So you’ve thought about it and decided that starting a restaurant is your dream job.
Good luck with that.
Nearly 50% of restaurants fail in their first three years. That’s an astronomically high casualty rate. There are many factors that add up to the success or failure of a restaurant.
Many times bad luck is the most effective Grim Reaper of restaurateurs’ dreams: just imagine if you had started your restaurant in the fall of 2007, just before the financial meltdown. I’m sure there are many former restaurant owners out there who know exactly how bad that kind of luck turned out to be.
That said, many restaurants fail because they were doomed from the start. There are thousands of things that must be done, and done well, before a restaurant opens its doors for the first time, but there are only three things that absolutely cannot be wrong.
These are the three things that will decide the fate of your new restaurant:
Vision. What is your restaurant, in 140 characters or less? If you can’t fit the description into a standard tweet on Twitter, then your vision isn’t focused enough. I’m not saying that Twitter is the key to your success. I am saying that if you don’t have a clear, focused, and concise vision of what your restaurant is then you are doomed to failure.
Passion. The restaurant business is a cruel master. Especially in the beginning you’ll be wasting your rent check every month because you’ll be living at your restaurant. If you aren’t passionate about everything your restaurant stands for then it’s simply not worth it.
Your passion is the thing that filters down through every aspect of the restaurant, from how the food is prepared to how each guest is treated. If passion is lacking, then the entire experience of dining at your restaurant will lag, and that is a recipe for closure.
Food. You can get the existential stuff like vision and passion just right and still fail if the core service you provide customers – good food – isn’t perfect. Luckily this is usually the easiest hurdle to cross because if you have a clear vision and a burning passion then the food part will come naturally.
Many restaurateurs run into trouble because they start with the menu and then work backwards to things like vision and passion. That is another recipe for disaster. Without vision and passion your menu is doomed to mediocrity, lack of focus, or some dangerous combination of both.
For those of you who read this post thinking you would get some concrete advice on how to start a restaurant, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve wasted your time. The truth is that there are thousands of ways to run a successful restaurant and there are very few common elements between all of them.
The three factors listed above are definitely present in every successful restaurant, regardless of segment, concept, style, or location. That’s why you must start here.