By Ben Gran
So, you received restaurant financing? Congratulations! We know how stressful getting to this point has probably been, so we wanted to give you a few ideas on how you can maximize your ROI by spending the money wisely. We’ve compiled an awesome list of the top 5 things you should purchase right off the bat:
One of the biggest expenses of running a restaurant is the kitchen equipment. You’ll need a commercial stove, walk-in refrigerators, freezers to store inventory, and all of the necessary supplies to fully outfit a professional restaurant kitchen. Do your research carefully; read online reviews and make sure you’re buying kitchen equipment from a reputable dealer. You might even be able to find good deals on used restaurant kitchen equipment from a liquidation sale.
Restaurant décor is an important part of your restaurant’s personality, so before you start spending lots of money on artwork, tables, chairs and decorations, you should consider the following:
- What kind of restaurant do you want to have? What is the theme and concept of your restaurant? What style of food are you going to serve?
- Who is your target market? Do you want a family-friendly restaurant where parents can bring their kids, or more of a fancy “date night” restaurant for more affluent older couples and their friends?
- Will your restaurant be a casual hangout for young adults, with sports on big TV screens and cheap drink specials? Or will it be a quieter, softly lit rarefied atmosphere with a choice selection of premium wines?
All of the answers to these questions will affect the décor and design of your restaurant. Your restaurant doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, but it should have a clear niche audience. You’ll also want to consider how your target audience will interact with the interior design of your restaurant. After all, you want to make sure your ideal customers feel at home in the space.
The plates, silverware and glassware will affect your customers’ impression of your restaurant and will directly impact the quality of their dining experience. Every decision matters, even the seemingly small stuff like which type of fork. Make sure that the silverware you buy for your restaurant has a nice “weight” to it and feels good when held in your hands. Choose clean, simple designs for plates. Minimalism is good because you don’t want to distract from the food. Everything on the table should enhance the customers’ visual experience in enjoying the food as it is presented to them.
Your menu is your #1 selling tool. Good menu design can make thousands of extra dollars in food sales, just from simple visual cues and graphic design choices. As part of your overall restaurant startup costs, don’t be afraid to invest some decent money in hiring a graphic design firm, working closely with your chef and kitchen staff, or hiring restaurant consultants to help create a profitable menu.
There are many tricks to good menu design, as discussed in this article with menu design tips from the Culinary Institute of America, but a few of the big ones are:
- Keep the menu simple. The most effective menus fit onto one page; that way the customers can quickly scan through and choose exactly what they want to eat. If a menu goes on for too many pages, customers will get overwhelmed and might order “the wrong thing.” A simpler menu will help your customers have a better experience and be happier with their meal; too many choices can be a bad thing.
- Don’t use dollar signs. Psychologically, when people see a dollar sign on a menu, they subconsciously think that the menu item is too expensive, and will order something cheaper. It’s better to just use numbers to indicate the prices. This will help you increase the size of your restaurant’s sales per ticket.
- Stagger the prices. When food prices are shown clearly in a straight column, people tend to buy the cheaper option. Instead, design your menu so that the price is listed a few spaces out from the description. This way, people will fall in love with the description of the food and won’t be as likely to worry about how much it costs.
- Offer dessert separately. Don’t put dessert on your main menu. Why? When people see dessert on the menu, they might decide to “save room for dessert” and skip ordering an appetizer. Instead, surprise your guests with a simple, delicious-looking dessert menu AFTER the meal. This way you can boost sales of appetizers AND desserts, and make more money off of each table.
Before your restaurant opens, you’re going to want to invest in some aggressive marketing to help spread the word and get people through the door for opening night. Consider using some of your restaurant financing cash on free samples of menu items, a booth at a street fair or carnival (to introduce your restaurant name and let people taste the food), private events with influential people in the community (to help spread the word before the restaurant opens), or even hiring a PR/marketing firm to help promote your restaurant in the news and get people talking about it on social media.
The restaurant business is a labor of love, but it can (and should) be a profitable endeavor as well. If you’re opening a restaurant, make sure that you’re spending your restaurant financing dollars in a way that will maximize your chances of success. Hopefully your restaurant will be full of customers and will be a hub of happy dining for many years to come.