Opening a restaurant is a challenging venture. In the United States, there are nearly 661,000 restaurants operating. That’s a lot of competition.
Not to mention that so many restaurants don’t survive their first few years. If you are looking to get ahead of the competition, you will need some tips and tricks for how to open a successful restaurant.
Running a successful restaurant is about a lot more than just your menu. Yes, the food should be the centerpiece of your restaurant, but it cannot be your sole focus. Things like location, advertising and additional services can all elevate your restaurant above the pack so it survives for the long haul.
Keep reading for eight tips about how to open a successful restaurant.
1. Find a Sweet Spot
Location is crucial to the success of your new restaurant. Where you are located can have a massive impact on the amount of success you enjoy. You can have the best food in the world, but if your location isn’t somewhere a lot of people have access to, it will hardly matter.
Of course, there are exceptions to this, restaurants that have beaten the odds despite their locations. Still, it’s best not to rely on these edge cases if you are trying to figure out how to open a successful restaurant.
In general, there are a few things worth keeping in mind when choosing the location for your restaurant:
- Crime rate
- Other nearby businesses
Try to find a location where your restaurant or at least its signage will be highly visible. If you are tucked far away from roads and high traffic areas, no one will know how to find you. Clear signage can help with this. If you are far from a road, you can use signs as a way to lead people right to your door.
You should also consider access. If you are in a major city, look for where buses and trains stop. Being close to these locations can drive a lot of foot traffic. If you aren’t near public transit, consider parking options for your customers.
Finally, look at the overall area. Is there a lot of crime? Are nearby businesses thriving? These can both be indications of how well you will do in the location. Crime can deter foot traffic and bring down your business. And other businesses can be a barometer of how much the area is thriving – or not.
2. Do Traditional Advertising
Don’t skip over traditional advertising when thinking about how to open a successful restaurant. Traditional advertising might include things like newspaper ads, flyers, and signs. These are all tried and true methods that have still not quite gone out of style.
If you aren’t sure how to approach these types of advertising elements, don’t be afraid to get help. Advertising is a large part of how to open a successful restaurant, so it’s certainly worth the investment up front.
Plus, commercial sign design companies can help you create a sign that won’t simply be a one-off advertising campaign, but a lasting part of how your business reaches out to customers.
3. Do Non-Traditional Advertising
Of course, none of this means you shouldn’t also invest in non-traditional advertising methods. These days, a lot of businesses find their customers on via the internet and smartphones. These are crucial ways to reach the people you are hoping to attract to your restaurant.
If you want to know how to open a successful restaurant, spend some time looking at the websites of restaurants similar to your own. What do they do right? What is easy to navigate? What is frustrating or hard to read? You can emulate their success and discard their mistakes to build your own website.
Of course, it’s about more than just a website these days. You may need the help of a website programmer to build out not just a website, but also a social media presence that can help you reach customers.
And there is also the tried and true method of email marketing. This might be considered “old-fashioned” among non-traditional advertising methods, but emailing things like coupons, events, and menu updates can keep you on customers’ minds. If you are wondering how to open a successful restaurant, check out the email campaigns of restaurants you’ve visited. Just like with websites, you can glean best practices from these while ignoring things that aren’t so great.
4. Get Creative
These are just two obvious ways of advertising. When it comes to how to open a successful restaurant, though, creativity is key.
There is no reason you need to stick only to the obvious methods of advertising and getting your name out there to the public. You should feel free to get as creative as you want with your marketing.
If creativity isn’t your strong suit, or maybe even if it is, you might consider employing the help of an advertising agency to fine-tune your marketing approach for your new restaurant. Marketing agencies are experts in all forms of advertisement, from the traditional to the truly unique.
Some great ways you can reach customers includes things like attending events, offering samples, and having a fun presence on social media. An Instagram account that features things like recipes and personal stories can make you feel more human to your customers. This will make them more inclined to choose you when they’re thinking of where to dine out for the evening.
Events are another great thing you can do. If you’re wondering how to open a successful restaurant in your community, go be with that community! Attending community events lets you show off what you have to offer while getting face to face with the people you’d be serving. There is no better way to build a rapport with your customers than to establish a personal connection like this.
5. Hire Professionals
If all of these tips about how to open a successful restaurant are beginning to sound overwhelming, maybe you should consider getting some professionals on your side. You don’t need to do all of this alone. There are people who are great at coordinating events, building social media profiles, and doing all sorts of advertising tasks.
Especially in the early days of a new restaurant, it can certainly feel like you have no choice but to go it alone. Fortunately, this is not actually the case.
Of course, advertising specialists and brand strategy consulting services are not free. That’s why it’s important to include professionals in your start up budget. Your initial investment should have a little set aside for hiring the kinds of people you will need in order to help you build your brand and reach customers.
Not to mention the professionals you’ll need inside the restaurant itself. From cooks to cleaners to builders, it takes a lot of dedicated hands to make a restaurant successful when it opens. Employee costs can be a heavy burden up front before you really start generating revenue, but you simply can’t do without these kinds of professionals to guide you along your way.
Part of how to open a successful restaurant comes down to the people who help you open that restaurant. If you have personal recommendations from friends and the like, try to stick with those. Having the best people around you as you open your restaurant will help smooth out the process.
It can be tempting to cut costs here, but don’t forget that the people you hire now might be with you for a long time throughout this process. They will be vital to your success. You will often get what you pay for, so think carefully before choosing a professional that comes at a discount.
6. Branch Out
These days, a lot of restaurants do so much more than simply serve food. All kinds of restaurants are branching out into other areas. That doesn’t just mean kids’ birthday parties, either.
When thinking about how to open a successful restaurant and keep it successful for the long haul, think about the kinds of areas you might be able to branch out into. Some restaurants also have a club or dance floor on the side, some simply have a bar. Some restaurants focus on catering as a side business or encourage group events like bachelorette parties.
All of these avenues come with additional costs and challenges. For example, in order to have a bar, you might need a different kind of liquor license. In order to provide catering you might also be looking at additional licenses, depending on where you are located.
While considering additional services you might be able to provide, also consider the costs and hurdles involved in those services. Laws and procedures often change from state to state, so look into your state and even city’s laws and regulations regarding operating a restaurant business.
You may find that your restaurant naturally lends itself to some sort of additional service. That’s great! Just ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to avoid legal hurdles if you go this route.
7. Protect Yourself
Speaking of legal hurdles, you should spend a moment considering how to protect yourself while you are thinking about how to open a successful restaurant. Like any business, a new restaurant is open to certain risks. These are more likely to hit you if you aren’t expecting them thought.
Some common risks for restaurants include things like property damage, fire, water damage, liquor liability, personal injuries, and equipment failure. And that doesn’t even touch on things like food contamination or spoilage.
These can all be major setbacks for a new restaurant. All that careful work you put into how to open a successful restaurant may be dashed due to a malfunction in some machine or device that you overlooked.
Insurance can help mitigate the pain of some of these issues. This is a good initial investment for anyone looking to open a new restaurant. It will not only protect you now, but also in the long run.
However, there is a lot you can do on your own, as well. You can learn how to detect fraud before it becomes a major issue that impairs your business, for example. Or you can learn what you can about the people manufacturing the equipment you’ll need, including how often that equipment fails or has resulted in things like breakdowns and fires.
8. Perfect Your Look
Finally, think about your look. You can’t learn how to open a successful restaurant without learning at least a little about the aesthetics. Look is important to your customers. It will stick in their minds for a long time to come, so make sure your restaurant reflects your theme and design aesthetic.
This is yet another area where you can seek the help of professionals. You could hire kitchen remodeling services to get your kitchen looking just the way you want it. Sure, this isn’t an area that many customers will see, but it still contributes to the overall look and feel of your restaurant. And there are restaurants that have removed the curtain between kitchen and dining area, allowing customers to see exactly how their meals are made. This is a more modern trend that might appeal to you as well.
Perfecting your look is something you will want to do early on, if you can. It is not merely the end result of all this hard work into how to open a successful restaurant — it is also what might help your restaurant become successful in the first place.
For example, you could set up a photo studio with kitchen photos that you use to advertise your restaurant before it is even open. Or you could photograph the dining area to show customers exactly where they’ll be eating when they visit.
This sets the “tone” for your whole restaurant. The look of your restaurant is about so much more than being pretty. It sets a mood and ambiance that will either attract or repel customers. Think hard about what mood is appropriate for your type of restaurant and the clients you are trying to entice. Then design around that, possibly with the help and guidance of professionals in the field who can show you how to open a successful restaurant.