Starting your own restaurant is a great way to follow your passions and make a living while enjoying the satisfaction that comes from providing good food. Yet the food service business can be difficult. You can do some things to ensure that your restaurant will be a popular neighborhood hangouts.

Have a good business plan

You know the saying, "A failure to plan is planning to fail." While that's not always 100 percent true, when it comes to owning and managing a business, a good business plan is one key to success. Your plan details goals, finances, the market you're trying to reach, and a description of your staffing needs.

Why it's important

Your business plan will become critical when you start looking for loans. Some municipalities will demand a business plan before they will even give you a license. Most important, it will help you keep focused on the big picture as you get involved in the day-to-day operations.

Emphasis the team

You can have an amazing plan, the perfect location, and a name that gets everyone's attention; but none of that will mean anything if you don't have the right people. To get the people you need, start a restaurant culture that attracts and keeps talent. Focus on customer service, but not so much that you never support your people.

How it helps

Great staff make for happy customers and a positive working environment where staff go that extra mile for you. Whether it's sourcing uniforms from that your people look and feel great in, setting up monthly incentives to reward the best performers, or just acknowledging good work regularly, if your people love working for you, your customers will love eating with you.

Take care of your customers

You can't focus so much on the team and the bottom line that you neglect the people who keep you in business. Make sure all the people in your waitstaff know how to keep their cool no matter what, and that your managers have freedom to give patrons something extra if it will improve relationships or cement customer loyalty.

Why it matters

Everyone wants to feel valued and respected. If your customers know they'll consistently be treated well, they'll come back just because they love the experience. If they feel disrespected or undervalued, the best food in the world might not be enough to draw them in a second time.

Manage cash flow

Every business experiences upticks and downturns. The businesses that survive are the ones who prepare in advance. You're probably aware that you need plenty of money to support your enterprise in the first few years; but even after that, you need to efficiently manage your funds so you can make it through the lean years.

How to do it

Know your break-even point and focus on managing how money moves in and out; not just how much profit you're bringing in. Keep funds in reserve and always think carefully before you pay out for any irregular expense.

Shake up things

One key to a successful restaurant is providing consistent quality and dependability with enough variety to keep people interested. No matter how delicious your food, eventually people will get tired of it if there's never anything new. At the same time, people need to know they can always count on enjoying some basic things.

What to do

As you see what dishes are particularly popular, set these aside as staples to keep serving. If a dish isn't selling, try tweaking it for something similar but with different flavor profiles. Always make sure you have a few great low- calorie, vegetarian, and gluten-free options so when someone asks where the whole group can get a good meal, your venue will be first in their minds.

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