1) Grand opening to soon

Of all the stores that I have opened, I have always gone with a soft opening approach. What this means is that I like to get my shop in order before I announce to the world “hey come look at me.” I have attended meetings with very senior and a lot more educated strategist than I, who all criticise this soft opening approach and hammer home to me the importance of marketing from day one.

These individuals are educated by textbook, and although I understand the power and the importance of marketing, I also understand the timing. Only a Restaurant operations consultant or the staff of a newly opened Restaurant or Cafe can fully understand the mayhem that takes place with the opening of the new establishment.

Although it might be more costly to operate on a lull for a few weeks to sort out teething problems, when I do launch, I will be very sure that my establishment puts on a great performance and sends whatever punters that do come through the door, who I have welcomed, away with tales of success and high standards. Not in relaying a calamity of teething problems. You do not get a second chance to make a first impression. My marketing campaign also starts on day one but my first few clients are my staff whom I need to impress and secondly for them to impress me. Mess it up on day one and a good chance is you won’t see these guests again, or any of their friends.

2) Don’t focus on what you want or assume you know what other people want

A really simple but often overlooked set of questions to every business owner. Who is my customer and where is my customer?

Don’t get bogged down in what you like, because what you like doesn’t matter. Once you have decided on your area, conduct focus groups and research to get a sense of what people in your area want, or may not be available. Know your customer.

Alternatively if you have a chosen concept and offer which is unique, be sure you choose an appropriate location to market your product and are aware how much people will spend to have it. Too many times people miss the mark by not following the basics of supply and demand.

3) Location. Location. Location

Not just a term shouted from the rooftops by real estate agent’s but an actual golden rule of retail. You will have a general idea and a desire for a location that’s on your mind and throughout your search you may find suitable premises but the rent plus outgoings might be a bridge too far for you. This can be a scary moment to commit to signing a lease agreement that could tie you to that premises for upwards of seven years, I can acknowledge that.

I have worked in a two star Michelin Restaurant that was located in a very strange position, down a backstreet laneway, one that you would never dream to look and find. This is obviously a very niche market and can usually attract food enthusiasts on the search for such a dining experience, armed with a food guide or having already researched. Not a leisurely stroll where you are committed to pay such vast amounts for a dining experience. Not your spur of the moment lunch!  With that in mind convenient access and high visibility are critical. To attempt to save money on rent in an average location often results in average turnover and can lead to over extended budgets allocated to advertising in order to get noticed. Of course you must do your due diligence and know that you are paying a reasonable or ‘ market rent ‘ per square metre for your location. A little extra spent on rent can ensure turnover, turnover can ensure freshness, maintain consistent staffing levels and increase motivation.

4) Maintaining longevity in staff

Anybody with deep enough pockets can launch a Restaurant or a Cafe and attract staff to work in a new polished environment where the mice have yet to be separated from the men. Although chaotic at times, it will be a honeymoon period for some.

As any Restaurant or Café advisor will tell you. The first few months will be critical and also expensive allowing for overstaffing. When things settle down and you have built a solid client base and you are now operating at appropriate wage percentages, you will be at the mercy of your staff.

This industry tends to have quite a turnover of staff; it’s just the type of person it attracts. The trick to your longevity will be consistency and the only way you can maintain consistency, will be with consistent staff.

For this, one must be realistic about your standards and your ability to maintain and govern them. Of course the variables are limitless but it is worth noting that what you launch yourself as, must be maintained. Keep this in mind at the menu development stage.

I have worked at a 3 chef’s hatted Restaurant, Restaurant Of The Year and Best New Restaurant only to be followed by the loss of a Chef’s Hat and eventual closure. It’s demise. Reaching a certain standard and its inability to maintain it.

5) Appealingly to all

‘Jack of all trade’s, master of none.’ I have discussed the point of uniqueness in greater detail in a separate blog but it requires mentioning briefly here as a point of concern and a major factor leading to the failure of many new restaurants or cafes.

You cannot appeal to everybody and if you try you will have confused customers and an over complicated kitchen. This will also leave you with no unique identity in the marketplace. It’s best to find a gap, or a niche market and then put all your focus and energy into delivering to this space, with undivided attention. Having pages and pages of menu listings and multiple chicken dishes for instance will not allow you to stand out and be noted for your uniqueness and signature items. It will only confuse your customers. Again, know your customer.

At Copper Pantry Restaurant and Cafe Consulting Firm, my aim is to teach you from the mistakes I have made. Please check out my other blogs and drop me a line if you have any queries. Good Luck.