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  • Peter Bouloukos

Top 5 Mistakes when Opening a Restaurant

1) The owners fail to function as business owners. Instead, ownership is just like other employees bussing tables, cooking, bartending and in production on the floor or back of house. Obviously a time and place exists for this, especially during start-up, but don't let the business "own" you. Hire a professional manager and create a team to manage the business, not just run the restaurant. Professional managers should be expected to monitor cash flow, analyze P & L, complete daily reports and be able to decipher menu trends and labor costs. With a professional manager, the ownership should set goals and also "manage" bottom line results but when an owner is in production nobody is really managing the business. Here onwers become emotionally charged and invested in the wrong things. Soon little details get missed. It's a trap!

2) Lack of a clear vision. Successful operations require the coordinated effort of a dedicated staff and everyone must be on the same page. Accomplishing this requires on-going training, goal setting, employee reviews and setting clear expectations. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet and expect everyone to perform the same song and dance. 3) Lack of documented systems, procedures and training manuals. This is huge. Restaurant operations involve on-going duplication of hundreds if not thousands of daily tasks by not just one person, but a team of unique individuals who all see the world differently. You can't make procedures up as you go. You can't have one prep cook cut the lettuce differently than the next or one saute cook build a dish with a different order of ingredients. Does your operation have detailed line-by-line recipes? Do you have checklists and procedures for production each morning? Who cleans the restrooms and when? How does the team handle sidework each shift? Who checks the parking lot and around the building for lighting, trash and safety concerns?

Often, there is no map. It's all in the owners head making it extremely challenging to duplicate the best interests of the organization. Without documented recipes and procedures each guest receives different flavored food and has an experience not manicured or created by organizational goals, it's dictated by each server or whomever is running the saute or grill station that shift.

4) Trying to be everything to everyone! This simply will kill any good meaning operator. You can't be everywhere at all times as a leader. You can't do it all in life. If you attempt to attract everyone, you will end up confusing customers, having a wasteful inventory and chaotic kitchen, you will not deliver high quality anything and end up being less than average. It's more important to be "something to someone." One key to success in today's point and click world is to identify a niche and be focused on nailing one piece of the pie in your market. Create a unique theme, put systems in-place so everyone sings the same song and become really good at what you specifically do and let people know about it.

5) Believing you will make a profit right away! Odds are this will not happen and honestly you should not even try to be perfectly in balance over the first few months. Even the best run chain restaurants, who open restaurants for a living, factor into startup budgets an allowance for funding operating deficits for up to 2 to 3 months after the restaurant opens. It's smart to have a few more hostesses when you get started in many operations. It's smart to have an apprentice prep cook or line cook working directly with a training manager or executive chef. Use labor to the advantage of guest perception as well as to get really good at hospitality and delivering great food and service!

Yours in Success, Peter Dean Bouloukos

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