Last week, we discussed the pros and cons of non-traditional restaurant start-ups, like food trucks, online restaurants, and pop-ups. With so many specific challenges for those businesses, it can be easy to assume that a more traditional restaurant start-up experience is comparatively cut and dried. The thing is, to start-up any restaurant is to deal with a dozen moving parts, all plugging away in concert so that the whole can work.
Here are just a few important, “bare bones” to-dos when starting up your brick and mortar restaurant.
1. Find the best location.
Picking the location for your restaurant is not just about picking your general area of town; it’s also about picking the actual building and specific spot where that building is located. What does the outside of the building look like? Does it include a parking lot? Is there decent street parking nearby or dependable public transportation within walking distance? Can you imagine getting good foot traffic at the location? What are your potential neighbors like, both homes and businesses?
Is buying or leasing more advantageous at this point? Does the building have (or can you install) a good, appealing sign that can really get potential guests’ attention? It is really tricky to move locations after you’ve laid roots, so make sure to weigh your options very carefully.
Is your brand already established from a previous endeavor (food truck, pop-up, or first brick and mortar restaurant) or are you building it from ground up today? That may have some effect on the physical structure of the location you choose. You may also need to consider spaces that can be easily configured to avoid bottleneck and that can offer the best customer flow, particularly if you are planning limited service.
2. Cover all regulations and get your licenses.
There are many, many different federal, state, and local regulations to follow and licenses to secure for any restaurant — and even more if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront. You’ll definitely need a business license, certificate of occupancy, sign permit, and a building health permit, but you might also need a valet parking permit, music license, liquor license, and dumpster placement permit. This is not an exhaustive list and a lot of it will depend on your particular business, so do your research when planning out what permits and licenses you need. Definitely consult an attorney to make sure you have covered all your bases.
3. Set up your insurance.
Along with your licenses and permits, you absolutely need insurance for your restaurant. Yes, business insurance seems like a no brainer, but there needs to be some research involved with your decision. You have so many different options, and your needed coverage could very well fall into several policy types, from property insurance to liability insurance to rising water damage coverage and flood damage coverage — they sound the same, but those last two cover different things.
What you chose for your insurance policy will absolutely depend on the specifics of your particular business. Picking the right coverage could be the difference between recovering after a disaster — or closing your doors for good.
4. Pick and install your equipment.
What do you need for your kitchen? You don’t want to underplan what kinds of equipment you need, but you also don’t want to buy too many appliances and then realize you never use them. Shop around, look online and see what other restaurant owners are saying about certain brands, and work the numbers to determine if buying or leasing makes sense for you. Lean toward pieces of equipment that will be multitaskers for your overall menu.
5. Utilize storage space.
One of the benefits to running a brick and mortar restaurant — compared to a food truck or pop-up — is you will likely have substantial storage for your ingredients and your equipment (along with your tableware and other supplies needed to maintain a kitchen and dining room). But if you’re going to have the space, it just makes sense to organize your supplies both to utilize the space most efficiently and (in the case of your cooler and freezer), ensure you’re following proper health code requirements. Utilizing a FIFO (first in, first out) method for perishables will keep the majority of your stock fresh and usable, assuming your inventory purchases align well with your needs.
6. Set up a website.
All restaurants should have some kind of website for their business. How much you put on it really depends on the type of restaurant you have and what you want the website to do for you, although usually your location, contact information, and an up-to-date menu are givens.
Even if you’re not ready this very moment to set up a comprehensive website (for instance, if you want to hire a professional to design it), you should at least buy your domain name as soon as possible. Securing a domain name is often relatively cheap, and finding one that fits your business name as closely as possible is imperative. Pick and buy it as soon as you can. In the meantime, be sure that your business listing on Yelp, Google, and Yahoo are all up-to-date, just as you would your own website.
7. Hire a staff.
As much as you’d like to run it all on your own, a brick and mortar restaurant needs staff. Be realistic about how many staff members you’ll need per shift in terms of both front-of-the-house and kitchen staff. Be strategic when it comes to the kinds of employees you hire. And make sure to thoroughly train all new employees … and then offer periodical refresher training to keep your entire staff on point.
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