Business Tips : Restaurant / Bar

Here is a guide that will help new restaurant proprietors run their business.

The Restaurant

In the restaurant side of the house, there are only four areas you need to excel in. To fail in just one or two of these areas will not necessarily doom you to bankruptcy, but it will certainly make it difficult to achieve success. To bomb in all of these areas will almost certainly guarantee failure. The four crucial areas are menu, service, location, and ambiance.


Now whether you're opening a sports bar, burger barn, ethnic restaurant, crab shack, or steak house you have to remember that the majority of your profits are going to come from your menu. The returns on food sales versus alcohol and beverage sales are highly unbalanced in favor of the kitchen. The investment in designing and building the kitchen, not to mention the overhead on food costs, can drive a new owner to start thinking about cutting corners almost as soon as his doors are open. You may think that cutting corners regarding your menu will ease expenditure, but it will cost you more money over the long haul in profit; so resist the temptation.

Remain loyal to your menu by making sure to test everything before you print it. Long before you open for business, you will have sales representatives from various food companies soliciting you to purchase the latest achievements in food science. Now some of what they have to offer, such as condiments, herbs, vegetables, etc., are worth considering. Be wary of frozen specialties. Gimmicks such as vacuum sealed steaks, pre-made bags of salad, and canned soups are convenient but often you can save money by making the same things in-house, and your customers will recognize the quality. If you aren't personally going to run the kitchen then make sure you are meticulous in hiring someone who will be trustworthy and loyal to your cause. Kitchen managers and cooks should be told up front that they won't be keeping regular business hours. Depending on how much in-house food preparation you'll be undertaking, their hours could start quite early in the morning. You want people working in the kitchen, who enjoy their work and give special attention to the dishes they prepare. It doesn't matter if you're running a hoagie shop at a carnival or an upscale restaurant, if you have people preparing the food who don't care what they serve, then it will reflect on in the food quality.

You should also carve yourself a niche in your local community. If you're running a sports bar with nothing but a griddle off of which you serve hamburgers with a bag of chips, then do everything you can to make sure that your hamburgers are the best hamburgers within sixty miles in any direction. If you are going to specialize in wings, don't fall back on some pre-made freeze-dried breaded wings from your food vendor. Take the time to experiment with various types of breading for your wings, and don't stop experimenting with sauces until you are sure that you have achieved perfection. Whatever it is you decide to specialize in, put your own style and signature all over the recipe, and make sure that it's unlike anything else in your corner of the world.


You can have the best chateaux brijon in the world, but it won't matter if your server spills it in the customer's lap. The coolest pub in the world won't get much return business if patrons only see their server once every forty-five minutes. Being a server is not an easy job. You as an owner should never forget the reality of their situation. They work for a pittance compared to other jobs, are constantly on their feet, and typically have to juggle multiple orders at once. They must constantly appear pleasant and never let the pressure show, while ensuring that they keep the kitchen, customers, bartenders, and managers happy. Some people can handle it but there are also some who just aren't cut out for it. Some servers just don't move fast enough or aren't capable of multitasking. You have to make them understand that they are working for you, but they are working for themselves too. You sign their paychecks, but the majority of their income will be made off of tips, and that's something you have absolutely no control over. They ultimately determine how much they make in tips based on their efficiency, attitude, and appearance. They aren't just there to pass out food and drinks. They need to make the patrons feel comfortable and put them at ease. Crouching down next to your table to talk over the menu with their customers will put the server on the same level as the patron and relax them. Feel free to make small gestures like patting someone on the shoulder, offering extra condiments, and leaving candy with the check.


The location of your business isn't something to be taken lightly. A lot of it requires basic common sense and good judgment, but you can also do some area research to find prime locations. Go to the city planner's office in your area, and find out if and where there are going to be new developments. Areas heavy with traffic are always ideal, as are locations near heavy residential neighborhoods.


In most places, you will usually find that the decor is designed to compliment the menu. Imagine how odd it would feel to go eat in a Chinese restaurant and find that the inside is decorated like an Italian restaurant. Make sure to decorate your dining room appropriately and according to the theme of your menu. Using muted tones will give your dining room a warm, comfortable feeling. Take the time to visit pawn shops, antique stores, and places that sell interesting gadgets. These types of shops will usually have an item or two that will accentuate your decor and provide little sparks of personality. Spend a little more money when choosing tables and chairs, or design and create your own. Music is another important part of creating a comfortable atmosphere. The volume should be high enough so that people can still hear the music but low enough that it doesn't dominate the room. Seating is also very important; you want to take advantage of space to provide as much seating as possible without crowding people. Servers will need room to maneuver between tables, and people in general like a little elbow room. When considering seating, you have to give some consideration to smoking versus nonsmoking. In a lot of places around the world, this isn't even an issue, but in many places in the U.K. and the U.S., this is a heavy topic of debate. In fact, in the U.S. many cities have gone so far as to ban smoking in public places. A lot of proprietors have seen success with actually providing a lounge for smokers that is completely separate from the dining area. Such lounges can be furnished with comfortable couches, and have their own bar or refreshment stand. Pleasant and likeable servers combined with a warm, comfortable decor will provide the kind of ambiance necessary to keep people coming back for more.

The Bar

There are almost as many different types of bars as there are different types of people in the world: sports bars, karaoke bars, crab bars, roadhouse bars, honky tonks, Irish pubs, English pubs, German pubs, sushi bars, dance clubs, fraternal clubs, private bars, lounges, hotel bars, singles bars, underwater bars, airport bars, and many more. Bars and pubs come in all different shapes and sizes and offer people a place to escape from pressure, and take a vacation from the day-to-day monotony of life. You want your bar to provide as relaxing an atmosphere as possible.

Selecting the right people to work your bar is very important. While a server is able to float from table to table and relate with people on an individual basis, a bartender will typically be handling numerous people at the same time. They need to be able to clean, fill server orders, make drinks, tell jokes, provide a sympathetic ear, debate news, and discuss sports all at the same time. A lot of focus has shifted from the traditional friend-behind-the-bar type of bartender to a sort of entertaining-flipping-bottles-dancing kind of bartender. Either style is fine, but try to find barkeeps who have a sense of both. Your bartenders should treat everyone as regulars and friends. If someone walks in with whom they aren't familiar with, they should extend their hand, smile and introduce themselves. Attention to detail is necessary in a bartender. Ashtrays should be kept empty and glasses clean. Don't wait for a customer to flag you down for another drink, offer them one before they get to that point. Bartenders should be knowledgeable in mixology, being able to fix a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Little things, like providing a beverage napkin under every glass and asking a person how they are doing that day, will show the patrons that your bartenders enjoy what they do and care about their customers.

Much like the restaurant, you want your bar to have a sense of decor that will compliment your theme and provide ambiance. If you are in a large dance club, then you'll need a physical bar that has a lot of surface area; so your barkeeps can serve as many people as possible at one time. In a pub or lounge, you should consider bars with more of a circular or horseshoe shape. This will allow for pleasant conversation among the patrons, and make it easier for the bartender to observe the overall bar. Try to stay away from neon and florescent signs. These cast a harsh light and will typically detract from the overall look of your bar area. Soft lighting and mirrors are preferable.

Some restaurants have a utilitarian bar for beverages, and some bars have a small utilitarian grill for sandwiches. You don't have to limit the primary focus on just your bar or just your restaurant because, if done properly, both can coexist in such a way as to compliment each other. If your business were a person, the kitchen would be the brain, and the bar would be the heart.

© High Speed Ventures 2011