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How to Start a Restaurant with No Experience

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I run into a lot of people who has a deep interest in wanting to start a restaurant or food business. Many of them it is because they have a big passion for food, hospitality and making people happy.

The number one question that I get asked is: “How do I start a restaurant with zero experience?”

I’m finally going to answer that question with 6 tips so that you have all the skills you need to build a thriving, profitable restaurant.

Let’s dive right in!

1. Know Your Strengths & Weaknesses

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The very first step in building a restaurant with no experience is knowing your strengths AND your weaknesses.

How amazing would it be to have your staff taking care of everything at your restaurant for you? You just have to visit to make sure everything is running smoothly and pick up your cheque at the end of the month.

That’s the ideal goal, and the reason why you need to know your strengths. Whether it’s hiring people, marketing, or just cooking good food, structure your business in a way that highlights these strengths.

Now you also have to know your weaknesses.

For example, if you’re not very good at managing people, hire a manager that is good at talking to people and understands the culture you’re trying to create. Likewise, if you’re just not that great of a cook, but you really enjoy the industry, hire a talented chef!

This way you can focus on your strengths and build a thriving business.

2. Pick a Concept in High Demand

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The second insight that I want to share with you is to find a food concept that is in high demand.

Find an item that people are actually always ordering within your city. Something that has become a part of people’s cultural eating habits.

For example, in Vancouver, people LOVE bubble tea. People also really like Vietnamese food and sushi. These are our staple items, which basically guarantees that they are in demand.

To contrast, even if you have the best fried turkey leg in Vancouver, not many people are gonna buy it. Because that’s just not the demographic that would enjoy that food staple.

It doesn’t matter how delicious your dish is, or how much supply you have, no one’s going to buy it if there’s no demand.

That’s the reason why you always want to find a cool concept within your city that is in high demand, so you don’t need to go and beg for business because it will come to you.

3. Pick the Right Location

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Location truly matters, especially if you have no experience.

People always talk about “location, location, location”, but rarely talk about why it’s so important.

Your concept must align with your customer base which must align with your location in order to be successful.

It doesn’t matter how prime your location is… if your customers don’t hang out around that area, then you’re not going to get sales. Simple as that.

To give you an example, one of my clients has a Greek restaurant in downtown Vancouver. They serve some of the best Greek food out there, yet they don’t have much business.

So I asked him I’m like why is that the case? Who are you really catering to? He started telling me that they cater to the families who miss home, and how they were super popular at their old location in a different part of the city.

The reason why their business went downhill is because they moved their location from where their customers were hanging out in the Greek village, to downtown Vancouver where the crowd is younger and not very familiar with Greek cuisine.

4. Know Your Customers

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This is something I’ve already touched on, but knowing who and where your customers are is what ensures your restaurant’s success.

I find that most of the people I consult for don’t know exactly who it is that they’re serving. They don’t have a full page description about their customer demographic, they don’t name them. They don’t know how much their monthly income is, they don’t know what they dress like, what car they drive, what sports they play…

You should know all of these things. It should be as detailed as possible.

When coming up with your customer demographic, you just talking about one person, not everyone in the city. By narrowing down that one demographic you’re trying to serve, you end up catering to everyone else.

It seems counterintuitive, but if you think about it, people are always trying to fit into a specific demographic. If you try and cater to everyone, it doesn’t work!

So knowing your customers is super important, and really the only way to gain traction.

5. Know Your Business Plan

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Know your business plan.

It honestly shocks me how many people don’t have a solid plan. They’re essentially just thrown into the ocean and trying to swim ashore, without even knowing which direction they should swim to!

Your business plan should function as a map or guide, telling you exactly where you’re heading. That’s the reason why it’s super important for you to understand and build your business plan.

This is extra important if you’re looking for business partners or trying to raise funds. Having a business plan is the only way to engage with potential partners and show them what they’re investing in.

Regardless, having a business plan will only help you, providing much more clarity and direction.

What is your financial projection? Who is it that you’re serving? What makes your concept different? What is your SWOT analysis? What is your unique selling proposition? All these things should be included in your business plan.

6. Keep Learning

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The final insight that I want to share with you guys is to always keep learning. This is one of the major things that I always preach about.

This is because a lot of people feel complacent. They feel like they don’t need to learn any more after they’ve completed high school or post-secondary. But it’s important to remember that this whole journey of building a restaurant is an art and a science as much as it is a labor of love.

You should learn from someone who’s been there and done that, so you can avoid making the same mistakes they did. Oftentimes these mistakes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars!

I still try to find people to learn from every day, and that’s what I want to do for you guys by sharing these insights. Hopefully they save you lots of time and money so you can build the restaurant of your dreams!

If you’re in the beginning stages of starting your dream restaurant, cafe or food business and want to do your best to avoid costly mistakes or waste a ton of money…my free masterclass will give you an in-depth look at my ACE formula – the same formula that I used to build my 7 store ice cream chain and how my students were able to get more clarity in their food business. Sign up for the masterclass here.

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