Building a Start-Up Restaurant Brand


The risk involved with a startup restaurant can be steep. How steep depends on the source of the report, as Upserve suggests, with a reported failure rate ranging from 17 to 30 percent.

No matter the study, and no matter the percentage, restaurants fail.

The reasons for failure run the gamut from poor hiring to lack of inventory controls. While those things can bring down even the most successful of establishments, the lack of a cohesive concept and brand serve as the culprit in many startup failures.

Don’t be a statistic.

Decisions, Decisions

An idea for a concept must be thought about in every aspect of the business and foundational planning upfront helps make the rest of the process of opening a new concept easier. Learn from the big concepts and consider things like mission statements and coming up with a target consumer.

What exactly is your goal other than making some money selling delicious food or beverages? What is your affiliation with the community going to look like? Who are the faces you want representing you? What exactly IS your target demographic?

There is much to consider and if the opening process is brand new to you, consultation with an industry professional is highly recommended. The details that need to be fleshed out are truly that important.

Spreading the Word

Budgeting for marketing materials and building excitement around the startup is an important part of the process when starting up a restaurant brand. Having a great product is just not enough.

Fortunately, the ability to generate a buzz and get the community excited about the opening of your establishment can start happening well before the doors open. Embracing the power of social media on various platforms can help position the company for a truly grand opening. The targeted approach of using hashtags and geolocations can build community excitement as construction takes place or when menu is being developed. Offering a sneak-peek into the planning phases will give your potential guests a glimpse of what to expect.

Care must be taken with the rest of the details, because when excitement is built and the doors open, guest will expect the best. Soft opens only give you a little wiggle room, so ensure everything is set before go time.


Assembling the Team

Higher level decisions need to be made before staff is hired and in place. The last thing you want to do is hire a staff and then make game-time decisions to completely alter what they were hired for.

Decide what kind of company culture you would like to establish and be prepared to consistently lead by example. Figure out who your target market is and hire accordingly – who do you want to be the face of your establishment? Who can you work alongside and trust to carry out your plan until every guest leaves happy?

Don’t wait until the last minute to hire before opening. Despite the multitude of loose ends that will rule your life, you must make time to hire properly. Take the time to lay out expectations and write a quality recruitment want-ad, then filter the responses and find the worthy needles in the haystack of resumes you’ll receive. Take the interview process seriously and budget quality time for that process, as these people can make or break your concept.

Arm yourself with quality training materials, and be sure they are complete, with all expectations laid out clearly for employees to agree to, and then refer to as necessary. These materials can range from a printed paper packet, straight out of Microsoft Word, to an interactive, online on-boarding program. I all depends on your budget! No matter the delivery method, be sure employees understand what you and the restaurant are all about. Be prepared to live whatever is in the training materials, because it only takes an instance of giving the green light to something that is against company policy, for the rest of the policies to unravel.

Consistency is key, and when mixed messages surface, your team will do what they wish.  

Vision vs. Execution

There will be adjustments along the way, so be prepared for that. Staffing may not be what you thought you needed. Menu items may turn out to be a flop. Closing procedures may need to be adjusted. These changes are okay, so be sure to be transparent with the staff about them.

Troubleshoot with the team about things like workflow, kitchen layout, and menu development if they have suggestions or concerns. Implementing suggestions from the team will increase their vested interest and make you all stronger. Curtail bad habits immediately by teaching in the moment, documenting issues that need to be relayed to the entire staff. Communication is key.

Front-loading the opening process with planning for every aspect of the operation is the only way to open a new concept. Plan, review, revise, and revise again. Have others try to poke holes in the business plan and concept, and the result will be increased confidence when training and eventually opening a new concept.

By Brian Murphy, Industry Expert