Originally published in The Frederick News Post

By Luis Diaz Colorado

The passion of food starts in your mind, just when you are hosting a nice gathering. When you want people to enjoy a different taste than the rest and you dream of having your own place. You imagine looking at it from a distance and seeing people gathered around having the best of times.  It is worth all the hurdles you need to go through to attain success. After all, opening your restaurant requires a great deal of mental, physical, and financial investment.

Let’s look deeper at the areas that you need to be attentive to before getting distracted with the bright dream of restaurant owner.

First, you need to find the best geographic location and know the customer base that will match your menu. In other words, know your target audience for that location. From there, plan carefully the setup of your kitchen and equipment needed for your operations. It is crucial that you stay within a certain budget, and make sure you are not purchasing equipment that will be seldom use. If possible, take tours of other kitchens and ask around other business owners for best practices. In this way, you may avoid unnecessary expenses, and channel your resources in other useful areas of your investment. You must create a theme for your restaurant that creates the warm, welcoming atmosphere that will appeal to your client base.  

Menu – The menu will determine who will be your customer, what equipment you will need, what expertise will be required by your staff, your suppliers, and ultimately, your pricing. You will need to be very diligent in building a menu that meets the expectations of your demographics, your staff’s skills, the equipment you have, and the availability of the ingredients through local suppliers.

Theme – The décor, logo, colors, uniforms, advertisement, and sometime even the name of your restaurant drive the branding appeal. Carefully examine what theme will be proper to match your menu and the ambiance you want to create. For example, if you are opening restaurant that features your old time family secret recipes, naming your restaurant after yourself or a love relative may tell the story. If you are focusing on a particular cuisine style, then choose a name that ties into that cuisine origins.

Equipment needed/layout - List all the equipment that you will need to be able to produce your menu. Then match it to the physical area in your new restaurant space.  Will your staff be able to flow through the front of the house to the back without posing conflicts in the workflow of others? Physical limitations of the space or local requirements. Knowing what equipment you will need could save you time and money. And are a major consideration.

Financial planning – very careful financial planning is a must in order to succeed in the restaurant business. Building a business plan can be the best task you can accomplished for your operations.  A business plan will bring together all the aspects that affect your business operations. The plan will help you obtain a clear picture of your finances, prior and after opening. Often, a business plan is required in order to apply for financing. It is a challenging task to complete, but it helps the restaurant owner stay on track with their goals and objectives.  To seek free professional assistance in completing your business plan go SCORE FREDERICK .If you are working with a hired professional to complete your plan, make sure that it is a reputable and industry savvy individual.

Staffing – Select the right staff and make sure they are trained to produce your menu, sell it to your customers, and live to your standards. Hiring experienced staff members is a great option, but do not forget that you must provide additional and ongoing training to make sure your quality standards are being followed. Always account for the cost of your payroll in your financial plan.

Competition - Identify who is your competition, how are you different from them?  What are you offering that will entice customer to choose you over them? Compare their offerings to what you plan to offer, advertising methods, what gimmicks is your competition using to bring in customers.  You should review social media reviews of your competition. This will give you an insight on what some of their customers are valuing from their dining experience.  Be creative, be different.

Marketing - There are lots of marketing resources for your new business. But keep in mind that not all these will work effectively for you. Building your website, ordering business cards, placing ads in local media are all interconnected in effectively marketing your new business. Be careful with offering deep discounts too often or at all (coupons). Sometimes, it doesn’t translate to repeat customers, thus wasting your money and time. Don’t overlook the importance of soft openings by letting the local community try out your menu before you finalize it. You will then know if the menu is proper for your targeted clientele, that your kitchen is properly set up to manage it, your staff can create it, and that is priced accordingly. It will help generate buzz about your upcoming Grand Opening. 

Owning your own restaurant can be a very rewarding experience. It is also a risky one. Don’t overlook the need for proper counseling and planning. Ask for help when you need it, even if you think you know all the answers, all the information you can gather will help you in having a greater chance of success.

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Luis Diaz-Colorado is a local entrepreneur and ceratitid mentor with SCORE Frederick.

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SCORE Frederick is part of a nationwide volunteer network of 310 chapters dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. SCORE Frederick provides free and confidential business advice and mentoring to start-up businesses and to established small businesses in Fredrick and Carroll counties. SCORE Frederick also offers business workshops for both start-ups and established businesses. For more information go to http://www.scorefrederick.org.  Once on the site to register for mentoring, click on "register for mentoring" and fill in the request sheet and submit.A Mentor will make contact within a week.