Have you dreamed of opening a restaurant? Strategically building on your passion is a big part of the equation when aiming for great results. Matching it with great knowledge, tools and resources turns that passion into a reality.
Highly successful operators and managers focus on five key areas when opening and running new restaurants. Here are the building blocks to help your venture get started and flourish.
Know and share your culture.
What is the vision, the mission and the purpose of your company? What are your core values? How do you expect your team to treat each other and your customers? What are your expectations of how you treat your team? Is the entire team aligned with it? Do you have a system in place that recognizes successes and accomplishments?
Your culture should resonate throughout your team and restaurant and not be just talking points. Lead by example so that the culture is seen and heard.
Know your numbers.
Know your key performance indicators (KPIs) and business metrics. When opening a business, operators should have a structure in place that provides easy access to data such as cost of goods sold, labor (broken out by hourly and management), product mix, comp growth (net sales and transactions) week over week, month over month, quarter over quarter, year over year, etc.
These are just to name a few. Management consultant Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets improved.”
Keep in mind that bad data inputs always lead to bad data outputs that could potentially lead you off course and down the wrong path. When you have good data coming in, you will hopefully have good, actionable data coming out for sound decision making.
Know your customers.
Be “the mayor of your town.” Be visible, engaged and focused on your guests and their needs. Connecting to and interacting with as many guests on a name-by-name basis allows you to ask for honest feedback while breaking down barriers of approachability if something with their experience were to go wrong.
Get involved with your community and chamber of commerce. Volunteer with local charities or non-profits. Gather insights as to what brought your guests in and or made them come back.
Some great digital platforms can help anonymously survey your guests’ experiences and provide actionable data. This information is vital and will help guide your business on how to continue best serving your guests, whether it’s through loyalty rewards, catering, third-party delivery, takeout, dining in, drive-thru, speed of service, order accuracy, cleanliness, quality products, flavor profiles or atmosphere.
These standards may include vendor contacts, day-to-day operational execution covering safety and sanitation, recipe guides, build charts, inventory reports, guidelines that cover financial reporting, hours of operation, holiday closures, uniform standards, ordering guides and product standards, daily temp charts, roles and responsibilities, human resources, marketing, equipment standards and whatever else that calls for standardization across one or more areas of operating the restaurant.
Know your operations manual.
If you don’t have one, create one. If you have one, update it regularly so it aligns with current standards.
Documenting the who, what, when, where, how and why you operate the way you do helps with training, consistency and time management among other things. Disseminating the information to your team helps reduce your time as being the resource so you can focus bigger picture tasks and strategy.
Know your safety and sanitation standards.
Leaders in the building must have a good understanding and practice of safety and sanitation standards. No one wants to eat in a dirty restaurant. No one wants to work in an unsafe environment.
If you don’t have someone consistently developing and guiding the team on these expectations, this can quickly take a restaurant down the wrong path. There are a lot of great resources to help with knowledge sharing.
The National Restaurant Association Education Foundation (NRAEF) has several certification courses for food safety and sanitation that are required by many health departments. At Full Course, we also consistently update our library with courses specific to restaurant operations that help bridge the gaps between classwork and real-world scenarios.
Following these five guidelines will help start and grow a restaurant business. If you lay the groundwork ahead of time, it will build the foundation for success.
James Kahler (MBA, CFE) is the chief operations officer at Full Course, a restaurant investment and development group.