restaurant- even if for free. Do it at night, on weekends. Get your feet wet- and you will. Live the life, if only for a few months before making the plunge.
6). Restaurant equipment– Go to the nearest restaurant equipment supply house and spend time talking to the salespeople. Price used stoves, coolers, pots, pans, and other items you will need. Don´t get hung up on the chef coats. Keep an eye on the rubberized dishwasher aprons. You´ll need one of those for when you work at your friend´s restaurant. Get a case of rubber gloves- you will be plunging the toilet in the ladies room- it never fails.
7).Talk to restaurant owners in your neighborhood. Let them know you are interested in getting into the business. It is possible that one of these great individuals would be kind enough to sell you one half of their current operation and ease you into full ownership over the course of a few years. There are some owners who are still that kind.
8). Think about buying a franchise. If you have very little expertise in the business and are looking for an investment, a franchise is a tremendous avenue to explore. The guidance, the financial expertise, and the concept have all been tested. You can walk into a situation where you automatically have a partner and someone who will guide you along the way.
9). Consultants– Don´t spend a lot of money on consultants, and marketing geniuses, and designers, and menu planners. These are all highly respected professions, however, if you need that many people when you begin the project you are already financially behind. You cannot afford o hire everyone to tell you everything you need to know. Make sure when hiring a consultant you look at their resume and credentials.
10). Must enjoy hard work. The business offers few fancy frills or elaborate titles. It is more than dabbling with dollops of sauces and foam to make a cute design on a plate. Even the star chefs work grueling hours preparing for those enjoyable TV shows that you have been watching in order to fulfill your dream.