An aspiring restaurateur needs to be smart when it comes to running a successful restaurant because with more than a million dining establishments open in the United States, the competition is sharp and the margins are thin.
While the oft-cited statistic that 90 percent of new restaurants close within the first year of business is false, a recent study did show that restaurant success can be challenging, with a 17 percent failure rate. So, once you have the culinary expertise, the next step is making sure your eatery hits the sweet spot in the marketplace.
“Running a successful restaurant isn’t as simple as setting up shop and hoping customers make it a hit,” says a Chef-Instructor here at the Culinary Institute LeNôtre. “There are some important steps you can take to give yourself a leg up on the competition and make your restaurant dreams a reality.”
Here are five secrets to running a successful restaurant:
Pay your dues
While you may be eager to sign the lease and open the doors to your new place as soon as you leave culinary school, the best course of action may be to gain experience by working for someone else, in a variety of roles, to get an idea of how the business side actually works. Several top chefs followed this path and gleaned valuable insights they used when opening their own establishments.
Become an expert
Finding your culinary passion and developing it will allow you to create a niche that only you can serve. Specialization can help your restaurant stand out from a crowd of general eateries, allowing your business to establish a food foothold. Or, if you’re challenging an established market, like desserts, the work you put in will help ensure your pastries are the best.
Plan and save
Opening a restaurant should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Establish a solid business plan that considers numerous factors, from location and equipment to cash flow. Test your food with groups like people in the area in which you plan to open your restaurant to get an idea of what diners want. And most new restaurateurs say you’ll need to double the amount of money you think you’ll need to get your place up and running.
Build a solid team
Running a successful restaurant takes more than just one person – it takes a village of folks all invested in the overall health of the business. Developing relationships with people you trust can go a long way toward helping the business run smoothly. Hiring the right people at every level of the operation can make or break things, as poor service and unreliable staff can sink even an eatery featuring delicious food.
In today’s marketplace, you can’t just rely on word of mouth to keep your restaurant afloat. With the numerous outlets available for savvy owners, you can make sure the marketplace knows about your business and what it offers. For example, conduct a cooking demonstration at your local TV station, use social media to highlight daily specials, and offer check-in deals to Yelp visitors.
Learning how to share the pleasure of cooking is one thing. Running a successful restaurant is another. But if you plan well, take your time, listen to the advice of other restaurateurs and follow these tips, your restaurant can be a great success story.
“There’s no one right way to open a restaurant, but the secret to success is a combination of great cooking and smart business,” says one of our Chef-Instructors here at the Culinary Institute LeNôtre. “Believe in your vision, execute it wisely, treat your customers well, follow these tips and your restaurant will be on the right path.”