By Doug Radkey, Foodable Industry Expert
You’re determined, positive, confident, adaptable, and you crave learning experiences. Being an entrepreneur — or more specifically, a restaurateur — combines an enormous amount of passion and vision for creating food, drink, and experiences, and a drive to be undeterred by a high level of unprecedented risks.
Ask any restaurateur and they will tell you it’s hard to give up a certain level of control on decisions being made during the start-up phase. After all, this is your dream and your vision. Successful restaurateurs, however, will tell you not to do it all yourself and to let go of the smaller tasks while working with an expert on the overall bigger picture.
Simply said, here’s who you need in your supportive start-up cast to save time, money, stress, and most importantly, your sanity.
Work with a Mentor
Do you have someone locally within the industry who you look up to? Ask them if they’d be interested in being your mentor throughout the start-up process. Turn to them to lean on for tough questions surrounding concept, menu, staffing, and marketing ideas. Remember though, they likely can’t be there for you every minute of the process, as they’re most likely operating a successful restaurant themselves.
Hire a Consultant
If you’re looking for a project manager and someone with hands-on experience to provide day-to-day leadership plus a non-biased, educated opinion combined with a solid strategy plan, this may be the route for you. A reputable restaurant consultant will also provide an array of resources, relationships, and value while working with you on your start-up project. But keep this in mind: Don’t let them take full control. This is your project. Your consultant should work in tandem with you should still have the final say.
Hire an Accountant
Many aspiring restaurateurs wait until they’re ready to hire their start-up staff to find themselves a bookkeeper and accountant. In reality, you should do this at the very beginning. Once you have your location, or even before, work with an accountant to stay on top of your expenses. You want to control your costs, not cut them. A seasoned accountant will ensure you stay on budget, leaving you adequate financial resources for opening week.
Trust a Commercial Lawyer
It’s no secret that lawyers are costly, but so is overlooking an important piece of information on your property lease, partnership agreement, corporate registration, or investor agreement. Budget approximately $2,000-$4,000 for a commercial lawyer when completing your business plan and if possible, look for a lawyer with restaurant-related experience.
Hire a Designer
Being creative is fun and this creativity is a reason why so many people love the restaurant and hospitality industry. However, if you want to create an unforgettable image in your graphics, interior layout, and curb appeal, consider hiring a professional designer to give your restaurant the edge it needs to stand out from the competition. Remember, the restaurant industry is unique, so consider hiring a designer with a strong foodservice-related portfolio who can also complete 3-D renderings for you to visualize your concept.
Consult Qualified Engineers
If you’re taking on a large restaurant renovation project, you definitely need an engineer and architect to complete the necessary drawings for city approvals and to direct your team of subcontractors. Just like designers, it’s best practice to look for engineers (and renovation team members) who have worked with restaurants and understand the industry specific HVAC, plumbing, kitchen exhaust, fire safety, and electrical requirements.
Collaborate with a Certified Chef
If your strong point is not in the kitchen, ensure you work with a chef consultant, equipment specialist, and/or hire your chef ahead of time to not only develop a winning menu your market wants and needs, but also to ensure the correct equipment and smallwares are purchased and expertly laid out to maximize productivity.
Listen to Bar Experts
This same practice can be used if you’re experienced in the kitchen, but not in the front of house. If the plan is to have a wine, cider, craft beer, and/or cocktail-focused bar that will deliver an experience customers won’t soon forget, consider hiring a sommelier or bar expert for proper pairings, equipment, and productivity layout.
Thank Your Friends and Family
Arguably the most important of all, make sure you have the support of your immediate family and friends. There is undoubtedly going to be some stressful days, weeks, and even months during the beginning phases of your startup and after you’ve opened your restaurant, where you’re going to question if it’s all worth it. It’s critical to lean on them for support — not answers. Leave that to the professionals within your team.
There is no shame in asking for help and collaborating on a project with a variety of qualified professionals. Build your supportive cast, lead your subcontractors, and delegate your areas of weakness to make your restaurant start-up process a less stressful, more positive learning experience.