We all need to eat. So when it comes to thinking of a great business idea, opening a restaurant where people come to do just that seems like a failsafe option. The harsh reality though, is that 60% of restaurants fail within their first year of business.
On the other side of the plate, some top restaurateurs go on to create extremely successful businesses. Some even win Michelin stars and numerous other accolades.
More recently, fuelled by pandemic demand, many restaurants have also offered home delivery for the first time ever. Opening up their kitchens to a whole new audience, the food delivery industry is set to be worth a record-breaking $320 billion by 2029.
It’s clear that there's a huge opportunity to create a successful, profitable restaurant business since we all have an appetite for great food cooked by someone else.
But, potential restaurateurs need a clear strategy in mind to stay ahead of the game. We’ve researched advice from some of the world’s top chefs to discover the perfect recipe for restaurant success.
Master Your Craft
Cooking food for hundreds of diners a night is no easy feat. Not only does the food need to be cooked properly, but as a restaurant, dishes must have something special that diners can’t replicate at home.
In an interview with Build Series, Gordon Ramsay laments his frustration about those who open restaurants off the back of a great dinner party, or a random compliment about their food, without having any real understanding of the industry. Noting how doctors or lawyers “go through 8 to 10 years of training first”, Gordon stresses the importance of learning the craft of cooking, not to mention running a business before opening a restaurant.
So where should budding restaurateurs begin? Gordon suggests trialling with a pop-up restaurant can help iron out what works and what doesn’t. Plus to test whether you’re cut out for everything running a restaurant has to throw at you, before jumping in at the deep end.
Learn How To Run A Restaurant
Restaurants can be highly pressurised environments, both in the kitchen and on the restaurant floor when dealing with customers.
We’ve all seen examples of customers venting their frustration about a poor restaurant experience on Tripadvisor, which can have a devastating impact on that business. The reality though is it’s easy for things to get out of hand, especially without a solid team or even basic experience of the business side of running a restaurant.
“Knowledge is your passport”, Marco Pierre White told graduates of a catering course at Weston College. He added that students shouldn’t “think about the hours involved” in learning about the business and that during their spare time, they should “read, read and read about the great chefs.”
Marco’s one-time understudy Gordon Ramsay appears to agree with this statement, hinting at Marco himself when he said “If you want to become a great chef, you have to work with great chefs. And that's exactly what I did.”
Hire The Right People
No restaurateur can do it alone, as Wolfgang Puck explains, “It's very important in a restaurant to really do the right hiring because there's no restaurant that you have one cook and one chef and nobody else in the kitchen. Generally, you have five, ten, 15 people with you. So that's really important is to train them right, but first, you have to hire the right people.”
For those opening a restaurant for the first time, finding the perfect team can be a challenge. So, it’s crucial to establish what qualities and experience the business needs to thrive, before you make a single hire. Investing in your employees through training and mentoring is also key to building a strong team over time.
Make Sure Your Restaurant Keeps Up With Changing Tastes
Every decade sees its fair share of food trends. In the 1970s, the world was crazy about fondue. More recently, health trends have reigned supreme, especially all things kale and quinoa.
As a restaurant, it can be difficult to keep up with changing consumer habits. Plus, how restaurants present themselves visually and experience wise is ever-evolving too. On the one hand, restaurants need to be able to adapt, but by the same token, every restaurant wants to create a lasting legacy that stands out from the crowd.
It’s not just the food itself which needs to be responsive to customer needs, but restaurant menus too. Nuno Mendes, London-based chef of Portuguese restaurant Lisboeta told Eater.com “People built a deeper relationship with food during the pandemic. They no longer want to be so passive when facing a menu.”
In many ways, menus have become a way of telling stories rather than just listing the dishes. Such details then need to be fed back into the restaurant experience as a whole, factoring in current trends and demand. Innovation is what keeps the restaurant experience exciting, after all.
Focus During A Restaurant Service
During any service, it’s easy for things to become hectic as those orders fly in at a record speed.
As a restaurant owner, not feeling in control can soon affect everyone else on your team, from your chefs to your wait staff. Instead, Michel Roux Jr highlights the importance of keeping calm and on-task.
He is famously quoted as saying: “The chaos of the kitchen is almost peaceful. When I am in the middle of a service, I am so focused. There is nothing else on my mind apart from the food in front of me.”
Having the ability to block out all the noise and other distractions means his attention is solely on the food. This is a skill that all those who enter the restaurant trade need to master. Resilience, especially during peak times, or when problems in the kitchen arise is a must.
Opening A Restaurant Checklist
- Decide on a restaurant concept
- Find a unique business name
- Identify your target customer
- Seek financial and business advice
- Locate premises to buy or rent
- Register the business
- Hire staff
- Purchase stock and equipment
- Take out restaurant insurance
- Market your business
- Launch your restaurant
How To Open A Restaurant FAQs
How Much Does It Cost To Open A Restaurant UK?
Experts suggest the going rate is around £42,000 to open a restaurant in the UK. Startup costs for new businesses vary dramatically, depending on the size of the business, the type of restaurant and its location.
How Much Do Restaurant Owners Make?
Restaurant owners in the UK who submitted their earnings on Glassdoor reported yearly salaries of between £19,000 and £90,000, with a typical salary of £41,000. There are quite large fluctuations even in this one data sample. Paying attention to the financials of the business can give a clearer idea of the potential profits for restaurant owners, once all other expenditures have been deducted.
What Are The Legal Requirements To Open A Restaurant In The UK?
There are various licence and business registration requirements for restaurant businesses in the UK. These include food business registration, food premises approval, events licence and a music licence.
As noted, businesses of any kind must also have insurance. There are also some insurance types specific to restaurants to be aware of too.
Owning A Restaurant: In Summary
Even the world’s top chefs have experienced their fair share of failures. But by sharing their learnings, it helps new restaurants to avoid some of these common pitfalls.
Above all, it’s clear that to be successful, restaurateurs must have knowledge, experience and passion for all things food. Beyond serving up delicious dishes, restaurants must deliver exceptional customer service, and keep up to date with current trends.
By tuning in to the industry as a whole and reacting where necessary, restaurants have a much better chance of being successful. For those that master their craft, the payoff can be tremendous.