Friday, October 10, 2008

How on Earth Do You Start a Restaurant?

Starting a restaurant is as exciting as it is challenging, from the conceptual stages to the first drink and meal served. What you achieve in the conceptual stages of your restaurant design will certainly have a major impact be it good or bad. “Due diligence” is the operative phrase. Taking the proper steps can insure success and prevent entrepreneurial suicide. Think about all the tasks to be accomplished before the first meal is served. Here’s the concise list:
  1. Concept
  2. Site selection
  3. Space negotiations
  4. Facility design, construction
  5. Menu design, marketing
  6. Equipment purchasing, staffing
  7. Training, accounting and opening day.

Each one of these categories has its own specific list of tasks. It isn't just the restaurant kitchen or the dining room layout. It isn't just getting some restaurant design plans off the internet. You must commit to due diligence. To say any one aspect is less important than another is a grave mistake.

A great restaurant design is more than just the "big-wow-factor" when you first walk into a restaurant. A great design team will insure that four of the five sensory experiences (seeing, tasting, touching, hearing and smelling) are achieved with excellence. This along with the sense of taste, provided by the staff, is what will create the total dining experience for the guest. People go to restaurants today to be seen, heard, entertained, eat and drink. One aspect is as important as the other. This sensory design style can be achieved with the smallest of venues, be it a coffee shop, a school cafeteria or a high end restaurant. Great design is vital to the starting and success of every food service establishment.

There are several types of designers that may be involved in a foodservice project, including the architect, foodservice consultant / designer, graphic designer and interior designer. There may be additional designers required like audio/visual, lighting and mechanical designers. Most will fall under the umbrella of the architect. The absolute key component for the designers is the ability to interpret the vision of the owner/operator. The owner must have a clear foundational understanding of their concept and vision.

Let’s get started. What’s first? You understand your restaurant concept and vision, right? Document it in detail. In the beginning stages there are two design firms to bring on board. The first being an architectural firm and the second a foodservice consulting/design firm. I highly recommend these firms are hired independently. This eliminates a conflict of interest.

First, begin by interviewing several architectural firms. The architectural firm you hire must have restaurant design experience. There are so many foodservice code issues to deal with that an inexperienced architect will create a nightmarish scenario for your foodservice designer and all the tradesmen. The architect that you hire will assemble or assist you in assembling the remainder of the design team other than the foodservice consultant. Whether you are building from the ground up or occupying an existing space, an architect is vital and typically required by the municipality. The architect will design and allocate space according to your concept and vision. Be ready to be part of the design process. Communicate to the architect the necessity to achieve all the sensory experiences previously mentioned. Always be active in every part of the process. It is not unusual to review several drawings. Continue the drawing process until your vision has been realized.

Secondly, interview and hire a foodservice consulting/design firm which takes the architectural space and makes it functional with a great layout. The foodservice designer will be involved with the entire space, including the bar, kitchen, the side stations, seating and even restrooms. The foodservice designer then will specify each piece of equipment according to the food served, create mechanical plans for the architect and contractors, design construction installation elevations for the equipment installers, produce bid documents that will ensure competitive pricing, complete a quality assurance punch list and participate in fully developing your concept and vision. Hiring a foodservice designer is absolutely imperative. With the exceedingly high cost of real-estate and labor, improper utilization of space can cost you success.

I advise hiring an independent foodservice consultant/designer whose sole function is consultation and design, as opposed to those also selling equipment which can create a conflict of interest. A great designed facility will use every square foot of space strategically and efficiently. You want a professionally laid out space to accommodate a good lean crew not a track team running your restaurant. The whole sensory experience is affected by the quality of the design. Customer and employee friendly environments are achievable goals. Let the foodservice designer have an understanding of your budget and they will draw and specify equipment accordingly. You then can decide with whom to make your equipment and furnishing purchase through a competitive bidding process.

The combination of a great architect and foodservice consultant/designer will ensure that you will achieve the big-wow-factor in a very efficient space based on seeing, feeling, touching and hearing. And with the excellent professional staff that you assemble for the sense of taste, you will have created an unbelievable culinary experience.

Visit this blog again for more great tips, but don't stop here. Speak with a foodservice consultant for some free no-obligation advice to get you on the right track. You can even call me. Just visit my website for the contact info.

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