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Opening a Restaurant

Aspiring entrepreneurs with a passion for food and customer service have numerous options to choose from regarding opening a restaurant in the UK. With the world recovering from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic where many restaurants and coffee shops had to close their doors, new opportunities are being presented for opening a restaurant that appeals to your target demographic.

With interesting trends emerging in the restaurant industry, such as the introduction of QR code menus, the demographics that are frequenting restaurants more often and the rise in technology driving the way business is done, you need to be fully aware of what it takes to open your restaurant and make a success of it.

In this article, we break down the process of how to start a restaurant in the UK into seven steps to follow to ensure that you leave no stone unturned. Let’s take a closer look.

How to open a restaurant the right way

Starting a restaurant business is no lighthearted matter. Although there is no business that can be said is “easy”, restauranteurs need to juggle multiple balls at the same time to ensure that their operations run as smoothly as possible. So, without further ado, below are the seven steps involved in opening a new restaurant that you should seriously consider as you embark on your journey.

Think through your restaurant concept and brand

Restaurants have evolved over time. And today, we have so many different options available to us, it’s enough to make our heads spin. There are coffee shops and bakeries, fast food outlets, pizzerias, pubs, ethnic restaurants, fine dining and elegant cuisine establishments and so much more in between. With so many options, it might be hard to narrow down your choices but doing so is essential. This means coming up with a restaurant concept and ensuring that all your branding aligns with it.

With regard to your restaurant concept, you need to choose the right offering, at the right place at the right time. What does this mean? It means that you need to study your target demographic and offer them something unique. In essence, you need to be sure of what your restaurant’s unique selling point is as this is what will make you stand out from the competition. And speaking of the competition, you need to study them carefully and determine how you can up their offering and offer something different that has the wow factor.

Apart from the concept, demographics and competition, there is also the brand that you have to think about. Your brand should be simple to identify and remember. It should be memorable and distinguishable from others in the same sector as you. You need to choose a logo and signage that 100% complements your offering, interior, the ambiance and environment of your establishment and that’s not all.

With modern technology playing a major influential role in how people make purchasing decisions, you will also need to develop a restaurant website that has a Google My Business listing to enable you to be found easily online when local patrons are searching for what you are offering. You should also make ordering online or via telephone easy, if that is part of what your concept will be and you may need app development to take place to ensure that your customers can easily order from your business if the concept allows for it.

As part of your branding, you may also wish to place online ads and ads in traditional media such as in local newspapers, magazines and newspapers and radio. There is also the need to use traditional marketing techniques by creating flyers and marketing your restaurant effectively. Using social media channels to your advantage can be an important step in this direction. And overall, brand consistency will be key in this endeavour because you want to ensure that your customers get the same level of service, experience the same ambience and that the food is prepared in a uniform way every time they frequent your establishment.

Creating a menu for a new restaurant

Create your menu

When your restaurant concept has been narrowed down and refined and you have a workable brand that you’re ready to promote to the public and to your target demographic, you should be ready to create your menu. Remember that it has to make sense according to your business concept. It will be utterly misleading and confusing to advertise yourself as a fine dining establishment when you are offering cheeseburgers and fries. The same is true if you’re offering rare steaks but advertising yourself as a coffee shop. It simply needs to make sense.

Once that’s out of the way, it’s time to plan your menu. You need to know which chefs you will work with and whether they can prepare the dishes you have planned for your restaurant. At this step, it’s also crucial that you break down each ingredient that will go into each of the meals and determine whether some meals will require a heavy dose of ingredients whereas others will require less. Consider creating balanced meals where one meal does not overexhaust the others.

It’s also crucial these days to offer kids’ menus. So apart from the adults that you’re most likely to be catering to, if your establishment allows for it, you need to offer tasty and nutritious meal options that parents will be grateful to you for. Steering clear of unhealthy food and refined sugars, you can offer both main meals and desserts that are both nutritious and tasty at the same time.

Other tips to consider as you are creating the menu is the actual and physical appearance of the menu itself. It’s best to avoid laminating it if you are a fine dining establishment. Using clipart and complicated fonts can confuse your customers. Making it too detailed can leave them even more confused. However, omitting certain details such as whether the meal is vegan or vegetarian will likely frustrate others. As such, put careful thought into the actual presentation of your menu and ensure that it matches your overall brand and concept.

The final point of discussion under this step is to ensure that each meal is prepared consistently. Your customers will rely that their steak or salad tastes the same way every time they order it from your menu. As such, it’s critical to have structures in place that ensure that your meals, recipes and ingredients are sourced from the same supplier, prepared in the same way and offer the same great tasting quality that you will become well-known for.

Write a restaurant business plan

With the first two steps having been addressed, it’s time to look at the preparation of your business plan. This step dives deeper into the aspect of restaurant ownership because it requires you to think through every single aspect of your operation and present it as a cohesive whole to investors and/or lenders.

The chances are that you will not have all the cash on hand to create your restaurant right off the bat and hence, approaching investors and lenders will be an essential part of securing the finance to get your dream venture off the ground. However, in order to impress upon them the anticipated success of your business concept, you first need to create a business plan. This is a detailed document that presents absolutely everything about your business and how it will work to these investors.

Aspects that typically go into a business plan include financial forecasts and analysis, management and staff structure, licensing and insurance, costs of renting or purchasing the property where your restaurant will be situated, your target demographic, your market research, marketing strategies and more.

Choose a restaurant location

In business, there’s a saying that goes “location, location, location”. Never has this been more true for restaurant businesses as location is critical to your success. If you have the perfect building structure but low foot traffic, no suitable parking, a poorly lit area and a generally isolated location, the chances of success are going to be slimmer. Therefore, these factors are important considerations when choosing your location.

When choosing your location, you also need to think about your target demographic and your competition at the same time. If your target market is university-aged students, you’ll want to be situated on-campus or at least very close to campuses. If your establishment will be a fine dining experience for those who are more affluent, you need to ensure that you are located where they are and where the income levels of the neighbourhood support your business.

As for analysing the local competition, you want to ensure that you do so effectively. What other restaurants are situated in the ideal area where you wish to operate from? How many are there and do they offer a menu or concept that’s similar to yours? If so, you’ll have a harder time distinguishing yourself and you’ll also need to ensure that your unique selling point (mentioned earlier) truly does make you stand head and shoulders apart from the competition.

Further factors to consider are the local community, amenities, local attractions, easy transportation routes to reach your restaurant, suitable parking (if relevant), the amount of foot traffic the area gets, whether you’ll be operating from a mall or a standalone location, etc.

And lastly, but by no means least important – you should determine whether you will lease or purchase the premises from the beginning. Purchasing comes with a heavy commitment and leasing means more flexibility. However, with purchasing the property, you’re essentially making a property or immovable asset investment that you can count on later on to give you solid returns. Both sides of the coin must be weighed up carefully as you consider your restaurant’s location.

Restaurant Insurance and food business legalities

Restaurant insurance & food business legalities

The ramifications for not registering your food business are serious. You could face up to two years of imprisonment, a fine, or both. As such, getting the legalities in order is crucial as you get started. In addition, making sure that you are legally covered from every possible angle means getting the right kind of insurance. Consequently, you will need to apply for some of the following permits and insurance types to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law:

  • Food business registration
  • Alcohol licence (personal licence)
  • Pavement license
  • Public liability insurance
  • Employer’s liability insurance
  • Buildings insurance
  • Music licence
  • Food hygiene certificate
  • Building permit
  • Events licence
  • Food premises approval (done by your local council)

Further to this, as part of a business that serves food, you also have a legal obligation to keep a record of the following:

  • All the food products you’ve bought
  • Where you bought them from
  • What quantities you purchased
  • The date of purchase

Inspectors and enforcement officers do check-ups and you want your business to be operating as legally and with as much compliance as possible.

Inspectors and enforcement officers do check-ups and you want your business to be operating as legally and with as much compliance as possible.

The cost of starting a restaurant

The overall cost of staring your restaurant will be entirely dependent on your circumstances, location, restaurant concept, the number of staff you hire and a whole lot more. For example, some of the biggest costs will be related to the following:

  • Premises: the cost of property is by far the largest cost that you will have to incur and these can go into the thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds, depending on whether you are renting or buying the building where you plan to operate from.
  • Licences & permits: in most cases, these will be annual costs that will be renewable each year but they are essential to ensuring the smooth functioning of your establishment.
  • Utilities: you also need to choose a reliable utilities provider that offers you reasonable rates for the duration of your contract with them. We all know that the cost of electricity and gas in the UK is currently at an all-time high and that such costs may not be sustainable for some businesses, and with restaurants consuming a lot of electricity and water, this is something you have to consider.
  • Equipment installation & maintenance: the amount of equipment that goes into running a restaurant successfully can be astounding. You have to think of absolutely everything you’ll need from every knife and fork or chopstic that you’ll use to the pizza ovens, special stoves and hobs that will cook the food. There are also dishwashers to consider, furniture, decor and so much more. And not only this, but there is also the ongoing maintenance of each of these aspects that has to be factored in as well.
  • Ongoing marketing and advertising: there are also costs associated with maintaining your business’ brand identity and marketing it to your target demographic on a consistent basis until you become a well-known brand and can then ease your marketing efforts. Costs of ads, whether online or on radios and in local newspapers, a social media presence, managing your local business listing, responding to reviews and so much more go into managing your restaurant’s marketing, meaning that you will probably need to hire someone to run this for you.
  • Hiring and training staff: and speaking of hiring, there is the entire staff complement that you need to consider as well. A restaurant usually has bussers and servers, chefs and cooks; essentially front of house staff and back of house staff. Each one will bring their own levels of experience to the table and you need to offer competitive remuneration to retain them while ensuring that you are also paying what the market considers reasonable. Training costs shouldn’t be underestimated either because these will lay the foundation for the customer service your target demographic will experience when they visit your restaurant.
Starting a restaurant in the UK

Running a restaurant successfully

And now we reach the final step in how to start a restaurant business successfully: the launch and beyond. There are several things you can do on opening day to start your business off on the right foot. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Launch party: whether you call it a soft launch for members of the local community or your friends and family, a launch party is a great idea. It’s a way of showcasing multiple small portions of the items on your menu so as to give a teaser of what’s to come. Marketing this event strategically is of critical importance and it will require reaching out to your clientele before the launch and ensuring that they all arrive for it.
  • Partnerships: partnerships are another way of supporting the local community while gaining visibility amongst your target audience. Whether you sponsor local sports or cultural teams, visibility is important and the more your name gets “out there” the more recognisable your brand will be and therefore, the more loyal customers you are likely to attract.
  • Loyal client offers: and speaking of loyal customers, why not offer those who frequent your establishment on a regular basis an incentive to keep coming back? Offering the 11th meal for free or a throwing in a free dessert is a great way of building customer satisfaction and subsequently, loyalty.
  • Social media presence: we already covered the importance of branding and social media, but it’s worth mentioning this point again. Having a social media presence is an indispensable part of running a business, especially a restaurant business. As such, you’ll want to ensure you have dazzling, Instagramable photos, that your menu is easy to find, that booking a table is easy through your local business listings and your social media channels.

Final thoughts

When it comes to the question of how to start a restaurant in the UK, you will have realised by now that it’s no simple matter. The complexity involved is truly phenomenal and as we said earlier, it requires juggling multiple balls at the same time.

However, the results can be absolutely incredible for you. You can become a pillar in your community; the go-to when patrons are seeking out your offering. And ultimately, you’ll be able to reap the financial rewards from all your efforts.

All the steps mentioned above, although they are not presented in a specific order, must be considered and taken into account when launching your restaurant. Once you’ve done so, you’ll be well on your way to a successful business venture and many fruitful, productive and satisfying years ahead.

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