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Opening a Restaurant? Here’s What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Survival

If you walk around any American downtown district, chances are you’ll find more places to eat and drink than you might imagine. And this is because of one simple fact–people love good food. 

Food brings people together. And our restaurants offer us the perfect meeting ground where people from all walks of life can enter and enjoy a pleasant dining experience. But the restaurant business is nothing like a dining experience. 

The fact is, the restaurant business isn’t for the faint of heart. And most restaurant owners will tell you that you have to be just a little bit crazy to get involved in such a dynamic enterprise with so many moving parts. But this is also why the restaurant business can be so much fun.

Owning a restaurant takes skill and experience. And with all of the competition on every corner around you, it’s not too hard to believe that roughly 60 percent of all restaurants fail within the first year of operation. What’s more, studies have shown that nearly 80 percent of restaurants fail within the first 5 years of operation.

So in order to avoid becoming a part of such saddening statistics, being prepared in all areas of your restaurant’s growth is paramount to your success.

In the following guide, we’ll explore a few areas where you’ll need to focus if you want to survive your first five years in the restaurant business. 


You can have the best recipes on the planet, be the most experienced in the business, and have the most charismatic staff around, but if you open a restaurant in a poor location, all of your efforts might be in vain. 

No matter where you live, there are areas of your community that are more frequently visited than others. Additionally, there are also areas that are undergoing development, and those areas that most people want to avoid. As such, finding the best area for your establishment requires a detailed strategy.

Many restaurateurs go into choosing a location by “trying their luck” in an area of the community that they think might become popular in the future. However, it takes years for any area in any community to become established, and this is a time that you don’t have in the restaurant business.

When you go out to look for a location, look in established areas of upstanding communities. These areas are the most frequented by local residents and tourists alike. 

And if possible, make sure your location is able to be conveniently accessed. Believe it or not, insufficient patron parking is a huge deterrent when it comes to customer count. 

FOH Staff

If location is the main priority, then the absolute first priority within your establishment is going to be your front-of-house (FOH) staff. 

Your FOH staff is the literal face of your establishment when you’re there and especially when you’re away. These are the individuals who will be providing direct guest service, meeting your customers for the first time, and ultimately the onus will be placed on the quality of your staff when it comes to the quality of your service. 

As such, when you begin hiring for your establishment, you’re going to want to be very careful with who you bring on. Because just one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. And in this case, one bad employee can ruin your reputation. 

When looking for FOH staff, keep the following characteristics in mind:

  • Charismatic attitude 

  • Friendly and personable

  • Outgoing and talkative 

  • Excellent multitasking skills

  • Proven high-volume experience 

  • At least 2 years experience 

  • Verifiable references 

  • Able to pass a drug screen

  • Able to pass a background check

  • Access to reliable transportation 

You’ll want to screen all of your employees before you allow them access to your customers. And you might even consider hiring personnel on a short 1 week probation period only. This way you and your managers can evaluate his or her performance and decide whether or not your new hire is a good fit for the team. 

Keep Adequate Stock 

One of the worst nightmares for a restaurant owner is to run out of ingredients or items during any point of operation and especially during the busy season. This not only exudes an unprofessional quality, but it also denotes a lack of experience and strategy. 

Picture this, you have a table of 20 business professionals and they’ve all ordered the same dish, but when their orders hit the kitchen printer, you’re only able to serve four of them because you forgot to place your kitchen supply order. 

Chances are, you’ll likely have a storm of unhappy guests and a damaging streak of poor reviews. Onlookers at neighboring tables might even take notice and spread the word themselves; a truly nightmarish scenario for any restaurant to endure.

In order to mitigate the instance of this scenario, ensure that you’re well-stocked on all items at all times. And this is especially true when it comes to dessert items as well.

For example, desserts are often overlooked when it comes to inventory because they don’t generate high sales or see the same turnover as other main dishes. 

But if you have dessert items that require whipped cream, you better have plenty of tools like cream chargers on hand, ready to make your desserts when that same table of 20 businessmen all order your pecan pie with whipped topping–if they decide to come back.

Be Neighborly  

As a part of the local community, you’re going to need to engage with others in your local community as well. And this includes networking with other restaurant owners and business professionals in your industry.

Don’t be afraid to join in on promotional community events, enter into food competitions, or donate your catering services to a local charity when the time is right. Additionally, often other restaurants will hold neighborhood promotions, and you can benefit from these by offering assistance. 

Believe it or not, though neighboring restaurants are competitors, there exists a friendly camaraderie among restaurateurs because what’s good for your neighbors can also bring business through your doors as well. 

Making it in the restaurant business takes time, dedication, and a lot of planning. But if you go into your restaurant business with these tips in mind, you’ll find that your chances of success will be much higher.
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