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Top 10 tips for anyone thinking about opening a cafe or restaurant without industry experience…

The hospitality industry is not for the faint hearted. I have been approached many times by people who are not in the industry seeking advice on whether they should open a cafe or restaurant.

In my experience people who are not from the industry consider opening a cafe or restaurant as a means of escape. They are typically bored with their current job/career or burnt out and want to do something different. They are seeking an escape and are excited about doing something that on the surface looks like fun and seems easy.

I can understand this. In my experience a considerable amount of people today consider themselves ‘foodies’ or experts even though they have never trained or worked in our industry. A lot of people I meet love to tell me how I should run my restaurants or what they would do differently. They may genuinely love food, who doesn’t, but like any business it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Here are my top 10 tips to those considering this career move.

  1. Do it because you love it. Don’t open a restaurant or cafe as a means of escape. I have met so many people who used to own a restaurant or cafe. They went into the industry because they thought it would be easy. Its not. If you don’t truly love it, you won’t enjoy it or stick with it.

  2. Get industry experience. Don’t go into this with your eyes closed. It is hard work. In my experience, a lot of restaurants fail because the Owners don’t understand what they’re doing. Turning up every day and serving customers is the easy bit. Its the business management and day to day problem solving that is tough.

  3. Do the numbers. Opening a restaurant or cafe without the right amount of working capital up front and cash in the bank will set you up for a world of pain. Understand the initial set up costs, the ongoing running costs and the hidden costs.

  4. Research your market. Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean that everyone else will love it to. Understand who your customers will be and what they want. Running a restaurant is not about you, its about what your customers want and are willing to pay for.

  5. Understand the staffing crisis. There is a shortage of qualified chefs and Managers that are passionate about what they do. Turnover is high and retention is difficult. Be prepared for this and plan for it.

  6. Location, location, location. If you have a great location then you are half way to making it work. Make sure you do your research here.

  7. Know your legal requirements. What award will you be using and what are your legal requirements under this award. What statutory costs are there. What licenses and council agreements do you need. There is a lot to consider here so know this before you start.

  8. Marketing and brand. If you don’t have a marketing background, find someone who does to help you with this. Restaurants come in and out of fashion very quickly so stay in touch with your customers.

  9. Technology and trends. Research what technology will best work for your restaurant and will make the running of your restaurant more efficient. What roadblocks do you need to avoid and what trends do you need to be across. Network and get to know people and suppliers in the industry

  10. Get a mentor. Don’t do this without the best advice if you want the best chance for success. Speak to someone who has been there before you and who can help answer your questions and guide your decisions. The world of a Restaurant Owner can get stressful, lonely and hard if there is nobody to bounce off.

If after reading this you still want to go ahead and open your own restaurant. I wish you nothing but success and happiness. I for one love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

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