Thinking of opening a restaurant? Whether you’re planning to open a fast-casual establishment, a fine dining operation or something in between, you’ve got plenty to consider. Let’s talk about the top five things to consider before moving ahead with your plan:
1. Concept and points of distinction. When opening a restaurant, you can’t even begin to contemplate such “fun stuff” as formulating a menu, choosing a décor, or even pinning down a location until you know just what kind of establishment you’re going to operate and what will set it apart from the pack. Of course, your bill of fare and furnishings should reflect the concept you choose, but you can take this to new levels by reinforcing the message with POS technology.
For example, say you’re opening a restaurant in a downtown area filled with crowded establishments that cater to the business lunch contingent, and you intend to promote your restaurant as offering the fastest service and the freshest food on the block. The promise of fast service can be filled, in part, by harnessing tablet POS devices for transmitting orders from customers’ tables directly to the kitchen (rather than re-entering them at a POS terminal at the front of the house). Alternatively, you might consider a POS system that enables patrons to place orders from tablets mounted to their tables. If your restaurant falls under the quick-service or fast-casual umbrella, using tablets to take orders during peak periods should work well.
2. Target market—and how you’ll cultivate it. While there may be some exceptions to the rule, most restaurants don’t cater to customers in every demographic group; their focuses are far narrower than this. Consequently, when contemplating opening a restaurant, figure out the age, income level, and lifestyle of the customers you would like your establishment to attract. Consider where they live, whether they have families, and what they like to do in their spare time. It may take time to get the particulars down, but it’s time well spent. You’ll never be able to attract your “ideal” customers and give them what they want if you don’t know who they are.
Once you’ve identified your target market and opened your doors, use data from your POS system to learn what your customers are ordering from your menu and then make adjustments accordingly. Comb through the data to determine who might respond to a targeted offer—and get the word out via whatever channels (e.g. social media, email, newsletters) these particular patrons seem to prefer.
3. Policies and procedures. No restaurant will succeed unless it has implemented a set of rules and practices that cover everything from opening and closing to handling inventory and interacting with customers. All of these policies and procedures should be put into writing before opening a restaurant—and many can be enforced at least partially through a POS system once the establishment is up and running. For example, a time and attendance module prevents employees from working beyond their scheduled hours, while a liquor control system keeps waitstaff from serving free and discounted drinks.
4. Pricing. Different items yield different levels of profitability, especially as ingredient costs fluctuate. When opening a restaurant, plan to “pad” the price of menu items to maintain profitability. A good POS system will let you compare ingredient prices with profits, help you initiate adjustments going forward, and even determine which items may benefit from becoming the centerpiece of special promotions.
5. A POS system. As you can tell from the points above, the functions of a POS system in a restaurant transcend processing payments from customers. Insist on technology with features that will help you reduce the incidence of kitchen errors, manage inventory, control costs, prevent theft, track the popularity of dishes, reconcile tips, keep your books accurate, keep employees in line, and much more.
Opening a restaurant can be a great career move and life change. Keeping the above factors in mind will help put your restaurant on the road to success.