This is a contributor’s blogpost …
For the profit savvy entrepreneur a restaurant business is the ideal startup opportunity. Sure, the overheads are comparatively high but the inherent profit margin in food and drink is so high that on paper a restaurant should be a slam dunk. After all, people of all sorts and all backgrounds like food. Throw in a touch of culinary expertise, a few of Mama’s secret recipes, hip decor and a smoking hot marketing campaign and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, right? Well, sorry to say this but … not necessarily.
As with any business, the road to success as a restaurateur is pocked with potential pitfalls. Raising the capital to open a restaurant can be tricky, especially in this crowded market sector. The inherent cost of necessary commercial cooking equipment and the inevitably high price tag that comes with decent refurbishment can be a stumbling block, as can the legal tedium of getting a liquor license.
Underestimating the startup capital needed
Startup costs aside, many would-be restaurateurs make the mistake of assuming that the money will come pouring in the day the doors open. The reality is that even if you have an initial boom when you first open, you should go in with a reservoir of cash that will keep the restaurant going for at least the first three to six months. This will help you to weather the inevitable peaks and troughs of those first few months as the local market gets a feel for you.
Ill-considered opening times
No matter how good your food is, you’re deluded if you don’t consider external factors such as weather. If you live in a colder area, for example, it would be business suicide to open in December or January when people tend not to venture out too much.
Getting too gimmicky
The problem with high-concept, zero-substance enterprises like cereal cafes is that a gimmick can only ever get you so far. Many chancers are drawn to such businesses, lured in by big margins and minimal processes. The truth, however, is that consumers get bored. There are few opportunities to build customer loyalty (because, seriously, how often can you eat cereal without getting bored?). While a USP like an all-vegan menu or generations-old recipes is absolutely fine, avoid basing your restaurant around a cynical gimmick.
Assuming you’ll ever have a social life again
The sad truth is that the restaurant business will always demand more than you have to give. It’s been known to wreck marriages, estrange children from parents and turn lifelong friendships into distant memories. If you have any reservations about not getting to see your family, play with your kids, go on vacation or have anything remotely resembling a work / life balance then you don’t belong in the restaurant business.
Relying on word of mouth
Word of mouth is a great way for restaurants to gain a reputation and a loyal clientele, there’s no way it should be your only form of marketing. A robust digital marketing campaign will extend your reach exponentially, drawing in customers from beyond (and indeed within) your local area.