Top 15 tips for start-ups

startup300One thing that can be guaranteed every year in the hospitality game is that new restaurants will open and others will close. Sometimes, it can be the same business that does both within 12 months. But there are ways to get a start-up right so your new business venture does not become another closing statistic.

Some of the best in the industry offer their wisdom with these 15 tips on how to get your start-up right from the get-go.

Learn on someone else’s Job “If you really want to start your own business, then go work for six months for someone else who is in their own start-up phase. You will learn on the job what to do and what not to do. Take notes like crazy and you will see how very hard it is to do. If they get it all right, then just repeat everything they did.” Gail Donovan, Donovans, Melbourne

Be original “Develop original concepts from the ground up. Enlist a core group of partners and experts to develop these concepts and deliver them. Stefano and I are not content until we are very clear about what we are setting out to achieve and why. Then we embark on the fun stage of enlisting the right designers and architects. And remember to remain open and ready to explore new initiatives.” Julie Manfredi Hughes, Manfredi Enterprises (Osteria Balla, Espresso di Manfredi and Manfredi at Bells), NSW

Have a vision
“Have a clear concept of what you are offering and what it is going to be, and stick to it. This is not just about the food, but also what the restaurant is going to be and where. There is little point aimlessly following others, and customers like a consistent and reliable product, not one that is always changing.” Philip Johnson, E’cco, Brisbane

Create a strong business plan “The business plan is an essential aspect for any new venture and lays out each step towards your end goals. It should clearly explain the concepts, budget, forecasting of expenses and sales. Ideally, any new start-up would have the budget to sustain six-to-nine months without any profits.”
Raj Khanal, Niji Restaurant & Bar and Niji Sushi Bar, Sydney

Understand the process “Many new restaurant owners base their business plans on personal interests as opposed to what the market needs and can support. Investing money in research, development and planning, focus groups and bodies such as the local chamber of commerce is worthwhile. Make sure to understate income and overstate expenditure in all areas of the business plan.”
Jim Berardo, Berardo’s, Brisbane

Do the homework
“Know about developing trends in terms of customers’ taste, food preferences and local ingredients. Also research the area where you want to establish the business—find out about average income and demographic distribution of those living there and who visit as tourists. Competition analysis is extremely important when deciding initial market penetration strategy.” Gianpiero Battista, Southern Cross University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Lismore

Location, location, location
“The location of your restaurant is vital for attracting the desired clientele, and it also should fit in with the restaurant concept. Take the time to choose a location where your concept is unique and where it will work. This creates a great unique selling point to attract people through your doors and also limits competitors.”
Raj Khanal

Play to your strengths “Do the thing you do the best and don’t try to do everything. If you are a chef and that is your best talent, concentrate on what is going on in your kitchen, and hire someone who has much better experience for front of house. And be sure the staff out the front are listening to what customers are saying.” Eddie Leung, Spago, Sydney

Employ the right staff “This is when it is more important than at any other time to have the right staff. You are creating something from the ground up, and also making the first impression, so you need to have the right people to make it happen. Have the job descriptions very specific so that from the interview the staff—and you as well—know this is going to work.” Kiren Mainwaring, Co-Op Dining and Dear Friends, Perth

Make local connections “Invest time in supporting your local area’s producers and suppliers. Restaurants by nature have a very heavy footprint, becoming bigger every year. By supporting your local suppliers helps reduce this impact and just as importantly, supports the local economy.” Jim Berardo

Create a stand-out menu
“The key to the success is a smart chef who can create a great menu. The menu must embody the concept you want to develop, and the target diners must be the primary focus. The kitchen is the backbone of the restaurant and must be laid out efficiently to produce the high standard of food you desire on your menu.” Raj Khanal

Cents make dollars “Cash-flow projections must be in place, along with clear operational budgets and capital budgets, and the concept and operation brief must be clearly bedded down. If this is locked in, then set-up costs are reduced, which should mean the risk of failure is also reduced.” Jonn Close, CETN, Sydney

Balance the budget “Find out how much you can invest into the business, and realise the running capital is much, much bigger than you expected! It is not easy to break even at the beginning. The new restaurants that close within a year do because they don’t have enough running capital to cover their losses.” Eddie Leung

Keep your head low
“Start slowly and focus on fine-tuning what you are offering to the market. While you are doing so, avoid media attention and try to go six months without a review. You want to get everything right before the media comes in and puts you in the spotlight. Some restaurants want to chase attention before they have even finalised a menu.” Gail Donovan

Make a commitment “Be prepared to work extremely hard for your business, and enjoy it as you are doing it. And you had better enjoy it as you are going to be spending a lot of time doing it, every day. You have to be prepared to sacrifice everything to make it work, probably doing much of it yourself. If all that sounds like a hassle, then don’t bother.” Kiren Mainwaring 

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  1. Location matters a lot in the growth of the restaurant business. Whether to open a cafe or restaurant in a college or office, whether opening it on the highways next to the motels would be considered for the business.

  2. Location does matter Mark, but how about your online presence? The one thing a lot of small businesses and restaurant operators pay little attention to, is their online audience. Lucky for many of us, Google is making things easier through Google local and other platforms that allow us to monitor our audience’s online activity and behavior.

    My friend sent me this link a couple of days ago with a pretty good tips about starting out! thought i would share it with you guys

    oh and the last thing, get a good accountant, seriously, you will thank me later 🙂

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