Opening a restaurant is one of the most creative, rewarding and stressful experiences you’ll go through. Having opened a few restaurants for clients as well as my own, here are a few things I would recommend.
It’s tempting to start with a large menu and can be difficult to cut out dishes you love. But with the right launch restaurant marketing campaign, you will be busy from the get-go. Better to have a smaller menu of very well-executed items. You can also add to the menu once your team gets a feel for a busy service and you get customer feedback.
Environmental Health Visit
Don’t leave contacting the local council until after you’re opened, otherwise you may have to wait weeks for a visit and a Food Safety rating. Without a food rating score of 3 or more Deliveroo and Uber won’t list you (City Pantry need a rating of 4 or above). So that delay will cost you money.
For larger places the electricity bills can be huge. Our Clerkenwell restaurant is 4,500 sq feet, with lots of space in the basement. We wished we’d added timers or motion detectors as the lights in the staff room, staff toilet and store rooms are constantly left on!
Commercial restaurant seating is very expensive for decent designs, too much for our budgets. Although they say you’re paying for durability, I don’t buy it. We bought the chairs for our Clerkenwell restaurant in a sale at Habitat for a bargain price! The in store manager in Habitat was also able to give a further discount for a bulk buy.
Be prepared to say no!
We ran a very successful launch campaign, too successful really as we tried to accommodate everyone that came. We’d spent a fortunate on opening and loved having a very busy restaurant in those early days. However we couldn’t handle so many tables and should have turned some away – which would have been better for our reputation. There were quite a few people that didn’t get the experience we wanted, so some were left disappointed. It’s wasn’t all bad, by any means but in hindsight running at a capacity of 80% for the first couple of weeks would have been better for everyone.
I strongly recommend you get a Avios American Express credit card and buy everything you can on it. We bought 8 lounge chairs from a new company that ultimately failed to deliver. They messed us around for weeks. Eventually we contacted Amex and got a full refund. Having subsequently looked at their Trust Pilot reviews, it’s lucky we did – lots of people said they’d lost they money by paying with a debit card.
If you put everything you can on the Avios (tiles, furniture, sinks, toilets, lights etc) you’ll be collecting Airmiles so will get a free holiday at the end of the build – you’ll need it!