Opening a new restaurant? Here are 8 tips to help you have a successful first year as a restaurant owner.

You did it! You finally opened your new restaurant. Congratulations! Now what?!

The first year as a new restaurant owner is both awesome and overwhelming. There’s a lot to learn on the fly as you serve more customers, hire more staff and work out all the kinks. But it’s also the perfect time to try new things, build a community and celebrate your achievements!

To help you navigate all the ups and downs, here are 8 tips for a successful first year as a restaurant owner.

The first year will cost the most

In the first few months, you’ll learn pretty quickly that running a restaurant is expensive. Sure, you budgeted for rent, appliances, a point of sale system, staff, utensils and paper goods, cleaning products and heck some cool wall art, too! But what happens when things break? Or you go through twice as many to-go cups than you anticipated? Or the cost of eggs skyrockets (oh wait…)?

>> What to do: Have 3 months’ worth of operational costs available. That number might seem like a LOT but you’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have to worry that fixing the ice machine will bankrupt your business. 

Profits come later

Here’s another hard truth: most restaurants don’t become profitable until their third year of business. Think of it this way, the first year is spending money figuring things out and fixing things. The second year is spending money to set up sustainable systems and getting into a groove. Year 3 is the year that you hit your stride, everything is running smoothly and you’re making real money. 

>> What to do: Your first year is the time to get really good at managing your restaurant’s finances, knowing your contribution margin and keeping your bookkeeping up to date. Monitor your revenue and expenses weekly, if not daily, so you can spot red flags early and make adjustments. 

Set the foundation

As the owner of a new restaurant, you’re doing it all: preparing food, taking orders, sourcing ingredients, marketing, bookkeeping, cleaning and about 1,000 other things. It’s tempting to cut corners and go cheap and easy at the beginning, but if you plan on being around for a while, focus on building a strong, resilient business – not one that’s held together with duct tape and sheer will. 

>> What to do: Avoid quick-fixes and “hacks” and instead focus on setting a solid foundation from Day 1. Buy the best you can afford and focus on both technology and systems that can grow with you. 

Learn how Five Sushi Brothers grew from a rented kitchen to multiple locations, despite staffing challenges and record inflation. 

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Staffing is tough

There’s a whole lot that goes into staffing beyond just schedules and payroll. You need to post job descriptions, conduct interviews, train new staff, keep existing staff happy, monitor their performance all while making sure you’re making enough to pay your employees! In short, staffing is going to take up a lot of your time, brain power and money. 

>> What to do: Your staff is a top priority. Treat your employees fairly and do everything you can to help them do their jobs better. Sign up for an easy, intuitive point of sale that staff can learn to use quickly, and for your sake, use a simple software like Homebase for schedules, time clocks and payroll. 

Start marketing your restaurant yesterday

Marketing tends to get put on a backburner when opening a new restaurant. We get it! In the midst of filing paperwork, ordering supplies, perfecting your menu, finding staff and, you know, sleeping and eating, finding the time to do marketing for your restaurant is tough. But… you need to be marketing your restaurant all. the. time. Because the truth is, even if you have the best brisket around, no one’s going to eat it if they don’t know you exist. 

>> What to do: Start small but do it consistently. Create social media accounts and post daily. Email friends and family and ask them to spread the word. Give special discounts to other businesses on your street or venue. Want more tips? Here are 13 restaurant marketing tactics that actually work. 

Connect with other restaurant owners

When you open your restaurant, you’re going to get unsolicited advice from everyone you know. People assume that just because they eat at restaurants that they understand how they work – and nothing could be further from the truth! Surrounding yourself with other restaurant owners and industry vets delivers huge benefits, both socially, professionally and financially. 

>> What to do: Local and online groups are amazing places to connect with other restaurant owners who understand the ups and downs, who can share advice and bounce ideas around. Online groups are great for accessing a wide variety of restaurant types, experiences, and personalities. Local groups are essential for creating meaningful connections in your community that can turn into amazing opportunities.

Your menu can – and should – change

Was your menu one of the first things you ironed out? You’re not alone. Creating a menu is one of the most fun parts of opening your own restaurant or coffee shop! But your initial menu might not be the best menu for your restaurant – and that’s ok! Making changes to your menu, whether that’s swapping out dishes, modifying ingredients or redesigning the layout, is a natural part of figuring out your first year in business. 

>> What to do: Manage your menu like you manage everything else in your restaurant. Pay close attention to what’s selling, what’s not and what kinds of questions/comments you get about your dishes. Figure out which items are the most profitable and which are dragging down your bottom line, then make some ch-ch-changes.

Don’t lose sight of your “why”

Running a restaurant is tough and you’re probably going to lose your cool, feel totally overwhelmed and look for the escape hatch more than once. When this happens, remember your “why.”

>> What to do: Why did you decide to open a restaurant? Why did you choose to do this over anything else? Why do you love the restaurant industry? Keep sight of your why, put on a smile, and get back out there!

Have questions? Need help running your restaurant?

Table Needs is here to help! Our mission is to help new and experienced restaurant owners operate thriving, profitable restaurants. 

Our easy yet powerful point of sale system is built for independent quick service restaurants, coffee shops and food trucks. That means it has everything you need – and nothing you don’t. With commission-free online ordering, kitchen display system, and sales tax automation baked right in, it’s a high-quality solution that won’t break the bank. 

See for yourself! Book a no-pressure demo today to get started.

Opening a new restaurant? Here are 8 tips to help you have a successful first year as a restaurant owner.

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