Restaurant Tools: Restaurant Opening Checklist

Push Operations
December 10, 2020

Opening a new restaurant is exciting but stressful. There are a lot of decisions to be made and sometimes, it’s hard to keep track of everything that has to be done.

Here’s a quick checklist to help you get started and move one step closer to opening night.

1. Create a business and nail down your brand

Determine your value proposition. Are you offering luxury or convenience? How will you summarize your restaurant to customers, investors, or future employees? What’s your elevator pitch? What makes you different?

With your value proposition and business approach solidified, it’s time to move to the intangible—the brand. Create a mood board of your restaurant. Exploring other restaurants and venues will help inspire you to translate your vision into life.

When you’re done, focus on a few elements, write out a pitch (value proposition), and share these with someone you trust. Does it make sense to them? If so, you’re ready. If not, go back to the drawing board.

2. Determine the perfect location and the best/cost effective equipment

It’s important that your restaurant is accessible to your audience. High traffic means higher profits. So, what matters the most in picking a location?

- Target market: Who is your target audience? Where do they already go?

- Market conditions: Have other restaurants in the area succeeded? Is there already-established foot traffic? Are the economic conditions favorable?

- Competition: How does your restaurant compare to the others nearby? How can you compete? What can you offer that they aren’t?

- Size of site: Is there enough room to fulfill the capacity you need to be successful? Is there kitchen space? Dining space? Storage space?

- Previous tenants: Who was there before you? Why did they leave? Is the landlord responsible and fair?

Besides a place, you’ll also need equipment, and restaurant equipment can be expensive. To save money, consider buying used: it’s a way to cut costs without cutting quality. There are online sites like BOE that sell a wide-variety of tools and appliances or sites like Restaurant Business Broker that sell according to theme.

3. Investigate software tools

In today’s digital age, there are growing ways to introduce technology into your processes: there are payroll tools to help bookkeepers and accountants easily budget money; scheduling tools to help managers track employee hours, tablets to help customers order themselves. And not only does technology help elevate efficiency, but it can also elevate the dining experience for customers (73% of diners agree that technology enhances their restaurant experience).Conduct an audit of your business and determine what technology would help your business. Your problems are unique: your technology choices should reflect that.

4. Hire the right employees and management team

With an average industry employee turnover rate of over 70%, it’s hard to hold onto employees, let alone find them.There’s different ways to go about it.

- Job boards are a great resource for getting started

- Referral programs can help you find people who are trusted

- Consultants have relationships and can help you meet people through networking

The amount of people you hire depends on the capacity of your restaurant, but, in general, you’ll need a head chef, a few sous chefs, waiters, hostesses, and a bartender (if you’re serving alcohol). First, focus your efforts on hiring a head chef: they’re the ones who will help you construct a menu, build a vision, and introduce a culture. Then, move to the staff.

5. Create a cost effective menu

A menu can differentiate your restaurant. But, no matter how cool, innovative, and unique a menu is, at the end of the day, it needs to be built to make you money.

First, do some competitive research. Are your local competitors offering similar items? If so, what are their prices? Your customers will compare too—even if it’s subconscious. Then, with a range in mind, build your own menu and focus on your gross profit margin. Run the numbers and confirm that the prices are enough to set you up for bottom-line success.

Another tip for building a cost effective menu is to introduce balance for price fluctuations. Mix in less variable cost items like chicken and pasta dishes to support more variable dishes like local meat or fish. It can anchor your menu to be more consistent and easy to predict and control the margin.

6. Look into restaurant consultants to streamline all processes

To open a restaurant, you’ll have to make a lot of decisions. Despite how much research you do yourself, you won’t have all the answers. Consultants have expertise with the industry: they know what works and what doesn’t. They’re well-versed in budgets, management systems, and hiring. They work with you to find unique solutions. Hiring a consultant is an investment, but it can set your restaurant up for success.