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Thu, Dec. 12

SCORE: Planning avoids pitfalls when opening a restaurant

Question: I've worked my way up to assistant manager in a local, popular restaurant. I have a good understanding of operations and want to open my own restaurant. But, I want to know how best to avoid possible pitfalls. Can SCORE give me some ideas for what I need to know to get started?

Answer: Everyone needs to eat, and most people enjoy the convenience and experience of dining out. However, the restaurant business, although it can provide a good living, is also very demanding. The question then becomes does your restaurant provide fare that many people will be seeking when they choose to eat out and will you be able to adjust to changing trends as time goes on?

Jacquelyn Lynn, Contributor to, says, "Shifting demographics and changing lifestyles are driving the surge in food-service businesses. Busy consumers don't have the time or inclination to cook. They want the flavor of fresh bread without the hassle of baking. They want tasty, nutritious meals without dishes to wash. In fact, the rise in popularity of to-go operations underscores some clear trends in the food-service industry. More and more singles, working parents and elderly people are demanding greater convenience when it comes to buying their meals.

"Though the future looks bright for the food-service industry overall, there are no guarantees in this business. Even the most successful operators will tell you this isn't a "get rich quick" industry. It's more like a "work hard and make a living" industry.

"A hard reality is that many restaurants fail during their first year, frequently due to a lack of planning," explains Lynn. But that doesn't mean your food-service business has to be an extremely complex operation. In fact, the more streamlined you can make it, the better your chances for success. Paul Mangiamele, president and CEO of Bennigan's, says, 'Although we all love it, this business is very difficult. It's a wonderful business, a great business, a satisfying business. It's a lucrative business. But there are a thousand moving parts, and you need to be knowledgeable of all of them.'"

Dick Milon, SCORE counselor and food service and hospitality consultant says, "The first step to take, long before you think about opening your door, is to research the market to match your concept with a strong customer base. For instance, regardless of your menu concept, will the market provide enough customers to cover 6-7 days a week and not just weekends? Additionally you should fully understand the current competition and their business level.

"The 2nd step," Milon continues, "is to create a business plan with realistic financials -- what it will cost to open and what it will cost in the initial 6 months of operation to get it off the ground. It's also essential to build in buffer expenses to cover any unexpected costs.

"The 3rd step," explains Milon, "is, as an owner, you must without question KNOW the time and effort it will take to open and operate the business and be willing to make this commitment. Because of the demands of the business, it is very important that close family members also understand and appreciate the undertaking."

"The final piece to the restaurant success puzzle," Milon concludes, "is to hire people based on friendliness and attitude and train them on the technical aspects of each job. Team chemistry will make you a winner!

Don't miss the next Business Planning Workshop: 5 Wednesdays, June 10-July 15, 5 PM to 8 PM. Only $90 for two people from the same business at Yavapai College. Go to Questions? Call 928-778-7438 email:

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