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