As exciting as it sounds, starting a new restaurant or bistro is challenging, and it’ll give you a few headaches.
But how can you ensure you get the best start with this new adventure? We’ve spoken to several restaurants from Superb’s worldwide community and identified the top 7 ways to succeed with your restaurant opening.
What makes your restaurant or bistro unique? How are you planning to provide memorable experiences?
These questions will guide every decision, and the starting point is the concept. What is your dream? Do you care about sustainability? Local farmers and suppliers? Do you want to have the best fish in town?
Find out what suits you, where you can excel, and then pursue it. This is a competitive industry, and you must stand out.
Creating a solid concept that you’re passionate about makes everything easier. Your guests will share your passion, and you’ll inspire them with every service. There's nothing more memorable than that.
The idea behind Ghrelin is to put the guests in the centre of the dining experience. We choose everything in the guests’ best interest. From our own experiences, we find what we think is best for our guests. And if we do not hit the right spot, we change it, listen to the guests, and make sure to incorporate their wishes. — Anders Kuk Kristensen from Ghrelin
Research might sound boring, but it’s crucial if you want your restaurant to succeed.
Study your city's demographics, market and competition to make sure you have the information. Then, choose a space that suits your restaurant's needs. Do you want a lot of seats? Do you want an open kitchen? How many team members will you have?
Will you have families visiting? Couples? Groups? Information is crucial, and these kinds of questions help you decide on the location and menu.
When it comes to the audience, find a gap in the market – something guests want but don't yet have. Or even better: something they haven't even thought about yet!
According to Camilla Topham, co-founder of Distrkt, “Location ultimately impacts the type of business a restaurant can be. There are some operators who can locate in the middle of nowhere and people will come. But mostly, you want to pair your restaurant offering with an area that has compatible dynamics. Whether that's a strong lunch trade or an evening trade. All of this impacts your budget and what you can afford to pay in rent.
The first question we always ask is, what is the offering – who is your customer?
Secondly, it's really important to know what your budget is. It’s really critical – budget is everything.
If you've got a really low budget, you’re just not going to be able to afford Soho rent. You can look at more neighbourhood locations. In London, look a bit further east if it's quite an edgy food concept, for example.”
Superb's Guest Experience Management platform lets us know our guests way better than before and makes it easier to provide a more personalized guest experience. Working with Superb, we feel that we are part of changing the industry. — Jonas Lagerström from Etoile
Starting a restaurant (like any new business) requires a strong business plan.
Business plans for restaurants describe all of the aspects of your new business, from your concept to your economic situation. The purpose is to help you realise the finer details and package your restaurant in a way that lets you seek out investors and partners. Your bank may also want to see your restaurant business plan when it comes to taking a loan. For this, it may also be beneficial for you to have your contracts in order, so the legal aspect is clear.
Most restaurant business plans include:
What technology do you need to succeed in the new era of hospitality? Guests are expecting more than just good food when they dine out. They expect personalised experiences, and it's up to you to make them memorable.
Reservations, POS and Payments. Superb’s Guest Experience Management platform (GXM) makes it easy to start a restaurant by gathering everything you need in one platform. Besides taking reservations, managing orders and handling payments, GXM gives you different revenue options and helps you manage your online presence.
Think of our Guest Experience Management platform as all the tools you need to open a restaurant – in one simple-to-use platform.
Guests are making choices online, which means it's important to think beyond a standard booking system and use a platform that equips you to market your entire restaurant online.
Think about this: do you have a functioning website? Is it easy to find the reservation link? Is the reservation process smooth? Is the system sleek and elegant?
These are elements that Superb can help with. By using a GXM platform, you'll make sure everything is right from the first step. The look and feel of the system will leave a mark on your guests, making them eager to visit. It’ll also help you stay true to your brand identity, showing that you're in it to win it.
Making reservations online is a nice place to start, but there are other revenue streams to activate. GXM helps you sell unique experiences, gift cards, events and more. It also helps you leave a good first impression on your new guests, by allowing them to find you online and make bookings across all devices.
Choosing a GXM platform allows you to gather all tools in one single system while collecting insights about your guests and business. This way, you know what you can improve in your performance and provide every guest with a personalised experience, making them want to return.
“I was using too many systems and wanted more structure. Superb's all-in-one solution simplifies my daily operations and gathers all my guest data in one place. It makes it much easier for my team to make each guest feel special and build relationships.” — Roy Magne Berglund of Lofoten Food Studio in Norway
Your staff are an extension of your restaurant and one of the key elements to your success. Establish the right culture to make your staff feel part of something and keep them inspired and engaged, helping you reduce staff costs. And this culture is something that starts from the beginning – from the first day you decide to open a restaurant.
Once you’ve started your business, it’s about retaining your staff and making sure they feel valued. Collect feedback from your team, so you know if they’re happy with the work.
If you're using Superb’s Guest Experience Management platform, you’ll also ease their workload, allowing them to use one system with all necessary tools.
To me, the core of a restaurant is how good your team is. Even though I am the owner of Iluka, the whole team has been part of the restaurant since the opening, and we all share this dream. — Beau Clugston from Iluka
The last step in how to open a restaurant? Tell the world about it!
Here are a few ways to do just that:
By the time you reach this point, you’ve already successfully started your restaurant and are open for business. One great way to thank the community (and find new guests) is to host an event and ask your local community to come by for a glass of wine on the house.
In the beginning, it’s important to make your audience aware of your restaurant and spread the word. Think creatively and remember… the more authentic, the better.
Opening a new restaurant or bistro can be tough, but it’ll be one of the most rewarding adventures you embark on. Our Guest Experience Management platform is your ally, and Superb can make the job easier for you and your team, allowing you to save time for what matters the most – your passion for the industry and the guest experience.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how much it costs to start a restaurant. Start-up costs depend on many factors like:
Use your restaurant business plan to determine the costs and create a realistic budget before opening your doors. While working with numbers isn’t as fun as developing your restaurant brand and trying new recipes, knowing your costs in advance helps you avoid sticky situations and unexpected expenses down the line.
While cost is important, Andrew Wong suggests that there’s something even more important than spreadsheets and math. “Rent is extortionately high. Margins are very small and there’s competition everywhere. Competition is what pushes us all. But I think, as a restaurant industry, there are underlying problems such as staff costs, rents, VAT, and food costs. Everything is geared towards the fact that if you want to do something special as a restaurant, you have to compromise quality. And if you don’t compromise on quality, you have to eat into your profits. That’s the reality of it.
At A. Wong, we have the understanding that the profit line is subsidiary to creativity.
It's more than chasing a 60% or 70% GP (gross profit). We decide that we want to introduce this ingredient to our guests, and that’s the defining thing. Afterwards, we can talk about the GP and the costs. After first deciding that we put creativity and passion above the bottom line.
If you're a restaurant that runs strictly on GPs, on mathematics, where every day you start by looking at a spreadsheet, it's a dangerous game.
And actually, I think they're the ones who are going to suffer more because they aren’t able to see the problem beyond the spreadsheet.
I think it isn't just economics. It's about relationships. And it's about your affinity with your guests that you build up, and it's that warmth and that sense of responsibility to the community, which will determine whether or not they come to support you time after time.
Starting a restaurant is a process that requires dedication and commitment… and it’s not for the faint-hearted. Here are the secrets from experienced restaurant owners that you can use when starting out.
Mikael Svensson of Kontrast in Norway, mentions one of the most rewarding experiences for him was to start slowly and watch Kontrast grow.
He started slowly and decided not to put any external pressure on himself. ‘Baby steps’ are what he calls the approach that ultimately allowed him to avoid debt and work on his terms by not taking investors.
Not relying on investors means that you can leave the key and go, giving you full freedom if things don't work out.
This kind of independence has always been crucial to Jonas Lagerström of Etoile in Sweden as well. He believes this is the most reliable way to ensure you do exactly what you want. "We do what we do, and if they like it, they like it. We have always kept our philosophy.”
You have to find good chefs that understand your view and are committed to the job.
As Vincent Caballes of Zuuma puts it, “You will probably have to work 16 hour-days in the first months of starting a new restaurant. But if you start with a small team, you can get full control of your business. Trusting your team will also bring you long term results that benefits your business and your life.”
Lorenzo Costa of Oltre refers to his team as his family, which he believes is "the engine and the soul of our restaurant and contributes to creating the vibes our guests are looking for."
It might be challenging to find a healthy work-life balance when you first start, but the business will become steadier in time. Remember to find time to unwind so that you can keep a fresh outlook when you're back in the restaurant. As Anders Kuk Kristensen of Ghrelin puts it, "You cannot do everything by yourself, and if you try, you’ll fail."
"Top notch. Every day. No matter the chefs who are working. It's the consistency of quality." These are the words of Andreas Ottosen. He believes in being faithful to yourself and always aiming to be better. “Don't be too easily satisfied with your product, and always try to reach your best. The restaurant industry is ever-changing, so you have to pay attention to it and adapt, while still making it your own.”
Chef Anders Kuk Krististen believes in finding solutions, "We see no problems, only challenges." In Ghrelin, they take the guests' requests as a way to push themselves and continuously improve the service and experience.
"Some people, after 40 years, are still trying to find what they love. I found out when I was just 21. I'm very lucky," says Deepanker Khosla of Haoma. He believes you have to be passionate to make the business work.
Running a restaurant takes serious commitment, passion and sometimes… a little bit of stubbornness.
Beau Clugston of Iluka explains, “First of all, you need to be brave and stubborn. To open your own place, as in my case with no investors, is a huge amount of hard work and financial stress. I am lucky to have a great team that supports me and the restaurant, as well as a team that shares the same vision and is as well willing to work hard to reach our goals. When it comes to the quality of food, beverage and service, we do not compromise.”
Choosing the right team and developing a concept requires careful planning, but as long as you're passionate about your idea and aim to be the best, you’ll excel with your restaurant.
No one is born with experience, it’s earned. To be truly successful in the restaurant industry, you need to have a great concept and offer an exceptional guest experience.
If you want to start a restaurant and have no experience in the hospitality industry, try talking to restaurateurs and asking how they did it. You’ll quickly see that it’s not only the food… but the passion for guest experience that makes a great restaurant.
The restaurant industry is continuing to prove its worth by bringing in $659 billion in industry sales in 2020 (that’s just in the USA and with the pandemic).
The profitability of starting a restaurant depends on factors like the size and type of restaurant, location and other economic factors including investors and loan rates.
The 2 factors that affect restaurant profitability the most are food and labour costs. Be sure to carefully consider these when creating your restaurant business plan.
When starting a new restaurant, you can’t forget about the software (and hardware) that will ultimately help you pay for it all. Making your first sale is a huge milestone and it should be seamless for both you and the guest.
To operate smoothly, choose a payments processor that accepts major credit cards and a POS system (point-of-sale) that can do all of the following (and more):
An all-in-one restaurant guest experience management platform can take the data from the POS and combine it with other guest data – giving you a complete overview of your restaurant’s performance and guest profiles.