January 23, 2019

Getting Your New Restaurant Open on Schedule - Timeline & To-Dos

You’re gearing up to open your very own restaurant, and your concept is just crazy enough to work.

What do you do now?

Here’s a non-exhaustive rundown of what to do, and when, to get your shop open by its target soft open date.

Getting Your New Restaurant Open on Schedule - Timeline & To-Dos: eAskme
Getting Your New Restaurant Open on Schedule - Timeline & To-Dos: eAskme
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Get Legal:

First, the boring stuff: apply for the appropriate state and local licenses. Requirements vary by jurisdiction, but you’ll almost certainly need a certificate of occupancy and (down the line) certification from your local health department. If you plan to serve alcohol, you’ll need a liquor license as well.

Lay Out a Comprehensive Construction and First-Year Budget With Revenue Projections

If you don’t feel up to this, work with a capable accountant or — better yet — numbers-minded business partner to develop a realistic budget and near-term revenue projections.

You’re going to lose money during your first year of operations; the question is how much and whether you can survive the hit.

Set Up a Staging Area:

No matter how dusty your restaurant renovation or construction site gets, you’ll need a reasonably organized onsite work area to gather your thoughts, complete paperwork, and process deliveries.

According to experienced restaurateurs, this sort of staging area is key to an on-time open.

Set Hours for Your Establishment:

Review this guide to setting restaurant hours, conduct a foot and vehicle traffic analysis at your site, and speak with local (non-competitor) peers to get a sense of when your establishment should be open.

There’s no point in staying open early if you can’t reasonably expect to draw any bar traffic — or closing before 5 pm if there’s enough demand for dinner in your area.

Schedule Staff Interviews:

Starting hiring for management positions four to six weeks out; hire line workers with two to three weeks to spare.

Identify an offsite location to conduct interviews without construction noise in the background — your management company’s office works fine.

Power Through Fixture & Equipment Installation:

Get your restaurant’s fixtures and kitchen equipment installed with a couple weeks to spare. You’ll want to have plenty of time to make layout or design changes, make sure everything works properly, and exchange any defective or missing parts from your order.

If you can afford it, hire an interior designer or traffic optimization consultant.

Get Front-of-House Systems Ready for Prime Time:

Install your POS and ordering interfaces well ahead of your soft open date and test them extensively. Your customers won’t easily forgive a POS crash on your first day in business.

Run a Trial Service:

Last, but not least: a few days before your soft open date, put it all together in a trial service (though you won’t call it that) for friends and family of staff and ownership.

This is your chance to make sure everything runs reasonably smoothly before paying customers walk through the door.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball:

In the restaurant business, timing is everything. You lose money every day your restaurant’s doors remain closed — and sap what little goodwill you’ve managed to build ahead of your planned opening.

It’s true that projected opening dates are just that: projections. It’s also true that new restaurants commonly miss their soft open targets; many blow through their grand opening dates as well.

That such tardiness is commonplace doesn’t make it any more excusable. It’s on you to avoid it at all reasonable costs.

You have questions? Share via comments.

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