With 1.7m UK consumers visiting restaurants at least once a week (Statistica), starting up your own restaurant business can sound like a dream. But with the amount of work and stress that goes alongside working this full time (and then some) job, are the benefits really worth it?
We spoke to Andrew Gruel, owner and head chef of London’s upcoming American seafood restaurant, Slapfish, to find out what it’s really like to own a small restaurant business.
The Challenges of Running Your Own Business
“For us, the hardest thing – especially at the beginning – was raising the capital to grow. We started Slapfish as a food truck and worked our way up from there. We saw the biggest benefit to growth when we started franchising our business. We now have 21 locations across the US and are eagerly awaiting our upcoming London launch.”
Growing your business is often one of the hardest things for any entrepreneur, but especially so for restaurant owners who have a lot of outgoing costs. From building up an online presence through a website to distributing flyers in the local area, here are loads of ideas to help you grow your business.
Funding Your Restaurant
“Before we transitioned from a food truck business to a brick and mortar restaurant, I raised money from friends and family to convert an old bagel shop in Huntington Beach, CA, USA.”
If you’re finding funds to be the most difficult aspect of starting up your restaurant, it can be helpful to think of all the different ways you can raise capital in the UK. Some of the most common routes to raising money are:
- Boostrapping – using your personal funds until customers sales are high enough to fund the business
- Applying for a loan – if you’re planning on starting a business in the UK, you might be able to apply for a government or bank loan
- Crowdfunding – asking lots of people for a small amount of money
For more information, here are the 7 best ways of funding your startup business and exactly how to do them.
“With franchising the business, this meant that I had to learn to share responsibility for the food we were preparing in Slapfish and the control over the service. This is something every successful business owner will have to face some day and it can be difficult. I found that making sure I had excellent staff training in place made all the difference, because I knew that there was some level of quality control across all areas of the business that way.”
In our recent survey, we discovered just how important training is for your business. As well helping to show employees best practice for performing their role, 56% of office workers claimed they’d leave their jobs if they weren’t offered any training. Check out the full results and how to improve training in your workplace here.
Getting Your Name Out There
“It’s so important to have a solid marketing strategy. We use various channels to make sure we can target as many potential customers as possible, including social media and community engagement.”
Coming up with some fun local marketing ideas is a fantastic way of spreading news about your restaurant. The key is to try and stand out from your competitors with your message and what you’re offering. Here are a couple of ideas to get you going:
- Competitions – holding a giveaway or competition on social media can help get people excited about visiting your restaurant. You could even make your own promotional merchandise to hand out as prizes!
- Flyers – send out a discount coupon on some flyers in your local area to entice people in to try your food. Then all that’s left is to get them hooked on your delicious dishes.
- Reward loyalty – reward repeat customers and encourage them to come back for more with a loyalty card.
Looking for more? Here are 18 fun restaurant marketing ideas you can try now!
What Makes a Good Restaurant Business?
“After working in the restaurant industry and starting a sustainable seafood program with Aquarium of the Pacific, one of our key concerns at Slapfish is the quality and sustainability of our seafood in a fast, casual setting. There’s been a huge increase in the availability of ethically sourced seafood, and one of my aims is to educate people on the huge benefits of it – namely that it can be both delicious and healthy.”
Research is key for sourcing your ingredients from the right places. Your food and where it comes from should be things you want to shout about from the rooftops! The better your ingredients, the more people will love what you do. And the more people love what you do, the better your chances of success!
“We pride ourselves on the fact that we make everything from scratch in-house, and this is something we’re very transparent about to our customers. As well as ethically-sourced, I want our seafood to be regarded for its quality and taste too – after all, that’s what makes customers come back time and again!”
Do you make everything in house? Make sure you’re transparent about it! Many chains use ready-made meals and sauces, so this is the perfect way to show that your small restaurant is better than the big competitor down the road. Advertise your homemade treats on posters and A-frames around your business to show customers this unique selling point.
“Another key tip for aspiring restauranteurs is to invest as much effort into how things look as well as how they taste. From decorating your restaurant to the menus you use, a bad first impression can leave a funny taste in your customers’ mouths. Make sure you only use the best!”
You’ve got less than a second to make a first impression, so you want it to be a good one. One way of guaranteeing this is to continually refresh your printed menus. Top tip: add a lamination to your menus so they’re easy to wipe down – it’ll make them last a lot longer!
Is it Worth It?
So, are the challenges and hard work all worth it in the end? We asked Andrew, and he replied:
“When you’re starting up your own restaurant, you should be prepared to fail 100 times over. It’ll feel like you’re running on a treadmill but gaining no traction – and that feeling never goes away. But with it, you also have the sheer thrill and excitement that makes it all worth it. From building a new restaurant to adding new menu items, there’s nothing like that feeling.”
We hope this blog and our guest Andrew Gruel’s honest account has given you an insight into running a small restaurant business. Ready to take the next step on your journey? Visit our restaurant and takeaway hub for an extensive list of print essentials for your business, including business cards, menus and flyers.