Tips Before You Open That New Restaurant

by Herb on October 10, 2012


What You Need to Know Before You Plan That New RestaurantPicture open sign for restaurant

Todays AState Small Business Blog was written by Laura Miller, Lead Consultant with the ASU Small Business and Technology Development Center.  Laura shares some tips and trends she learned at our recent Association of Small Business Development Centers annual conference in New Orleans that anyone thinking about a restaurant should keep in mind.

Small Business helpby Laura Miller, Lead Consultant Arkansas State University Small Business and Technology Development Center…Helping “Foodies” Launch from the Delta to the Ozarks.

While attending the Association of Small Business Development Centers conference recently held in New Orleans, I was able to attend several sessions offered by Chris Tripoli of A’LaCarte Foodservice Consulting Group focusing on the independent restaurant industry.  Having attended Chris’ sessions in the past, I knew that his insight would be relevant for our entrepreneurs and businesses owners in Arkansas.

According to Chris, the independent restaurant industry, overall, is strong and remains the largest single employer in the U.S.  He pointed out that eating out has become part of our culture and is no longer considered a luxury for most households.  In fact, out of every food dollar spent, about $0.49 is spent on food away from home.


TRENDS  There are several trends that smart restaurant owners can take advantage of to increase sales:Restaurant consumer trends

1) Healthier eating: Consumers are seeking a healthier way of eating.  For the first time in 20 years, independent restaurants are serving and customers are consuming more items that are not fried than fried.  In fact 54% of consumers are eating less fried foods than just one year ago.  But despite healthier eating habits, burgers remain a popular food item.

2) Back to Basics: A desire to go “back to basics” has consumers looking for menus offering “farm to fork” and locally sourced items. These menu selections usually offer smaller portions of a higher quality food.

3) Alternative desserts: Coffees and specialty drinks have become a dessert alternative and dessert samplers are popular.  Regional craft beers are also gaining in popularity.

4) Takeout: Takeout dining has become a necessity for successful restaurants.  Consumers want the convenience of eating the food of their choice in their own homes.  In fact, takeout business is the one food service segment that did not dip in sales during recession.


Restaurant myths true or falseMYTHS  Chris also dispelled several myths about small independent restaurants:

●90% of all restaurant start-ups fail.  Actually, the failure rates are lower: 26% in Year 1; 19% in Year 2; and 14% in Year 3.

●Restaurant profits equal big dollars.  Actually, the net profit for a full service start-up independent restaurant averages 7-8%.

●Quality, service and cleanliness mean success.  Actually, QSC is required just to get customers in the door…it is no longer enough to ensure success.


As an industry consultant with over 40 years of hospitality experience, Chris has worked with many entrepreneurs and restaurant owners.  Based on his experience from opening his own restaurants and those of his clients, he provided ten factors that often contribute the most to the ultimate success or failure of any new restaurant:

  1. Work in the industry first. Cook, clean and manage some personnel. Hands-on experience working with staff and serving the public will tell you if you are in the right business.
  2. Define your concept. Don’t try to do too much–you cannot be everything to everyone.  You can add and modify a little as you go to stay fresh, but don’t confuse the guest with too much at the opening.
  3. Research. Travel, review, and ask others for input on your concept. Develop a mission statement and define how you are going to measure its success.
  4. Site selection. Use an expert to assist with market analysis. Select a real estate consultant who specializes in retail (check references). More than just demographics and traffic count around a site, you want to know spending patterns and area growth as well.  Keep in mind that location and site are two different considerations.
  5. Budget and finance. Don’t forget the little things– you cannot save your way to success. Allow for contingency and operating capital.
  6. Supervise the pre-opening. Be involved in layout and construction. Check and double-check your schedule. Openings require proper planning, realistic timetables and diligent follow-through.
  7. Training and development. You only get one chance to open. Allow managers time to put systems in place and train staff. Have two or three dry-run test parties before opening.
  8. Select your purveyors. Visit and compare bakery, produce, meat, and grocery companies. Team up with companies based on service and quality, not just price.
  9. Stay the course. Maintain your concept’s integrity. Be consistent.
  10. Never fear failure. You must take a risk in order to get a reward. Believe in what you are doing.

For more information about Chris Tripoli, visit

Interested in opening your own restaurant? Contact the ASU SBTDC for more information and market research specific to your venture.  Find out how our FREE and Confidential consulting can help you with a successful launch.  Contact Laura Miller or Robert Bahn at the ASU SBTDC (870) 972-3517 or Email them at

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