Best Business Tips for Restaurant Entrepreneurs (to prepare for post-COVID-19)

Right now is a historically difficult time for restaurants. COVID-19 has brought many restaurant owners to their knees, as pandemic restrictions and fears prevent many regular customers from dining out or even ordering out. The resulting drop in revenue has forced many business owners to lay off staff, re-invest, and come up with innovative ways to generate new revenue lines (preparing takeout meals for nurses, etc.). 

While the damage wrought on the restaurant sector of our economy won’t quickly recover, this might be a good time to stop and analyze your existing business model. Was it working at top-notch capacity before the pandemic? 

If not, maybe this is a good time to recalibrate and reset your business practices so that when things finally do return to (somewhat) normal, you will be ready to flourish.

>> How to Name Your Restaurant in 6 Easy Steps

Are your chefs using the best tools and kitchen accessories on the market?

There are many aspects of restauranteering that can handle short-cuts and thrifty, money-saving maneuvers. When it comes to the actual product you’re putting out – the food – there are no short-cuts. People know food well; they eat it everyday. They can immediately tell the difference between low-grade, shoddy food prepared by inexperienced hands and top-notch, mouth-watering cuisine.

This means you need to:

~Invest in the very best cookware, ovens, refrigerators, ingredients, etc. The pots and pans from Made In Cookware, for example, are sourced from premium metals and crafted by world-renowned artisans. Make this kind of devotion to excellence a template for how you choose (or replace) everything in your kitchen.

Are you spending your leasing/renting/mortgaging money on the right location in an optimal neighborhood with price-conscious real estate?

Since many restaurant owners, especially small business eateries, are having to re-mortgage their endeavors, this is a good time to analyze the retail space you’re using. Are you paying for premium Class A or even Class B retail space? If you’re a small restaurant, you should probably start in a Class C space, often suburban office strip centers, that don’t have a ton of amenities but are affordable. 

This means you need to:

~Start or reset as a small business and then plan for growth. Make sure your retail space is optimized for the merchandise (food) you’re selling and make sure the foot traffic – someday – will be commensurate. You also need to pick the right neighborhood, but that’s for a different post.

Do you have a great chef and a unique concept that are aligned and communicated on the menu?

Look, the reality is, running a successful restaurant is incredibly hard even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic. Pre-COVID-19, fully 60 percent of restaurant startups close in their first year. One of the most surefire ways to be a successful restaurant is to have at least one renowned chef and then to have a culinary concept that matches this chef’s abilities. 

This means you need to:

~Find a great local chef, figure out what his or her culinary talents are and shape the theme of the restaurant – including the menu – around that. Most chefs can pull off many different styles, regional goods, etc. but don’t you want your chef making his/her best food. This is how restaurants get rave reviews, good word of mouth, and a sustainable reputation.

Some of these tips could require you to make a lot of big changes. For example, you may need to completely redesign your kitchen and/or cookware. Or you may need to relocate your restaurant to a more affordable location.

Perhaps it’s time to change the whole concept behind your restaurant and install a new thematic cuisine with a local, regional, or exotic menu that will blow the minds of your neighborhood diners. 

COVID-19 is a tough time for many, especially restaurant business owners, but sometimes you have to take a rotten situation and use it to make yourself better. Ask yourself this: when people are ready to go out and eat again, are they going to immediately want to try out that new unique eatery they heard about online?

Chefs check out my comprehensive guide on how to open a restaurant in New York

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