“No great enterprise will ever begin if all obstacles must first be overcome.” – Napoleon Hill
Over the years I have met an amazing number of people from diverse backgrounds who, regardless of their personal wealth or success, say they’d like to set-up a restaurant one day. Home-makers with culinary skills, celebrities looking for an investment, corporate executives who are well connected, landlords with space, restaurant mangers or chefs with industry experience, industrialists who would simply like a place to host their associates & friends, and all sorts of other people dream of having their own restaurant.
After all, how hard can it be? All you need to do is arrange for a good space, good food & good ambience, market yourself well and there... you could make some good money and even a name for yourself, right? Sure! But try getting down to doing it and you will find it isn’t that easy, not even for the most experienced restaurateurs.
We’ve all heard of instances when even experienced restaurateurs have failed and people with no experience in the industry have succeeded in their venture. So we know somewhere deep within, that it doesn’t necessarily matter whether the restaurateur has industry experience or not. What really matters in a restaurant’s outcome is the restaurateur’s willingness and ability to prioritize certain tasks and attitudes over others. We will take a look at these tasks and attitudes throughout this book and in particular within the Chapter titled “A Formula for Success.”
Of the many questions I am often asked by people hoping to convert their restaurant dream to reality, it is the food related ones that come up most often – “I’m quite a foodie you know” or “I enjoy eating in various parts of the world” or “I have some terrific tried-n-tested family recipes. Doesn’t this qualify me to succeed as a restaurateur?” My answer? “While these will help to an extent, true success really needs a well-rounded business approach.”
So let’s start at the very beginning....
A restaurant is generally an establishment where the public may obtain meals or refreshments.
The term Restaurant has its origins in Paris, where one A. Boulanger started as a soup vendor in 1765. A sign on the door said “restaurant”, referring to the restorative quality of the soups and broths served within. Entrées and main courses joined the menu, and the modern restaurant as we know it took shape.
As with so many ideas that evolve over time, restaurants now serve a larger role in society... they have become places of social contact, of discovering new cultures and tastes from far-away lands, of spending an evening with your loved ones, of clinching business deals over a glass of wine, and so forth. All this, of course, in addition to the basic functions of “restoring” people with the help of good food, service and ambience.
Restaurants differ based on their orientation towards a certain type of food or beverage, a specialized activity, a particular style of service or a combination of these. For instance a coffee shop is oriented towards coffee and conversation, a discotheque towards dance and liquor, a quick service restaurant towards dishing out pre-prepared food quickly on order, a fine dining restaurant towards a certain kind of cuisine, a takeaway towards delivered packaged meals. Anyone planning to start a restaurant will have to take note of these diverse functions and orientations, and cater to the different (and ever-changing!) needs and expectations of prospective clients.
In the simplest case, you just need a cook, a helper and a place to serve the food. However, that’s not something you need to read this guide for! To set up a modern, popular restaurant in a big city, one needs to provide a special kind of food, food that is varied and stimulating, tasty of course, and presented in an interesting manner. The restaurant has to be well marketed, customers need to be apprised of the cook’s latest innovations, and should be made to feel special for having visited your restaurant. The entire process involves much hard work and personal commitment. It can be fun; it can be frustrating; it is rarely boring.
It would be wonderful to have the required culinary expertise or marketing genius to get the restaurant up and running yourself. However, for starters, the most important skill you need is the ability to hire talented, experienced people. Clear vision, effective action and good timing – add some luck – and success is guaranteed!
Even talented individuals with a great support system sometimes fail. There is no magic formula, but a clear plan put down on paper is the best place to start. After all, that is the only way a set of ideas can be evaluated. Identify your market, pricing and competition. Set deadlines for your long-term and short-term goals. Constantly update your information and improvise your plan as you go along.
Some people pride themselves at having learnt something without any formal instruction. Even so, there is no harm in furthering your knowledge through some additional preparation.
This guide shows you how to start up a restaurant from scratch, avoiding common pitfalls; then some tips on how to run it, making day-to-day operations smoother & more profitable. The information contained in this book is the result of long years of experience in the hospitality industry, and a close study of some highly successful and some unsuccessful undertakings.
By studying this book you will get an understanding of what really works, and avoid repeating mistakes others have made in the past. You will also know how to deal with the macro and micro issues you are likely to be confronted with in the restaurant business, to make yours a profitable venture.
As with all other businesses, only action when added to an idea, can actually give birth to a restaurant. Action’s worst enemies, procrastination and fear, may best be overcome by gaining an understanding of the subject through your own research and coming to terms with challenges through self-conviction. This book helps you do just that.
The rest is up to you!
Note: Some sections of the book, for example the chapter on Agreements, Licences and Permissions may be specific to Mumbai (India). International readers and those from other states will need to research and comply with the government regulations applicable to their area. The currency used throughout is the Indian Rupee (INR). US $1 is approximately Rs.62 as of January 2015. Of course, simply converting the amount may be inappropriate at times since the value of various goods and services varies widely from country to country.
If you come across a word you don’t recognise, you can look it up in the “Restaurant Terminology” appendix.