Opening a restaurant takes a lot of planning. But no matter how much planning you do there will always be something unexpected that pops up.
Here are some of the most overlooked aspects of opening a restaurant that you never thought to plan for. That is until you saw it here.
1. You have to pay to play music
You would probably never expect that playing music in your restaurant was an expense. But that’s right! Even if you’re playing music from the radio or are paying for your streaming music. To give a public performance of a copywritten song, even if it’s pre-recorded, requires you to pay a license fee.
And don’t think that no one is paying attention. Organizations like BMI and ASCAP are ever-vigilant in their protection of their members’ copyrights. Failing to pay licensing fees for music played in your restaurant can land with you fines, fees and back payments!
2. Keep your deadlines VERY flexible
One thing you don’t want to happen is to miss a tight deadline. There’s almost no end to the things that can potentially derail your intended timeline. The farther out it is, the more you should look at your grand opening date as a goal, and not set in stone. Constantly revise your planning and projections. Move the deadlines for projects accordingly.
Since many parts of your opening depend on other things being completed before they can move forward, group projects by their dependencies. For example, if taking delivery on your furnishings requires the floors to be put in first, don’t set a delivery date until the floors have been completed. The last thing you want to do is have to pay for off-site storage of equipment that’s waiting to be installed because construction isn’t finished!
3. Contractors can be difficult to deal with
It's nice to think that the people you’re paying to help put together your restaurant can be depended on. But unfortunately, this is often not the case. Contractors are usually busy and can play fast and loose with deliverables and deadlines.
Also, plans made ahead of time may not be executed according to plan when on site. Depending on how well or poorly your contractors communicate with their crew, jobs can take longer because of the need to correct mistakes. To address this, you’ll probably need to dedicate extra time to micromanaging your contractors.
4. Don’t count on getting the permits you need the first time around
This overall lack of a definite project timeline is compounded when you have multiple contractors waiting to complete their parts of a job while the city issues permit. For example, you can’t run electrical cables under the bar until the bar is built. The bar can’t be built until the plan is approved by the city. And that’s assuming the plan is approved and each phase of the job is completed satisfactorily.
And that’s just one example of the many permits the city is likely to require before you can make progress. While you have a strong sense of urgency to complete your restaurant (time is money after all) the same can not be said for the regulators who issue your permits.
5. Choosing a POS is a big deal
While many restaurant owners wait until the last minute to choose a point of sale and do so hastily, this is something that should be carefully planned in advance. The point of sale system you choose should be considered in the early planning of the restaurant for a few reasons.
Sufficient power and network connections need to be provided at workstations. The software needs to match your restaurant concept and workflow. How will staff training be impacted?
And there are long term considerations. Make sure you’re happy with the credit processing options and service contract. There’s a lot more to take into account than just what’s on the service. Your POS can be an ally or an enemy to your long term business goals. Contact a Rezku POS expert to help plan ahead to get the best results.
6. Consider an Ice Subscription
If there’s one thing in the restaurant that’s most likely to be an afterthought it’s your ice. And this really shouldn’t be the case, because ice is used so much! Most new restaurant owners greatly underestimate the amount of ice they’ll be using and don’t plan on keeping different kinds of ice around.
The last thing your guests want to hear is that you’ve run out of ice! It’s better to overestimate your ice usage, and get a machine suitable to produce high quantities than to stress a lower capacity machine beyond its intended volume (and then have it break down).
There’s also ice shape to consider. If you have a salad bar on ice or seafood you’ll need flake ice. If you’re serving cocktails you’ll need cube ice so the drinks don’t water down too fast. And of course, you’ll need plenty of small cubes for waters and sodas. If you’re not ready to make all of these types of ice on site don’t fret. You can get an ice subscription instead.
7. The city has to approve your signage
Before you build and hang your signage, make sure your plan is approved by the city. From New York to Oregon, many municipalities, require a signage permit. The plan must be approved before you put it up or you risk fines.
Make sure your signage meets the requirements. Some don’t allow lighted signs. Some limit the size and placement of your sign. You may even need to get a permit before your sign is placed, just to hang a banner or temporary sign!
8. What will everyone wear?
Make sure your employee dress policy is clear before you start hiring. Beyond whether you allow tattoos and body piercings, how should managers and employees dress? Many restaurants have had success by simply requiring a uniform.
Restaurant uniforms are available for both front-of-house and back-of-house. And while most people think of a uniform as something that looks a little corny, modern uniform companies offer many styles from trendy to formal. An additional benefit is that restaurant uniform companies can handle the washing, so your staff always have access to clean uniforms.
9. Where’s your gift card program?
Gift card sales were worth a whopping $160 billion in 2018. Since restaurant goers on average spend 30% more when using a gift card, starting a restaurant without a gift card program can cost you big in potential sales.
Gift card sales guarantee a return customer and provide up-front cash flow. Two things that are just what you need when opening a new restaurant. Get your gift card program nailed down before your grand opening to capitalize on “buzz” and maximize potential revenue from gift card sales.
Rezku can help you get the gift card program your startup restaurant needs, with beautiful branded cards designed just for you and a point of sale that never charges any fees for gift card use or sales.
10. How difficult is it to find parking?
Guest experience should always be the forefront of your thinking when opening a restaurant. That includes before the guest walks through the door. While a fancy downtown restaurant may be a great location, also consider how difficult parking might affect your guest’s mood before they start to dine.
The good news is that you can have your cake and eat it too. The swanky downtown location and happy guests that arrive on time, even when parking comes at a premium can be achieved by adding a valet parking service to your restaurant’s service.
Just make sure that if you decide to add valet service for your restaurant that you acquire the proper permits as well!
There are many logistics challenges to opening a restaurant. Everyone already tells you it’s going to be “harder than you think”. The biggest challenge is not knowing what is required before getting started. There will always be something additional you didn’t plan for and must be ready to accommodate.
The best advice is to remain flexible. Do as much planning as you can. Build in a buffer for unforeseen complications. And seek the advice of those with experience opening a restaurant!
Rezku is a leader in restaurant management technology since 2012. Founded by veteran restaurateur Paul Katsch, Rezku is committed to bringing expertize and real-world experience to restaurants and bars large and small. From QSR to fine dining, Rezku offers affordable features and outstanding service to manage bookkeeping, front of house, bars and kitchens.
Find out more about Rezku on our home page. Enjoy more of these tips in our free Restaurant Resource Library.