One fundamental truth every single person reading this article today needs to take in: do not start a business you cannot mentally, physically, emotionally and financially invest in. You must have a plan especially if you are prone to spontaneity. It is career suicide to think one day of sales means a lifetime of profit. Most businesses don't work that way and you quickly learn some days will be better than others.
Back in the day one of my primary vocations was one of being a caterer. To this day I love it so much that it plays an integral part in my publishing business as a service added on to any of my authors needing culinary expertise at their events and beyond. But here's the thing I love catering and my clients let me know I am good at it. Was this by happenstance or sheer blink of an eye, no. It took work. It took learning the rope and not assuming that because I could cook I would have a business. Motivation along with skill. Understanding timetables, budgets, scheduling errands beforehand.
There was never a day when ingredients were bought on the same day with the expectation of a smooth event. This would spell the opposite as you must plan for the hiccups, the car breaking down, sous chef calling out, venue making last minute adjustments. Whatever it is you need to be on point. You do not allow your venue to take the wrap for your bad judgements and it starts with the planning. Not the planning of the day, it starts long before that. I mean the planning of the career choice. Did you factor in how long it would take to build a clientele. Neighbors and friends will tell you your food is terrific but this should not be mistaken mass appeal. Nor is it comprehension of owning a business. A good majority believe going to college stabilizes your ability to maintain a business. It is true as a stepping stone however this may turn to dust if you do not possess hands on skill.
A degree qualifies you but experience offers quantifiable opportunity. If your aim is to work within the culinary field this is a major fact if ignored will leave you in the dark and behind the competition. In fact you won't have any because they will have already taken your potential clients in a whisper. Leave your ego out of it. Seek assistance from other restaurant owners. Learn the ropes before you decide on a store front, food truck or booth. Know your market. Chinese food sells virtually anywhere people live, why? Because it is viewed in many states as a universal staple. Paydays are a good barometer. In my area of Connecticut any Thursday and Friday you see streams of people leaving work speed dialing their orders-one and done. Inquiring area locals many want good reliable food, quick service and consistency.
This does not work for every restaurant especially smaller mom and pops which is why food chains find a higher degree of success with large menu choices to accommodate whatever traffic coming their way. They also have the limited luxury of fanning out over more than one state, most cases multiples within miles of each so if they close one their ego may be bruised but they are not strapped. You need to be schooled on restaurant codes and codes of conduct. Two very different things. One keeps you aligned with city codes for operating out of an approved kitchen the other is knowing who to hire and training them on kitchen procedure, safety and ethical codes of conduct. Both have extremely high levels of responsibility, one false move and you'll know from your hot breath fogging up the other side of your once welcoming entryway.
Keeping a schedule is mandatory which doesn't mean calculating every second but does mean you need to know the time between prep and party. Unless there is an emergency you don't open the doors to a restaurant without steam coming from your kitchen and steam trays in the front if serving food is your career. If you are incurring daily emergencies that preempt normal store hours you are not ready for business and this speaks to other things on a personal level needing attention. You must check yourself as you not only represent yourself but others who may want to do business with you. When deciding on going it alone it is no longer about you. It is about the services and community effort you are supposed to provide. Recommendations are not made on a maybe. Have your affairs in order and if you cannot handle the non culinary side such as hiring, training, taxes and financials, and errands you must have a plan to facilitate.
Growing strong relationships with area retailers and wholesalers who know each other will help with discounts and other specials not known to the average shopper. Build a rapport. Let your neighbors know you are open. One way to show stability is to create hours of operation you can realistically run on. Haphazard hours of operation make it seem you are not prepared to handle what you yourself put in place. It reduces your reputation to one of distrust and unreliability and your days will become numbered. A report came out today suggesting Americans spend a little over $3000 per year on eating out. Now obviously this isn't because they have to but because they want to.
We are running the gambit on fun activity with the onslaught of mainstays like Chili's with their newly instituted tabletop tablets enabling its diners to play games, order food and pay their tabs and places like Dave and Buster's gaming are off the charts. Olive Garden owned by Darden Restaurants reported in 2015 operating 845 restaurants when introduction of the tablet method emerged evaluating speed, risk, and customer satisfaction virtually eliminating human interaction. Testing the theory of self-sustained dining experience noting tips were higher as patrons who had more than a satisfactory visit. Yet you go the other end of the spectrum local eateries and one of the first things you hear are the compliments of great conversation. The charm of the smaller establishments is camaraderie. It is still anyone's market.
Marketing mentioned several times here means you must do it. You need to know the local happenings. Over the summer I asked an area restaurant who had perfect conditions for revenue enhancements due largely in part to the town always engaging its residents in fairs and activities practically thrown in their lap, if I could try something. I asked for the day's specials, visited the local library not a quarter mile away and printed up specials with catch phrases including the weekends events. Brief mention was made also of the catering.
Facilitators of the event along with those selling on the green might want to know that. Walking around only ten minutes to various tables and interacting with people shopping and sightseeing brought in thought provoking results. Folks visited and mentioned how they didn't know about the restaurant a mere few feet away but had received the flyer and purchased multiple meals for themselves and to take home. Success, not so fast.
Subsequent trips were made back to taste other items but without follow through at restaurant level the idea though valid fell flat and the now defunct space is a side note to any good effort.
Another thing to note is on the day the flyers were passed out there were at least eight to ten people the restaurant owner knew. These individuals nice as they were did not increase the bottom line. making me pause and add to this cautionary tale. Stop having your friends and relatives hang out like this is a family reunion. You must know the difference between hurt feelings and your bottom line. Heart motives blur lines and cause dissention where there should be peace and profit. For what it is worth I truly wanted to see this space work for these owners. I hoped the best but all the emotion in the world doesn't make a dent without hard work, knowledge and experience.
There is no regret but a renewed sense of awareness. The fire remaining endures and strengthens a resolve to do better despite seeing yet another comrade lose the battle. Learning from mistakes can change your future so get out of your own way and allow common sense and reason to reign supreme. When the smoke clears others will get a better perception instead of a rear view.
Until next time~