A Beginner’s Guide to Opening a Restaurant in 2021
Some would say starting a restaurant is a labor of love, seeing as it takes a lot of time, energy, and attention. But restaurants are loved by the community, as they are communal spaces where we come to eat and enjoy friends and family. Some would say we need these types of establishments to have a functional society.
The root of the word ‘restaurant’ is from the Latin restaurare, which means “to renew.” Restaurants are places where we can gather to restore ourselves, to enjoy the hospitality of others. This is important to consider especially as we emerge from the current global pandemic. Surveys and polls from a variety of sources consistently list “dining out” as the top thing people most want to do after emerging from the challenges posed by COVID.
Pent-up demand is high for dining out, and while it’s certainly been tough-going for restaurant owners, we’re starting to see the beginning of the end. There are many signs pointing to the restaurant industry emerging better than ever as time continues. This will present opportunities for all those future-restauranteurs who have always dreamt of owning a restaurant.
Things to Consider When Opening a Restaurant in 2021
As we dig through the following points, we’re going to assume you’ve already decided what your concept will look like and have a general idea of what you’re planning to serve. These are clearly important decisions that come with their own sets of challenges and solutions, and while we don’t want to minimize their significance, we do want to focus on the uniqueness of opening a restaurant in 2021.
Starting a restaurant is difficult enough during non-pandemic times, so when you add on the challenges posed by COVID, it can be even tougher. Here are three things to consider:
PROTECT CUSTOMER SAFETY.
No matter how quickly we recover from the pandemic and regardless of how fast things get back to a more normal-looking state of affairs, we’re going to deal with the impacts of the last year or so for a long, long time. One of the most important ways is to make sure diners are safe from any potential harm, whether real, perceived, or otherwise.
As we saw during COVID, this actually presents an opportunity. When operations, staff, foodservice equipment, and supplies are all organized around customer safety, it ultimately increases customer confidence, and customer confidence has emerged as one of the most important benefits a restaurant can provide in order to cultivate repeat business.
Take air purification as an example. Just by taking some simple steps to ensure clean air in your restaurant, the impacts can go a long way toward letting customers know all safety measures were considered. This is a marketable, confidence-enhancing step that operators can take.
Use safety measures to your advantage, and consider making them part of your marketing efforts.
PLAN FOR OFF-PREMISE DINING.
Here’s a trend that is not going away. For those restaurants already in operation, before we all went on lockdown there was a major pivot toward takeout and delivery with so many of our dining rooms closed or open at a fraction of normal capacity. Again, this also presented an opportunity. Many restaurants switched to ghost kitchen-type formats to focus solely on off-premise service, which can ultimately be more profitable than operating a full-fledged dining room.
We’re likely going to see more hybrid models in the future as so many of these existing establishments wish to retain those points of profit they cultivated during Covid. For new operations just looking to build out their kitchens and complete their designs, they can take the lessons learned by restaurants during Covid and apply them to the future.
Consider a restaurant model and kitchen design conducive to providing both in-person dining (if that’s a goal), as well as the ability to provide fast and efficient takeout and delivery options.
PREPARE FOR SUPPLY CHAIN SLOWDOWNS.
Whether you’ve shopped for a coach for your newly designed living room or have looked for ranges and ovens for your brand new restaurant, the Covid pandemic has interrupted and changed our standard supply chain, especially as it relates to materials, manufacturing, and delivery.
If you’re planning to open a restaurant during 2021, it’s a good idea to fast-track your designs so you can order the equipment and supplies you’ll need as quickly as possible. In some cases, factories are slow to receive the supplies they need. In other cases, Covid closures have impacted staffing and manufacturing schedules. Shipping and delivery have also been slowed by Covid.
Prepare for this. If possible, look to order the equipment you’ll need as quickly as possible so any delays in manufacturing or shipping won’t delay your grand opening. And above all, remember we’re all in this together.
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