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East Africa Chef Magazine Edition 1

How to Start a Restaurant

Ever dreamed of opening a restaurant, but unsure of where to start? Opening and managing a restaurant can be a daunting task! But with a clear cut menu, theme, marketing, and management plan, you can turn that vision into a reality. Our eight-step guide provides tips and resources to help you open and operate a new restaurant. It includes handy hints compiled from industry professionals here in Kenya and East Africa at large.

1. Build Your Menu

First and foremost, map out your menu! The menu is the most crucial part of your restaurant concept. Your restaurant cuisine will determine the equipment you buy, the crowd you are targeting, the staff you hire, and many other aspects of restaurant management. By creating your menu, you’ll help establish these keystones for your business:

  • The demographic you are interested in serving
  • The capability of cooks and staff
  • Equipment capacity and layout
  • Availability of menu ingredients
  • Pricing strategy

2. Choose a Theme and Own It

Now that you’ve established your entrees, it’s time to choose a restaurant theme and own it! Visualize the type of space you’d like to create before you choose a colour scheme, logo, and other marketing materials.

Use lighting, colour, and furnishing to set your stage. For an intimate dining experience, use dark colours to make a space seem smaller and choose comfortable seating to be more inviting. For a quick service atmosphere, use bold colours, bright lights, and hard seats to ensure that diners move on after 20 minutes. And don’t forget the staff uniform! Whether you own a tropical-themed restaurant or operate a 5-star establishment, your staff should emphasize that theme.

For branding appeal, it is essential to create a restaurant logo. This will serve as your restaurant emblem and appear on your menu cover, marketing and press material, storefront and outdoor décor like umbrellas, take out containers, and customizable items such as glassware. Further, promote your logo with more customizable restaurant supplies. Remember that colour is a mark of recognition, so choose your logo hues wisely.

3. Establish Equipment Layout

You’ve established your meals and restaurant theme. Now it’s time to think about equipment installation, and how it can meet the goals set forth in your menu and theme. Your goal is to create a systematic flow from the front of the house to back, from the receiving hostess all the way back to the kitchen. When it comes to installation, think about the frequency in which you’ll use equipment in order to avoid overuse. For instance, do you plan to feature many broiled items? Too many broiled products will slow down service if the boiler can’t handle them. Considering planning appetizers that don’t require stovetops and grills to avoid conflicts with the main entrée prep.

  • Be aware of restaurant layout problems that can delay installation. Common culprits include:
  • Utility specifications for electric and gas equipment
  • Water connection, water pressure, and drain requirements
  • Hood depth requirements
  • Mounting surfaces
  • Building permits

5. Find a Reliable Supplier

You’ve envisioned your restaurant layout – now it’s time to find the supplies. A constant, reliable source of supply at a reasonable price must be established and maintained to ensure restaurant success. Some wholesale suppliers offer high-quality equipment and reliable customer service for your restaurant supply needs. There are two elements of supply you want to think about:

  • Ingredients

Consider choosing multi-faceted ingredients, and buying in bulk at wholesale prices to save money. Consider a seasonal, or even daily, menu to avoid drastic price increases for out of season items. 

  • Equipment

We suggest choosing a reputable wholesale supplier and doing your research before choosing. While it’s tempting to buy used equipment to save money, new machines that come with a clear warranty are your safest bet in the event of equipment malfunctions. Lastly, choose a supplier with reliable local customer service.

6. Hire the Right Staff

Consider all roles that need to be filled at your restaurant before hiring staff. This includes human resources management and supervisors; food and beverage purchasing; receiving and storing products; food preparation; foodservice; food cleaning and dishwashing; marketing and sales; public relations; accounting and auditing; and bar services.

Investing time and training into the right staff can spare you the headache of constant rehires. It is important to outline crucial issues to think about prior to hiring, including a realistic checklist of anticipated costs and overheads (salaries, insurance, recruitment costs, and more).

7. Be Mindful of the Competition

Whether it be the depressed economy, offbeat location, or the brand new burger joint across the street, you’ll always be up against some obstacle prior to (and during) your restaurant’s operation. This will call on you to get creative! If you can’t compete with a neighbouring restaurant’s low prices, play a different angle: Family-owned. Ingredients are freshly are grown. An exclusive, one of a kind dish. Live music.

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