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Use these steps when opening a restaurant

If you’re considering opening your own restaurant, you might be an experienced restaurateur or just starting out for the first time. There is much to consider when starting any small business, but with a restaurant, the process can be more complex due to how many details there are to take care of. It’s important to follow these steps to opening a restaurant before you settle on a location and open your doors to the public.

Steps to opening a restaurant

Study your market

The restaurant business is often finicky and fluctuates with the seasons and economic climate. So before even considering opening a brand-new restaurant or a new location of an existing chain, take time to carefully review the market, surrounding area, and target clientele.

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Study comparable restaurants in your town. Read restaurant reviews to get a sense of consumer preferences. Consider your competition and similar establishments. Survey foot and auto traffic at different locations. When considering which practices to emulate, look at restaurant models that appear to work, and those that aren’t as successful.

Businesspeople with financing spreadsheets

Create your brand

With this data and knowledge in hand about the market you’re entering, you will be better equipped to tailor your brand to reach the most customers. Your restaurant brand is its overall persona and public face, and encompasses not only the menu, but also the vision and feel of the place.

Your brand is an extension of the target customer. If that customer base loves meat dishes, the restaurant name, decor, menu, staff, and general ambiance should all be tailored to appeal to that segment of customers. They will respond to and remember your restaurant if your brand resonates with their tastes, so the branding should match their preferences.

Brand specifics include your restaurant name and motto, logo, color scheme, menu design, as well as the source of ingredients, your restaurant’s mission and value proposition, and personality. Brand truly ‘is’ the restaurant and affects all areas of operations.

Develop a business plan

This essential step involves your implementation strategy, budget, financials, and overall business plan. And no aspect of your restaurant’s operation is possible to execute successfully without a clearly planned budget and financial projection.

Involve an accountant or financial planner at this stage to ensure you have captured all expense line items in your business strategy–rent, salaries, operating permits, capital equipment, ordering software, weekly or daily food and product orders, marketing, website, and so on.

Your business plan should also include your marketing strategy for the year and how you plan to reach your customers at different times.

Mind map of marketing methods

Plan marketing

The first marketing step is to create your website and set up a social media presence–on Facebook to encourage interaction and provide contact information and images, and Instagram to share photography of entrees and entice new customers.

Then consider how you will reach potential customers. Engage a marketing consultant if you get stuck. They might suggest printing flyers to distribute in the community and announce your new restaurant.

You may want to distribute coupons with the flyers, or online coupons on Facebook and your website to get people in the door the first time. Send notices out to food columnists as well at local publications to generate buzz.

Some successful restaurants sponsor local children’s sports teams to get their name out there, co-host events such as charity drives, or invite spectators for television sporting events.

Place orders

You will need a host of new equipment in your restaurant to keep things running smoothly, even if you were able to lease a location that already has a full kitchen and dining room. This is also the time to set up relationships with good vendors–you will depend on them weekly for timely delivery. You also need to create logins to online ordering systems and set up a food and supply ordering schedule.

Happy female business owner

Hire and train staff

Hiring can go more smoothly if you start your marketing efforts early, even before doors open. In some markets, good wait staff are challenging to hire, and the same goes for kitchen staff. Consider what benefits you can offer to encourage employees to stay longer with less turnover.

Good training is essential to ensure that your staff lives and breathes your brand and provides excellent service to customers. Devote considerable time to training before your grand opening, and each day before doors open.


Focus on the food

In the end, good food will keep customers coming back. Service comes a close second. From the start, pay close attention to your suppliers to make sure they send you the freshest produce and other food products. Work closely with your cooks and keep reviewing the menu to see what resonates with customers and what doesn’t sell well.

Feed your staff and get their feedback on the dishes, making adjustments as needed. Seek out customer feedback. Vary your menu with the season and switch out a few dishes from time to time.

These basic steps will help you get your restaurant up and running. Study the industry as well and consult online resources and experts to ensure you have the latest data and best practices.

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Food trucks are a popular business for many entrepreneurs, aspiring chefs, and restaurant owners. They're a great way to test out smaller menus and specialized cuisine without the startup costs of opening a restaurant. Many food truck owners go on to establish permanent locations in areas where their goods sell very well.
If you want to set up a restaurant one day or try your hand at operating a food truck, you need a solid menu. Creating a menu isn't always easy. You might feel overwhelmed with limiting the menu. Business savvy types may focus too much on profit margins, neglecting the value of a menu with one costly (but revenue-building) specialty item.
Read on to learn what you need to know for carving out a solid food truck menu. You'll discover the most popular food truck items, how many items you should include, and what makes a good menu.
What are the most popular food truck items?
It should come as no surprise why some of these items hold such popularity as menu items. The following aren't just popular food truck cuisines, either. Many of these are adaptable for special diets. Some are perfect for prep, easy cleanup, and sale.
Think high-quality or specialty meats: bison, kangaroo, and gator. Consider ease and adjustability for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Or, think of regional twists like Mexican, Cajun, and so on. Plus, you can adapt to keto, vegan, and vegetarian options, too. For quick and easy cooking, you can always rely on a burger.
Known for its rich spices and rice or flatbread base, Indian street food is perfect on a food truck menu. It's popular for taste, dietary options, and ease of consumption. Plus, cooking rice and prepping most sauce or curry bases are very straightforward.
Understandably a favorite, pizza isn't hard to prep ahead of time. And if you layout your food truck just right, you can customize pizza in many ways. Although making vegan options is harder, you can still cater to specific dietary needs and a wide variety of specialties with unique topping combos.
Loading up fried potatoes is easy. And if you want a standout factor, you can sell a simple burger or other entrees with one-of-a-kind specialty loaded fries on the side. You can quickly adapt fries to vegan needs, and you can even make a heart-healthy loaded fry entree. If you're wondering what these would look like, imagine how curious your customers might be.
Grilled cheese
Grilled cheese is doable for even the most novice cook, which is a solid, reliable staple food in kitchens everywhere. Finding a good location and sourcing quality ingredients can put this at the top of any food truck's potential menu.
For different dietary concerns, healthier options, convenience, and more, falafel is another multicultural street food. Customers love this dish, which is full of flavor and easy to eat on the go (often served in kebabs). Plus, you can cater to a wider variety of customers with this on your menu.
Mac 'n' cheese
Mac 'n' cheese is another staple, like grilled cheese or pizza. Not traditionally the healthiest, but often the tastiest option, you'll find this is easily adaptable, too. You can make it healthy with veggie-based pasta and you can jazz it up with seafood. You can even "veganize" it with vegan cheese. Your options are limitless.

How many items should be on a food truck menu?
Even knowing what the most popular food truck menu items are may not simplify your decision-making. Maybe you feel more overwhelmed than ever about how you should craft your menu. Here are a few tips for how you pare down your menu ideas.
Offer only essentials
The more specific your menu, the more essential every item on it is. Keeping your menu limited to only the most basic dishes, especially if you're adapting a restaurant's menu, can help reduce your choices.
Selling fewer items allows you to rotate out less popular items or sell new things as a weekly special. Reliable food helps people understand your brand and spread the word about your cuisine.
Rule of thumb
Most food trucks sell 5 to 12 items. These can vary based on how you wish to plan your menu, which could be based on how you source your food or choose to market. Sticking to a set menu streamlines purchasing, prep, marketing, and cleanup. And it keeps tight budgets in check.
Quality over quantity
Focus on the quality of the food you sell. If you make a grilled cheese, you want solid toasting bread. If you put bacon on loaded fries, make sure it's thick and flavorful. Quality ingredients stand out far more than selling tons of food. If you invest in quality, your customers will invest in your food.
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A good food truck menu follows a few rules. These help your truck stand out, cut costs, build customer interest, and grow your business.
Explore menu psychology
Avoid dollar signs on truck menus or your menu board. Customers should focus on your menu items and their descriptions, not the price. Customers often spend more this way.
Use bracketing to offer the same dish in two sizes. This makes customers feel like they're getting a good deal for more food at a slightly higher price.
Highlight special dishes
Put the most important menu items in the upper right-hand corner. It's the first place the eye goes. Plant your signature dish here for recognition and memorability.
Keep it clear and readable
Don't use columns of menu items. These force customers to compare prices, encouraging them to choose less expensive items. Suppose you can price items the same. 
Make your board easy to update, so customers recognize new foods, specials, and their options. If you want to try new dishes and experiment often, this can help.
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