Monday, October 25, 2010

Restaurant Start-Up Manual Coming Out

I've written a manual that will be available the end of December, to help you do your due diligence starting a restaurant. It will give you all the steps and instructions necessary before you even sign a lease or buy the space.

The savings realized from such a manual as this is astronomical. It's crucial that you start your restaurant informed of what you need to do, and how to do it. Studies have shown that a high percentage of restaurant failure occurs prior to opening.

I will lead you through the process, with the expectation that you do your due dilligence and follow the instructions. Success depends on it! Here is a sample from the book of part of an instruction:


Instruction 1: Concept & Vision

What is your restaurant Concept? What is your Vision for your site? These are two extraordinarily important questions. One is much easier to answer than the other. The question of Vision is a bit harder to wrap your mind around. Why is this Instruction 1? Instruction 2 through 13 will be completely irrelevant without understanding the first - Your Concept and Vision. An absolute conclusion must be acquired. Concept and Vision become very personal. I encourage you to go to 25 different restaurants. You will see some commonality but you will also see their uniqueness. The menus will be different along with the style of service, design, size of the space, artwork, furniture, smell, sound, décor and hundreds of other features that make the restaurant distinctively its own individual initiative. Key personnel, architects, designers and advisors will require your succinct Concept and Vision. I highly recommend including the name of the restaurant in your vision statement. This is certainly optional but, it will enhance and clarify your Vision a great deal for all who are involved.

Instruction 1, Concept and Vision, is going to be the focus of your Business Plan in Instruction 2. Prospective investors and financial institutions will gage much of their decision on this topic. They are well aware that sales projections are based on your past history, or if you are new to the business, based on a hypothetical projection. Your thesis has to play out like a movie in order for them to understand and get excited about your proposition. Any novelist, screen writer or artist can start a project venture only with a very clear understanding of their concept and vision.

This is really the fun part of becoming a restaurateur—truly making your space your own, an expression of you. I could say more about the importance of Instruction 1, but, that would be redundant. Let’s get to it.


Your Concept is the nuts and bolts of your operation. It is not only identifying a theme like fast food or white-table cloth (fine dining). It is a complete understanding and description of how your restaurant is to function. The menu, style of service, seating capacity, price point, location, demographics and other distinctive features will encompass your concept. Your concept does not need to be long, it needs to be concise. There are thousands of concepts and as I stated they are all unique to the group that has created them. Every concept has a two or three word description, such as;: Brew Pub, Sports Bar, California Fusion, Bakery Café, New York Deli, Gastro Pub, Japanese Steak House, Chop House, Wine Bar, Pizzeria, etc.
The following table is an example of what should be included to identify your concept. On the next few pages fill in words and descriptions associated with your concept.

Sample Concept Features and Description:

Name: Ruben’s Gourmet Deli

Description: New York Deli

Service: Fast Casual with a Large Volume Take-out and Catering

Menu: Gourmet Sandwiches, Fresh Soups, Salads, Beer, Wine, Espresso, Gourmet Cheese Cakes
Price Point: $10.00 to $12.00

Key Staff: Chef Leonard Ruben

Site: Medium to large city, Dense White-collar Demographics, High-volume Foot and Car Traffic.
Space: 2,000 to 3,000 Sq. Feet

Seating: 75-100

Atmosphere: High Energy, Fun

Sample Concept Description:
Ruben’s Gourmet Deli is an upscale casual eatery. The focus will be on fresh upscale oversized sandwiches, salads, soups and several flavors of New York Style cheese cakes along with a great beer and wine selection. Our sandwiches will be made with the finest meats, such as Carnegie Corned Beef and Pastrami on homemade Jewish Rye, cut thin and stacked high. Salads and soups will be made daily with the finest ingredients possible. Chef Ruben’s award winning cheese cake will complete the dining experience. Our perfect store size is 2,800 square feet. The space will allow us to seat approximately 80 patrons and have a kitchen and display area large enough to produce a quality product with a big focus on high volume catering and take-out. The perfect location will be in a white collar business district with high foot and car traffic. Other restaurants and retail will be imperative to success. The customer experience will be of a fun and high energy establishment. The customer will walk in the main entrance and immediately be directed to the counter where they will be greeted by cashiers. Adjacent to the cashiers will be a bakery case loaded with cheese cakes enticing the customer to having a slice with their meal or take a slice to go. The customer will order their meal and beverage from large menu boards near the cashier and the customer will then follow a line where they can see the staff slice their meat, assemble both their sandwich and salad, and pour the soup to finish their meal. They will then be seated. The service is fast which will allow a business person to enjoy a great meal in twenty and forty five minutes for around $12. The style of service will create and enormous amount of energy. The banter between the customers and staff will be part of the meal assembly process. The concept enables us to reduce labor by having minimal waitstaff.
This example gives you an idea of a description of a concept. It touches on all the important points that make up a food service establishment. Completing these exercises will help you clarify not only your concept but how it works. Based on your concept, you may want to be more detailed is certain areas. In this case, you may want to talk more about your chef. He/she may be high profile and can attract business by name recognition. Maybe all the food is prepared with local organic products or there is something else deserving of special mention.
Please use the following worksheet, as it was done in the example above, to identify the features and description of your Concept. This will be needed to complete your Business Plan.

Your Concept Worksheet





Price Point:

Key Staff:


Space (sq. ft.):



Your Concept Description Worksheet


As you can see the book will give a lot information, examples, as well as space for you to keep notes and do the due dilligence of investigating and compiling your own information. This book will help you minimize the surprises that could make or break your business venture.

Contact me if you'd like to be informed when the book is available for purchase, or to pre-order.

- Frank

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Architect or Foodservice Designer First?

So you have an idea for a restaurant... or maybe this is even your second or third. Each time you wonder, now who do I contact first? What's the difference between architectural services and those of a foodservice designer?

It's good that you are asking, because you may or may not even need an architect on the job. If you are looking to stay within a budget, (and who isn't?), then even though some of their services overlap, architect fees are higher than a foodservice designer right out of the shoot. However, that said, in most cases you need at the least an architect stamp on your plans, and at the most you need an architect to design the structure of the building or your part of the building.

So, what does that mean?

A foodservice designer has expertise in the design and layout of your commercial kitchen and dining room complete with equipment specified for your specific concept, and will consult with you in ways to save you money when it comes to what equipment you need, where to place the electrical and plumbing, and will provide for you all the necessary drawings, plans and specifications needed for the city, the contractors and equipment companies.

On the otherhand, the architect can do all this for you, but you want to be sure to hire one that has experience in restaurant operations, restaurant equipment, flow and layout of restaurants. There are many architects with this specialty. So what's the difference in that case? The fee. Bottom line is the fee.

The architect has expertise in designing structure, which the foodservice designer does not. If that is not an issue, for instance if you are going into a space that has already been built or is already designed by an architect then you will save money going to an independent foodservice designer and consultant for the foodservice layout of the space designed by the architect.

If you still have questions about the difference I'd be glad to try to answer them.

Best to you on your restaurant venture! I wish you all the success.

- Frank Stocco, Foodservice Consultant and Designer

Monday, September 20, 2010

Design Before Equipment

I can't stress it enough... If you do your due diligence with defining your restaurant or food service concept, have an idea of the square footage of your commercial kitchen and eating area, then you can have a design drawn up to visualize your space. With this drawing, complete with the type of equipment you need, you can get competitive bids from several equipment companies.

Of course you can get the design from the equipment company perhaps at no charge or little charge, but remember they make their money from the sale of equipment.

Drawings first, then equipment bids. Who does the drawings? An independent food service consultant or designer. You get the design and layout that you want, with great expertise thrown in. Then when you get all your bids you will be comparing apples to apples.

- Frank Stocco

Monday, August 2, 2010

Who Wants to Start a Restaurant? Where Do You Get the Money?

See the poll below to participate in "Who Wants to Start a Restaurant?" It's interesting that of all the businesses that people want to open, restaurants are one of the most popular. If that is your passion and desire, you are probably wondering how to secure the start up capital.

There are many ways to fund your restaurant project. Some forms of financing are more difficult than others. First-time restaurateurs will often find it much more difficult to secure a loan than someone who has previously owned a restaurant or business. Lending institutions and investors have one thing in common. They do not want any bad dept on their record. Whether you secure a loan or not will depend on your ability to convince lenders and investors that your project is low-risk. How do you convince them? Have a great business plan. Make sure that it is evident that you personally have a great deal to lose in a worst case scenario. They want to know that you are investing some of your own cash. That is the key, along with your personal professionalism.

The people that analyze your business plan are highly astute in scrutinizing a business model. If there are any holes in your plan, they will recognize them and you will not get funded. Dress appropriately when going to an interview or meeting. Be professional. Demonstrate confidence, like you have done this many times before. Be prepared to answer questions with accuracy and intelligence about every aspect of your plan.

There are many ways to fund a restaurant.
• Self Funding
• Commercial Bank Loans
• Small Business Administration Loans (SBA)
• Partnerships
• Venture Capitol
• Landlord Contributions
• Leasing
• Combination Financing

If there is real estate involved there may be more than one loan in the package. Most lending institutions and investors will want to separate the real estate from the business to protect assets. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the funding options. I urge you, if your passion is growing to put a restaurant together, do your due diligence when it comes to your Business Plan and in securing funding.

I am writing a book to help you with all of this, which isn't quite ready. Feel free to visit my website ( ) and contact me with questions. I love the restaurant business and am more than happy to help you get started the right way.

See the poll below...

Frank Stocco, Food Service Design Consultant
National Restaurant Design

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Projects in the Works

Business has been lean the last year, but work is picking up. It's primarily the chains and fewer of the "mom & pop" shops. The chains have a credit history making it easier for them to get financing. However, creative financing is becoming more common, such as private investors and landlords as investors.
My current restaurant consulting, layout and design projects include:
  • Paco's Taco's in North Carolina, 6000 square foot space
  • La Nova in Buffalo, New York, 14,000 square foot space
  • Blu Bistro in St. Martin's, 14,000 square foot space
  • Hooter's in Illinois
There's money to be made in the restaurant business because people are still eating out a ton. Doing your homework on your restaurant concept such as getting your plan drawn up, writing out your business plan, gathering the estimates and costs, estimating the profits and losses, choosing the space, negotiating leases, choosing your designers and equipment suppliers and the rest will get you going on the right track.

I'd be happy to give you a no obligation consult to get you started in the right direction and offer you a quote for our food service design expertise and services.

Find my contact info on my website: National Restaurant Design Co.

Frank Stocco, Restaurant Consultant and Layout Designer

Monday, April 19, 2010

Restaurant Consulting, Design and Layout: What am I working on these days?

Restaurant Consulting, Design and Layout: What am I working on these days?

What am I working on these days?

Sure the economy is sluggish, but some people won't let it get them down. Either they need a job so they decide to open a restaurant, or they know people that want to invest because they want to diversify in such an economy, or they are just plain itchy to make money. After all, haven't you noticed that people are still eating out by the droves. We have to make reservations to eat out or we wait for 2 hours and that's in Minneapolis which isn't that big. One of our main eating areas is in a thriving suburb, Maple Grove. Have you been there? Restaurants galore and they are all full.

I'm working on projects in Toronto, FL, Texas, Virginia, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Minnesota, California, Connecticut, and Maryland. You can see it's happening north south east and west.

So how do they do it? They meticulously micro-manage their cost/sales ratio. But that's after they are open. Before they opened they practiced working up the cost/sales ratios for a hypothetical restaurant. They made projections and considered all the costs, the competition, the location and traffic, the demographic... They did their due diligence which has paid off greatly in this economy and they are the ones that haven't gone under.

Watch for my book coming out in the next couple of months which has everything you need "to do" to be successful at opening a restaurant. But, if you can't wait for the book at least give me a call so I can give you some valuable information, just contact me at National Restaurant Design.

It may or may not be feasible for you, but you won't know until you do your homework and I can help you to know what that is before you stick your money into a win or lose concept and establishment.

Should you open a restaurant? Think about it sure, but start getting information. That's your first assignment.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Restaurant Design and Layout for 2010

The times are still tentative for new business development, but the American spirit is strong. This is the time to spend getting your ducks in a row. You want to open a restaurant, so count the cost. Your investors above all need to know the cost. And if you are the sole investor you want to do your due diligence before you are too far in. So, what do you do?

First you define and articulate your concept. Are you fast food style, upscale cuisine, a burger joint, a corporate cafeteria... and what kind of cuisine do you want to serve or sell?

Then, are you going to lease or buy an existing space, rebuild a space or build from scratch? What then is the size of your space?

When you have these in mind we can help with the next step. We conduct an interview with you to get a good understanding of the site, of what you are trying to do and how you want to do it. Then our job is to design and draw the space for efficiency and we are very conscious of your budget. We draw in great detail like table mounted can-openers, cash registers, seating, bathrooms, etc. We present you the drawing, which goes through a few changes with you. Then we complete the design package with plumbing and electrical drawing, wall backing plans, and spec books. You may or may not need an architect on the project. It depends on the size, the complexity, and the requirements of the city.

We do not do interior design, but we can outsource for you if you need that service. Then there is the restaurant graphic design, logos, signage, web site, which we do in house, but all of that comes later. To help you determine if this project is feasible and within your budget, the first step is to get the design plan drawn up and equipment spec'd out for bids.

I can't urge you enough to do your homework on this before you get in with high end designers and contractors. If you'd like more information about us at National Restaurant Design and some of the companies we've drawn for take a look at our web site -

Best in 2010,
Frank Stocco