Eating out is hard work -- at least for restaurant owners. "Entrepreneur" states that most eatery businesses fail within 12 months of opening, largely due to a lack of planning. It's easy to see why: There is so much more to a successful restaurant than the food and ambiance. Prospective restaurateurs should detail a realistic business plan, and include a checklist of materials they need to start their food service empires. These essential elements can be organized into four main categories.
Finances, Regulations & Marketing
There are myriad money and licensing concerns during the restaurant startup phase, and these can be more important than the creative side of designing a menu, typing up some advertising fliers and cooking delicious meals. Would-be restaurant owners need to research and include the following on their checklist: seed money and ongoing financing; food and beverage license costs; business taxes; food costs and menu pricing structure; equipment leasing/owning costs; restaurant rent/mortgage; payroll; insurance; marketing costs; trademark filing and maintenance costs; restaurant designing/building costs; theft and counterfeit money management costs; and cleaning costs. Depending on the type of restaurant and its location, these items are just a starting point.
Food, Safety & Public Health
It only takes one customer having a bad food experience to put a restaurant out of business. Safety issues abound in the dining world, and require diligence during the planning stages to prevent them. Some of these include training employees to properly use industrial cleaning equipment and solutions; employee personal hygiene signage; signage for restaurant sanitizing schedules and cleaning procedures; food product recall management; and use of latex gloves, hairnets and other safety clothing.
Advisers, Contractors and Employees
Aspiring restaurateurs don't have to know everything. For example, they are not required to memorize all the laws regulating restaurant operations and local zoning requirements for food establishments -- but they need to hire people who do. Retaining legal counsel, hiring an accountant, selecting contractors and designers to bring the building up to code and aesthetic standards are all to be considered during the startup process. After that, attention should be turned to producing a management team and staff, including: job description and employee handbook development; interviewing and hiring processes; salary and hourly pay structures; motivation, reward and payment schedules; and termination procedures.
Concept, Location & Equipment
After all of the previous items have been mapped out, the actual fun part begins: planning the look, feel and tastes of the eatery. Whether or not the restaurant owner is also the executive or head chef, many details will need to be decided. These include choosing a name, logo and color scheme; establishing the concept for the eatery; choosing a location and building an establishment or redesigning an existing space; designing signage and letterhead collateral; designing a menu; choosing cooking, serving and business equipment; shopping for furniture, decor, table linens, flatware, drinkware and utensils; and planning for opening day.