By Faith McGregor

In the wake of shifting demographics, recovering economy, and new lifestyles, the number of food-service operations is going through the roof. This is a great opportunity to cash in on the trend, but a lot of competition means that cutting through the market noise can be a daunting endeavor.

Rest assured that this is not a get-rich-quick proposition: There are many moving parts to grasp and no shortcuts to take. But, don’t fret. There are some easy-to-digest steps to follow, tricks of the trade that will help you launch a restaurant business and have a head start in the competitive business landscape.

The importance of doing homework

Most restaurant operations fail during their first year and usually, it’s due to the lack of planning. Well, market research is the cornerstone of your business plan and ultimately, your success. Namely, you need to ensure that there is room for you in the market and to capture a portion of local customers who, for various reasons, want to dine out.

Scope out your competition and see if you can offer something that they cannot. This is the only way to validate your business ideas and translate them into reality.

Different strokes for different folks

Based on your findings and the target audience (empty nesters, seniors, baby boomers, generation Y, etc.), decide which type of restaurant makes the most sense: a traditional diner, pizzeria, international cuisine establishment, Chinese buffet, or something else.

Likewise, choose the style that works best for you: A quick service (fast food), midscale or upscale. It’s highly recommended to find your niche because the universal appeal is pretty much impossible to achieve. So, you are better off not repeating a common mistake of new entrepreneurs and trying to target 100% of the market.

Tools of the trade

One of the biggest investments of opening the restaurant is the kitchen. Thus, you have to figure out the budget for purchasing all the necessary pieces of equipment. It’s not a good idea to skimp on major appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators. A busy restaurant schedule requires industrial grade equipment that fits the layout of the kitchen perfectly.

What is more, energy-efficient products with an Energy Star label, such as Maytag refrigerators, are always preferable. They conserve a considerable amount of electricity and trim your utility bills in the long run. Consider also buying new and high-quality ranges, grills, ovens, and coolers. Just take your time and shop around for the best deals.

Work, work, work

Owning a restaurant business may appear like a dream come true, but bear in mind that to attract and retain customers, you need to be a graceful host. Yes, it’s easy to overlook this duty when you are bombarded with a barrage of other priorities such as developing a menu and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.

But, there is no going around the fact that opening, running, and growing a restaurant is hard work that often requires you to be physically present. Of course, you can make your life much easier by establishing a sound hiring policy and managing the personnel carefully.

Nurturing a swell experience

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the dining experience, which is fostered by multifarious factors such as décor, name, food concept, and staff of the restaurant. Note that it’s also the location that makes or breaks a restaurant business.

Using these different pieces of the puzzle, you need to meet and exceed expectations and separate yourself from the rest of the herd. Therefore, apart from relying on facts and figures, don’t hesitate to infuse your own taste and personality into the operations. Marketing and branding help as well, so make the most of them to spread the good word far and wide.

On the cutting edge of the industry

In this day and age, many people don’t have an inclination or time to cook at home. The future seems bright for the industry as a whole, but profit for your restaurant is everything but guaranteed. Thus, make an effort to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Decide which segment of the market and industry you want to enter. Put everything in writing. Don’t try to please everyone because you will end up delighting no one. Put the best face of your business forward and create buzz and excitement around it.

Faith McGregor is a writer, seeking beauty and happiness everywhere she goes and finding it in her work, family, and home. Passionate about just living life to the fullest, she’s into home decor and healthy lifestyle, trying to be the best version of herself and make her surroundings match.

photo by RonPorter