A picture that shows the outside of a restaurant. The sign on it reads "Johnny Ad's," and it has a bright, red door.

Opening a Restaurant: What to Keep in Mind

A picture that shows the outside of a restaurant. The sign on it reads "Johnny Ad's," and it has a bright, red door.
One of our clients, Johnny Ad’s, isn’t a new restaurant – but has been a staple in Old Saybrook for generations.

There are tons of restaurants and bars in existence, each one vying to become the next “must go to” location. So if you’re opening a restaurant of your own, then you need to create something that stands out. In our industry, we work with a lot of small restaurants, bars, and food trucks – so we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. With that in mind (and with some help from the book, “Setting the Table,”), we’ve given a few tips to remember when you’re opening a restaurant.

How are You Different?

One of the first things you should ask yourself is how are you different from other restaurants in your category? You can absolutely say that it’s your service and your cuisine – but almost every other restaurant claims the exact same thing. With that in mind, you need to be a bit more creative when coming up with your differences. Don’t just be a bar with Prohibition-era cocktails; be a bar that leans into being a speakeasy with a passcode to get in. Don’t just be a BBQ place; be an upscale BBQ place with upscale whiskey cocktails. When creating your restaurant, make sure to lean into your strengths – whatever they happen to be. Your differences are what make your restaurant unique.

Know Your Audience

Many people who open restaurants, or businesses, will claim that they want to cater to everyone. You’re doing yourself a disservice if that’s your plan. Instead, lean into your niche. If you cater to a very specific audience, then you’re more likely to get noticed – which means more business. As an example, perhaps you want to appeal to families – and so build an experience around entertaining families while they dine. Alternatively, perhaps you want to cater to young singles and so lean into specialty shots and invite bands to play at your space. No matter what you decide, make sure to keep your audience in mind.

Location is Key

There is the saying that location is everything – and it absolutely is important. Make sure to do some research before deciding on a locale and opening a restaurant. Is there some demand in the area for what you do? Is there a way to make your business stand out from the others in the area? What other restaurants are in the area you’re looking at. Is the space big enough (or small enough) for your needs? Is there parking? These are all things you need to consider when looking at spaces. Not only that, but you will also want to reach out to other businesses in the area. Partnering with local businesses can be a huge boon when it comes to cross-promotion, or even just sharing incentives.

Promote Yourself When Opening a Restaurant

You may have the greatest restaurant in the world, but no one will come to it if you don’t promote it. When you’re first opening a restaurant, you may not have the budget to hire a full-time social media or marketing manager. However, there are things that you can still do. When you’re first opening, consider doing a ribbon cutting or other special launch event. This will help get customers in your area excited. You can partner with your local Chamber of Commerce to make this happen, and also promote it only through various different event sites. Remember to regularly post on social media, as well (we actually have a great blog post on social media marketing you can read here). You can spend an hour or two taking pictures of your food and customers, and then schedule those posts out on Instagram and Facebook so you’re consistent.

Always Learn More After Opening a Restaurant

There is always more to learn as a new – or even as an experienced – business owner. This goes doubly so in the restaurant industry. As you continue to grow your business, make sure to spend some time to continue your education. Attend seminars, read books (such as Setting the Table, by Danny Meyer), and ask advice from other restaurant owners. By continuing to learn, you can continue to improve your restaurant.

Obviously, this blog doesn’t cover everything you need to know when opening a restaurant. However, the tips can absolutely help. And if you’re in need of further assistance, you can always reach out to us. We’re happy to discuss strategies, and also have various services such as marketing and point of sales systems that you can use in your restaurant.