There’s no doubt about it: opening a restaurant is a scary prospect. It’s extremely expensive, involves a ton of responsibility, an intimidating amount of work, and it’s a huge financial risk. It will challenge you physically and mentally. But for many, the moment when the doors are opened for business and the customers begin to come in makes it all worth the effort.
While there isn’t a magic pill to make the process of opening a restaurant easy, there is power to be found in being able to anticipate what challenges lie ahead. This post is dedicated to educating you on some of the scariest aspects of opening a restaurant; once you learn about some of the potential hardships, you can prepare yourself mentally for them, so that you can be prepared and equipped to a greater degree to move past them more easily and with expediency.
What’s so scary about opening a restaurant? Perhaps the better question is actually this: what’s not scary about opening a restaurant? It’s expensive, it’s stressful, it involves seemingly endless paperwork and hoops to jump through.
Opening a restaurant is a challenge along the entire process, and there are bound to be a lot of discouraging moments before the payoff. One article even likens opening a restaurant to giving birth, but “instead of just popping out a baby, you’re dealing with investors and new menus and new employees and new equipment and permits and inspections and landlords and a million other things normal people never even think about”.
That having been said, let’s discuss some of the biggest scary things and hopefully remove some of the fear!
10 Scary Things About Opening a Restaurant. An explanation of each and how to proactively anticipate it.
It requires a ton of “homework”. Before you can apply for a business loan for your potential restaurant, you’re going to have to do plenty of homework. You’ll have to settle on a general concept, then scout and search for a location; you’ll have to do market research on what type of restaurant and what types of price points will work in the area in which you want to open your restaurant. You’ll have to create a business plan that projects how you anticipate making money, and how much money you think you can make. And that’s just to start!
So. Much. Paperwork. Your business plan. Bank applications. Business licenses. Liquor permits. Inspection paperwork. Tax forms. These are just a few of the many papers you’ll have to fill out during the restaurant process. By the end of the process, you’ll have entire file drawers filled with all of your paperwork! Get used to it, and set up a good filing system.
You’ll have to constantly sell yourself. During the process of opening a restaurant, you will have to stay in marketing mode pretty much the entire time. You’ll have to “sell” yourself to your potential landlord, to people selling equipment, to vendors, to potential investors, and so on. It can get extremely exhausting to be in promotion mode at all times–be extra-sure to schedule in self-care time; it’s important, and it will help you keep up the momentum.
Asking for money. Asking for money is hard, it’s true, but unless you’ve got a huge trust fund, you’re probably going to have to do it while opening a restaurant. Most restaurants are funded by a village: the owner, bank loans, and private investors all contribute. It can be challenging to put yourself in the vulnerable position of asking for financial help, but it is a necessary part of the process.
It will take a lot of money. Speaking of money? It’s going to take a lot of money to open your restaurant. It is very probably going to take more money than you ever thought it would require. It will test your wits when you keep on receiving invoices when the restaurant has not made a cent yet. Even when creating a budget for opening the restaurant, know that unexpected things will happen that can cause costs mount. Try to round up on everything when projecting the opening costs, and to reduce costs wherever possible.
Hurry up, then wait! When opening a restaurant, there is a lot of the “hurry up and wait” game that will happen. You’ll have to rush to make a decision on the tables…then they will undoubtedly take a week longer than anticipated to make. You’ll have to update the faucets after an inspection, then they’ll lag on making a return visit. It can be maddening, but simply know that it’s part of the process.
It will take more time than you think. Most restaurants take longer to put together and open than originally anticipated. This can be super frustrating as you have been paying rent on a space that isn’t making you money. It can stress you out, and that can affect you physically and mentally. It can challenge personal relationships. Keep going. If you’ve come this far, you can go a little further.
You may not make your money back right away. Just because you built it, it doesn’t mean they will come. This is possibly the hardest aspect of opening a restaurant to swallow: your establishment might not magically turn a profit right away. It can take time to get the word out and to gain a regular following, and even when you do, some times will be slower than others.. Marketing, forging relationships with your community, and just keeping on keeping on can help; so can adding supplementary services such as catering.
Conclusion: Opening a restaurant is a fantastically enriching experience, but you’ll encounter a significant amount of stressors along the way. By learning about some of the difficulties detailed in this post before you start the process, it can make them easier to deal with when you encounter them.
What part of opening a restaurant scares you most?