3 Ways to Grow Your Restaurant

To start a restaurant of your own, you need passion, smarts, and a fair bit of luck. According to the National Restaurant Association, a food service trade organization based in the District of Columbia, 50 percent of adults have held a job in the restaurant industry at some point. In Canada, the numbers are similar, with almost half of Canadians saying they’ve either worked in a restaurant industry or job or have an immediate family member who does. Even if you’ve never worked in a restaurant, it’s common to want to start and run your very own dining establishment. Over a third of Canadians admit that they’d love to open their own restaurant. On the surface, it seems enticing and even glamorous, but there’s a lot of not-so-glamorous work that goes on behind the scenes. There are no guarantees in a business as flighty as food service, but here are three good ways to grow your restaurant.

Remember the “Big Three”

In an interview with Inc., Tyson Cole, an award-winning restaurant owner and chef, identified the “big three” as a great chef, a great location, and a great concept. Two out of three isn’t good enough. That means you can have a great location and a great concept, but if you have an unpredictable chef who makes great food one day and terrible food the next, things won’t work out. All three factors should be consistent.

There have been plenty of buzzworthy concepts and fabulous chefs who were unlucky enough to work at restaurants where customers couldn’t find them. The perfect establishment won’t do you any good if it’s located in a sleepy town where no one appreciates the Asian fusion cuisine you’re making. Similarly, a location in the middle of a vibrant downtown district won’t get you far if your restaurant has no clear concept.

Make Deals with Reliable Suppliers

Where are you going to be sourcing your food? Are you going to try to source it locally or at least regionally? That’s a good idea, but you should know that local sourcing is harder than it looks. In 2016, the Harvard Business Review reported that a shorter supply chain isn’t always better. Food safety is a real concern, and you can’t assume that your food is safe just because it came from a farm on the other side of town.

You’ll also need to source items other than food. You’ll need flatware, glassware, menus, and uniforms for your staff, and that’s just scratching the service. Rather than getting tables from Company A, uniforms from Company B, and dishes from Company C, look for a company like VEGA Direct that has everything you need under one roof. If a company says they’ll ship your supplies and Monday for delivery by Wednesday, you need to be able take them at your word. Nothing sours customers faster than going to a restaurant where employees are scrambling to find enough table settings for their party.

Be Realistic About Your Chances

Know that you might be working 80, 90, or even 100-hour weeks to get your restaurant up and running, only to see it close after six months. If you open a new business in 2018, the odds are slightly better than 50 percent that it will still be around five years later, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 80 percent of small businesses that opened in March 2015 were still open in March 2016. That means 1 in 5 fail within the first year.

You can do everything right and still run into circumstances out of your control. For instance, the biggest employer in your hometown might lay off half its workforce, which means fewer people have money for going out to eat. Some things are impossible to predict. You might be the next big success story, but you also might not. Though it might be tempting to tell everyone that your restaurant is going to be so successful and that you’ll have five additional locations open within five years, but resist the urge. Aim for cautious optimism, as that will get you through the rough days when nothing is going right.

Adam Torkildson