How To Start A Restaurant In The US – 5 Things To Keep In Mind
Thinking about how to start a restaurant?
The foodservice industry is massive. USD 899 billion in sales is massive, in the US.
It is this scale that has given the world of restaurants its very own spotlight. Reality shows, celebrity chefs, Michelin Stars, and much more add to the industry’s glamour.
Add to that the fact that people don’t stop eating and you have yourself a business that provides a service with a never-ending demand.
With that being said, this isn’t an easy world to survive in. 60% of restaurants fail within their first year.
Those aren’t great odds to work with. But the reality is that running a successful restaurant isn’t about odds. It is about good research, great management, and making the right decisions.
In this article, we look at how to start a restaurant that has the potential to be successful.
1. Create An Online Presence
Notorious Vice Creator Oobah Butler made his restaurant the most desirable place to visit in London by getting it to number 1 on Tripadvisor.
An online presence can be the difference between people knowing about your restaurant or not.
In densely commercialized metros, there are too many competitors vying for the same crowd.
To stand out, get online. Creating a profile on Yelp and delivery applications such as GrubHub is a great place to start. But also look at making Instagram and Facebook profiles. Also:
- Take food shots and put them on social media.
- Have your head chef/ cook make food videos.
- Put your location and contact on your social handles.
- Use social media to answer customers’ queries. Make sure you have the chat feature on.
- Even get on Twitter! Brands like Wendy’s are doing a great job at it!
Finally, if social media isn’t your cup of tea, get a website. Use your website as a place for customers to see your menu, location, pictures of food, and a word from you and your team.
Visibility is an important factor when learning how to start a restaurant.
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2. Choose An Appropriate Location
Location matters because it decides not only your revenue but at times your menu as well.
It is probably the first thing a restauranteur considers when thinking about how to start a restaurant.
Starting a deep-fried chicken wings restaurant near the suburbs might not be the best option. Permissions aside, parents might want to choose healthier options for their kids.
Take the same restaurant to a college town, and you have yourself a winner. Location determines two very important things:
- Your menu
- Your approach to marketing
Your approach to marketing depends on whether your restaurant is in a densely populated area or in an isolated location.
Densely populated areas require you to market aggressively. Malls, for example, have competing restaurants lined up side by side in food courts.
To compete, you need to have ads, sales, and a great online presence.
Restaurants in these areas also often compete and compare on speed so as to meet busy lifestyles and get more feet in.
Isolated locations require you to position smartly. If the affordable location has given you a larger space, think about how you can weave this into a USP over metro competitors.
Double down on the quiet location. Maybe market this as a place to go with your family, or on a great date.
Both locations require you to market the experience and the food. The what and how to change depends completely from location to location.
As a result your menu also changes. Restaurants in quieter areas often have the time to prepare more elaborate dishes, whereas restaurants in densely populated areas can benefit from fast food and service.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule. Think about how you can use your location to your advantage.
3. Prioritize Hygiene, Food Laws And Regulations
Every restaurant needs to abide by food laws and regulations. And hygiene! It isn’t a pretty sight to see a rat in your restaurant, despite the attempts from Disney’s Ratatouille.
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Look towards the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as your shining guides.
Additionally, every state has its own regulations and requirements that you must adhere to. Food is a very sensitive object to be dealing with.
Its consumption is vital, but can also prove fatal if hygiene isn’t maintained.
Therefore, always keep regulations and hygiene in mind when thinking about how to start a restaurant.
4. Consider Becoming A Franchise
Being a franchise comes with many advantages:
- People already know about your franchise.
- All marketing is taken care of by the parent brand.
- The menu and staff training are often provided by the franchiser.
- The parent brand has its own hygiene regulations, which help keep an extra eye on your storefront.
There are many franchises in the US. From McDonald’s to Jersey Mike’s, you have numerous options.
However, every franchise has its own criteria for choosing. So, choose a growing brand and research a bit more to find out.
5. Research Trends
Trends aren’t simply limited to design and fashion. Every industry goes through them.
Subway, for example, popularized the ‘made in front of you’ trend, which many chain restaurants have replicated over the years.
When thinking about how to start a restaurant, research on:
- Cultural shifts and insights
- Popular restaurants and what makes them in demand
- Cuisines gaining popularity
- Health habits and evolution in recent years
These are just a few places to begin your journey. When thinking about how to start a restaurant, always base that thought partially on research and data.
A word of caution: Trends and fads aren’t the same thing. Trends indicate shifts in thinking, culture, and habits.
Fads are temporary spikes in cultures that die down quickly.
A restaurant is not an easy business to get into. A lot of time, research, and care have to be put into it in order to make it successful.
However, successful restaurants can develop regulars, a cult-like following, or even an entire fanbase.
Great service, quality food, and something that makes you stand out is your best friends when starting a restaurant.
This article is a good place to start, but there are many other factors to consider while beginning your journey. Think staff, branding, operating hours, alcohol or no alcohol, etc.