Opening a restaurant business


While pondering what one could say succinctly and helpfully about opening a restaurant business I spent yesterday at the Stanford University 4th annual Food Summit,, where there was lots of talk about emerging innovations and entrepreneurial ways of the food distribution sector. Sounds pretty fancy, doesn’t it? Well, it kinda was and it was also some fancy words on old concepts.

Fifty years ago in the US, restaurants were a public service merely used for those times when one was traveling or needed a replacement meal when unable to eat at home.  You see, it was the norm to eat at home far more than it is now. The average out-of-home spend was far lower than it is now. The restaurant industry has changed in several dimensions as well as across spectrums. A restaurant simply is no longer what it used to be either culturally or business wise.  So, my point is that food innovation and entrepreneurship is anything but new to 2013.

But all of this listening and pondering made me distill my thoughts on the skill set necessary for opening a restaurant business. It is somewhere between cooking schools and business skills. One doesn’t seem to work without the other and one doesn’t replace the other.

It would obviously take way more than one blog entry to cover the topic of how to open a restaurant but here are the basics in a few words.

1)            Clearly define the concept.  As in crystal clear. Spell it out, write it out, and talk it out. Don’t leave anything to the imagination in the concept defining.

2)            Determine your break-even point. That is the point where you stop paying to have a business and the moment just before you start making money. I can’t emphasize the importance of knowing one’s break-even point.

3)            Have an operations plan. What needs to get done, who will do it and how it will be measured.

I’d suggest imagining the opening process in your mind’s eye from start to finish. Feel free to leave a comment if there is an area of the opening process  with which  you’d like some help.

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