Thursday, January 28, 2016

How to Work with a Designer to Create the Perfect Restaurant

Restaurant developers often need to consult with other professionals to make their vision become a reality. Third-party professionals can help with everything from finding an ideal location to decorating the space, and many developers work with designers to create an ambiance that reflects their restaurant’s concept and attracts customers. Restaurant developers should understand that every designer has a different aesthetic, and not all will have a vision that aligns with theirs. Hiring a designer blindly can result in disaster if creative expectations are not met. Therefore, understanding how to approach and vet designers is the key to making the most of what they have to offer. Below are the most important tips for restaurateurs to keep in mind when hiring a designer.

Do the necessary due diligence.

Hiring a designer is like hiring any other employee. Restaurant developers need to research both individual designers and design firms. Important questions to ask involve the designer’s overall philosophy and how he or she approaches the process of translating clients’ ideas into designs. Restaurateurs should ask for as many examples of the designer’s projects as possible to get a good idea of his or her personal style, and to see if the designer has worked on any similar projects. After choosing two or three designers to interview, the restaurateur should ask each what makes him or her right for the job.

Understand why the designer is necessary.

Restaurant developers should know what they want to achieve with the design of their restaurant, and they should understand why they need a designer to realize their vision. Restaurateurs should also be able to clearly articulate the characteristics they want their restaurant to embody, its price point and menu, and what makes it unique. This information gives the designer a good foundation from which to create a winning design. In general, designers want to make their clients happy and they will work with whatever guidance they are given. However, when the restaurateur has absolutely no vision and no ideas, the designer has no raw material to shape.

When working with designers, restaurant developers need to remember that designers are professionals who provide special expertise and knowledge that they lack. Sometimes, the designer will disagree with what the restaurant developer wants. These conflicts should spark further conversation, and the developer should take the designer’s opinions seriously.

Have realistic time expectations.

cafe inside
Too often, restaurant developers hire designers late in the project, and the result is that they have very little creative freedom to breathe life into the restaurateur’s ideas. Designing an excellent space takes time and collaboration. Restaurateurs can bring designers into a project before they have even secured a location. While this may seem too early, it allows the designer to help choose a space that is ideal for the concept. Designers bring a unique perspective to the restaurant development process and can often point out important considerations that restaurateurs may overlook. Bringing designers in only when it’s time to decorate the space can put a lot of pressure on the project and severely inhibit creativity.

Define the budget clearly.

Hiring a designer without first defining the budget is a big mistake. Designers can create impressive spaces based on both small and large budgets, but they must know what the budget is before they begin the design process. If a designer dedicates weeks to creating a great proposal only to hear that the project is too expensive, they’ll feel like they’ve wasted their time. A budget will also help designers know whether they feel comfortable taking on the project in the first place. Some designers may decline a project if they don’t think they can give the concept justice, given the budget.

While the budget will obviously have some bearing on the decision of which designer to hire, the designer’s fees should not be the primary driving factor in selecting one designer over another. For example, imagine two designers who have very different charges for their services. Some restaurant developers may immediately dismiss the more expensive designer. However, he or she may be able to make money stretch a lot further, whereas the designer who charges less may not have the ingenuity and creativity needed to work within tight constraints. Thus, the more expensive designer might ultimately deliver a better final product, without overages or delays.

Bring your menu to the designer.

Restaurateurs need a clear concept before they can open a restaurant. Similarly, designers work more effectively when they have more information about the concept. Having an idea of what the menu will look like can help the designer make decisions that reinforce the concept. For example, a restaurant with small plates may need more table space than an eatery that serves a three-course, prix-fixe menu. Likewise, restaurants that serve large portions meant for sharing may benefit from larger communal tables in lieu of bar or counter space. While menus frequently change, especially in the early weeks of operation, having an idea of the types of plates that will be served can ensure that the restaurant design reinforces the concept. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

5 Tips for Hiring the Ideal Host

When opening a new restaurant, it is vital that restaurateurs pay attention to the first impression created by a space. While the actual first impression begins before a diner even enters the building, the most important one occurs when an individual crosses the threshold. A restaurant’s appearance should create the right feeling, and the space should be inviting. One of the most crucial aspects of developing an inviting space involves the host. This person, who serves as the first point of contact for a restaurant, should be friendly and warm as he or she greets guests.


Since first impressions matter a great deal, restaurateurs should take time to think about the design of the entryway and how the host will be positioned. While the traditional post is behind the podium, this can create a barrier between the host and guests. Today, many restaurant developers have instead opted to put the host station to the side and have the individual actually stand next to the entryway. Wherever restaurant developers choose to place the station and the host, they should be aware of the impression that it creates.

The host is one of the most important people on a restaurant’s staff. This individual has the responsibility of representing the restaurant to new guests, as well as returning ones, and must make them feel welcome. While few qualifications are necessary for the position, the host must have a number of key skills. Below are some of the most important points to keep in mind when hiring a greeter:

1. A host must be outgoing. 

A host interacts with strangers throughout the entire shift at the restaurant. If the person is shy, this task may prove rather difficult. Guests naturally expect to be greeted by someone who is upbeat and seems excited to see them. Shy individuals may be too timid to carry this task out effectively. In many ways, the greeter sets the tone for the rest of the restaurant, and a chilly greeting could actually send diners away.

2. Hosts are ultimately team players. 

While some people may think of the host’s job as simply greeting guests as they arrive, this is far from the truth. In reality, the host must work closely with the servers and other staff members to keep track of table progression. At any given time, the host should have a clear sense of which guests are moving toward dessert, which guests are still waiting for their food, and which ones still need their checks. When hosts pay attention to this information, they can give more accurate wait estimates and also gauge diners’ satisfaction. If the diners at one particular table have been waiting for a while, the host can send the waiter to them. When guests leave a table, the host must be aware of any apologies that should be made in regards to wait times, incorrect orders, or other mistakes. A sincere apology can make a huge difference in encouraging diners to return despite a somewhat disappointing experience.

3. The best hosts are genuinely invested in a restaurant’s success. 

In addition to greeting guests, a host also has a responsibility to meet the needs of each person. When a host is actively invested in the success of the restaurant, this person will go above and beyond to please guests. The ability to accommodate a special request offers the opportunity to make a lasting impression. Going above and beyond can also generate a lot of grassroots marketing for a restaurant. As an individual talks about the experience to friends and family, especially through social media, the restaurant gets a lot of free “press.” Typically, hosts are salaried and do not work for tips like waiters do, but some restaurant developers may choose to recognize when hosts go above and beyond with incentive awards.

beer garden host

4. Patience is key to a host’s success. 

A host must have the ability to be polite to guests regardless of the circumstances. When hosts lose their temper, this reflects very poorly on the restaurant and can generate bad press. In the end, the customer is always right and a good host will remain friendly and courteous even when diners are being rude or unreasonable.

5. Hosting demands strong organizational skills. 

In a single given minute, a host may answer a phone call from a guest wanting to make a reservation, greet one or two parties as they walk through the door, tell one party that their table is ready, and say goodbye to a departing diner. If the host forgets to write the reservation down on the calendar or fails to greet one of the parties as they walk in, the results could be very bad for the restaurant. By possessing strong organizational skills, hosts can manage all of these responsibilities and possibly even more. At some restaurants, hosts are responsible for scheduling employee duties. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

3 Important Elements in Creating an Inviting Restaurant Atmosphere

One of the biggest mistakes that a restaurateur can make when opening a restaurant is a lack of attention to detail. People come to a restaurant for an immersive experience. While good food is important, so is a restaurant’s atmosphere. The atmosphere of a restaurant must align with the general concept of the restaurant. The music, decor, and lighting all play into the atmosphere, which in turn must complement the food being served.

Importantly, the atmosphere is not set in stone. While it is rather difficult to make major changes to the decor, and virtually impossible to change things such as wall finishings and flooring, restaurateurs can and should vary the music and lighting in order to match the food served at various times of day. In general, diners expect dimmer lights and more relaxing music during dinner, and a brighter atmosphere with more upbeat music during the lunch rush. Notably, the atmosphere should align with the restaurant’s concept. A family-centered restaurant may want to have bright lights and upbeat music around the clock, while an establishment designed to resemble a speakeasy may choose to have 1920s music playing and fairly dark lighting throughout the day.

Following are some general guidelines and considerations that restaurant developers should keep in mind as they think about the atmosphere that they want to create at their restaurant:


Restaurateurs often underestimate the impact of lighting on the mood of diners. A bright room sets a completely different tone than a darker one. Similarly, lights that highlight the sharp architectural elements of a room set a different tone than those focused on softer curves. Restaurant developers should think about the mood that they wish to invoke in a space and plan the lighting around it.

The amount of lighting should change throughout the day at most restaurants. If a restaurant serves breakfast, then bright light will be needed. In the morning, people want to wake up and be energized. However, on the weekends, especially during brunch service when people may be feeling the effects of the night before, softer lighting may be more appropriate. Soft lighting actually makes people linger in a restaurant longer because they begin to feel more relaxed. For this reason, many restaurants choose to keep the lights fairly bright during the lunch hour in order to increase the turnover rate for tables.

During the dinner hour, most restaurants should adopt low-intensity lighting so that people are encouraged to relax and take their time eating their meals. Fine dining restaurants in particular should almost always use soft lighting during the dinner hour in order to encourage romantic moments among diners. The only restaurants that do not use low light are fast food establishments, family restaurants, and theme restaurants.


Customers tend to be more conscious of music than lighting. For this reason, restaurants developers should think hard about the impression that they want to make with their music. Often, diners’ first impression of a restaurant is colored heavily by the music playing when they enter. A safe choice is to use so-called “elevator music,” which typically blends into the background and does not get noticed at all. While this option minimizes the distractions experienced by diners, it may seem incongruous with the restaurant, especially if the rest of the décor is loud and adventurous. Similarly, if the restaurant is a sports bar or Mexican restaurant, then “elevator music” will seem very out of place.

The other option is for the restaurant developer to curate a list of songs for the restaurant, or to pay someone else to do so. The risk here is that the soundtrack can become very repetitive. Even if the playlist contains 1,000 sounds, it will get repetitive after a few weeks. Some restaurateurs have purchased subscriptions to customizable radio services, such as Pandora. While this option can work well, it runs the risk of playing a song that really does not fit, and someone will need to pay attention to upcoming songs in order to nix any that might not go over well with guests. These two options tend to work best in restaurants with a relaxed atmosphere where something has to be really out of place in order to stand out.

Some restaurant developers allow their staff to curate the playlist. This approach can keep the playlist fresh over time, and setting ground rules can help avoid unwanted effects. At the same time, this approach involves a great deal of trust in employees.


The decor needs to reflect the personality and tone of the restaurant. Just as music can stand out or fade into the background, the decor can make a statement or be understated enough not to make a huge impact one way or another. Casual dining spots can reflect the personality of a restaurant developer more than fine dining establishments, where diners will expect a certain level of refinement. In general, restaurants that are upscale tend to have a more understated decor in order to allow the food and other elements of the atmosphere shine through.

When thinking about a restaurant’s decor, it is important to consider the impression that a restaurateur wants to create as diners walk through the door. Ornate wooden tables create a different impression than simple round tables with white tablecloths. Many restaurateurs choose to work with professional designers to ensure that the decor matches the personality of the restaurant as much as possible. In order to develop the ideal decor, restaurateurs should get as many opinions as possible, which is the best way to anticipate how diners will react. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

3 Technology-Driven Trends in Restaurant Development

One of the biggest trends in restaurant development is the increasing use of technology, especially in a customer-facing context. As entrepreneurs across the world continue to push the envelope technologically, new advancements with applications for the restaurant industry are becoming available on a weekly basis. By keeping track of these new technologies, restaurant developers can continue to deliver a fresh, cutting-edge experience for diners. Following are some of the most exciting restaurant technology advancements that are beginning to appear in restaurants up and down the East Coast:

Tablets as menus

Many sit-down restaurants have adopted the use of tablets in lieu of traditional menus. While some people may initially scoff at such an idea, the use of tablets has a number of benefits, such as the ability to easily and continuously update the menu so that diners know immediately when a dish sells out or a new special becomes available. Restaurants that change their menu nightly, weekly, or even monthly can save a lot of money on printing costs. In addition, the ordering application can make wine pairing suggestions, provide multiple pictures of dishes, and offer the option to ask for substitutions directly. If people order through the app, then the request will be sent immediately to the bar or kitchen so that food is ultimately ready faster.

This technology is not meant to replace service staff, but instead add to the experience in order to make it more pleasant. Diners who prefer to order through servers should certainly be able to do so, and the tablets should have the ability to call servers, alerting them to diners’ needs.

For fast casual dining, ordering with a tablet can make the process much faster and more efficient. Some fast dining restaurants have completely abandoned traditional ordering counters in favor of kiosks or wall-mounted tablets.

Digital payments

The use of digital payment systems makes the ordering process much more efficient and significantly reduces the wait time, since servers can bring the device directly to the table. Perhaps the greatest impact of this technology is something that has little to do with the payment itself. By accepting digital payments, restaurants can largely eliminate their point-of-service stations, or at least reduce them significantly since they will rely on them much less. As a result, the traditional internal structure of restaurants is changing, and they may find themselves with extra space. The trend is reinforced by the use of tablets as ordering devices, since they reduce the need for drink stations and other traditionally necessary areas.

app icons
For fast food restaurants, digital payments have significantly sped up the transaction process. Companies such as Starbucks and Panera Bread have already made digital wallet apps available so that people can pay for their orders directly through their phones. The apps also allow people to order their food ahead of time and have it ready. While some sit-down restaurants may hesitate to adopt such technologies, it is not difficult to envision a future in which diners sit down at tables where their food orders are already prepared and delivered because they ordered ahead of time using apps.

Some common restaurant apps have already integrated digital wallet systems into their interface. For example, the popular OpenTable app, which is typically used to make reservations, has a payments option that allows diners to pay for their meals completely on their phones.

Online interaction

Technology encourages an unprecedented amount of interaction between restaurants and their guests. Social media has emerged as a major tool for restaurants to communicate important information, such as specials and events, as well as to receive feedback from their guests. Feedback has become extremely important in the digital age with many diners turning to apps like Yelp before dining at a new restaurant. A forum like Yelp, however, allows anyone to post feedback. New apps are appearing that verify customers before allowing them to write a review so that feedback becomes more accurate.

SMS image
The use of restaurant-specific apps and tablets creates new opportunities for feedback. Restaurants can build in tools for receiving feedback on specific dishes, as well as the experience in general. In the past, restaurants have asked guests to fill out paper surveys placed on their tables. However, the use of tablets digitizes the experience and likely encourages a greater response rate. As individuals dine, they could have the option of rating the specific dishes they ordered and providing feedback on presentation, flavor, and other points. The app could also ask for feedback about other aspects of the experience, ranging from the servers’ effectiveness to the restaurant’s atmosphere.

Technological tools such as restaurant-specific apps and social media networks also allow for a more interactive dining experience. The millennial generation frequently documents its adventures with pictures, videos, and other media through Facebook, Vine, Twitter, and other websites. When a restaurant is tagged in a social media post, its staff could interact with the diner by commenting on the post, which has the potential of driving repeat visits. Plus, as people in the diner’s social network see the interaction, the restaurant’s visibility grows exponentially. In the future, restaurants may need to incorporate comprehensive social media strategies into their public relations plan.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

3 Important Factors to Consider When Opening a New Restaurant


When opening a new restaurant, entrepreneurs must pay close attention to the Big Three: the chef, the concept, and the location. If these are not in harmony, restaurants have little chance of success. While many other aspects contribute to the success of a restaurant, the Big Three comprise a critical foundation upon which restaurateurs can build. Before opening any new venture, restaurateurs need to dedicate considerable time to the Big Three, ensuring that they all work together to produce a consistent, experience that appeals to the intended customers. Each element of the Big Three deserves its own consideration:

The Chef

Each chef comes to food with a different philosophy. Some like to play with new flavor combinations and push the envelope by creating exciting and innovative dishes. Other chefs stay true to the classic flavors of the cuisines in which they received their training. While chefs often work between different types of cuisine, they do not often shift their cooking philosophy. For instance, someone who wants to create a fusion restaurant that combines French and Vietnamese flavors will likely bring on a chef from either background to design a great menu. The chef must embrace creativity and change. If the chef is a traditionalist, then the menu may simply feature Vietnamese dishes alongside French dishes, rather than entrees that combine flavors from both traditions.

chef at work

Finding a chef is a critical part of opening a restaurant that many restaurateurs may overlook. Too often, restaurateurs bring on a chef from a restaurant that has food they like without thinking more critically about the chef’s current and former passions. Restaurateurs should also focus on the creativity of the chefs that they hire. Sous chefs at some of the best restaurants may have incredible skill when it comes to executing someone else’s vision but may struggle when it comes time to designing their own menu from scratch.

Any chef that agrees to join a new project must fully support the concept. If a chef does not buy into the concept, then creative tension will soon arise between the menu and the other areas of the restaurant. Restaurateurs and chefs should grow together and collaboratively refine the vision for a restaurant rather than play tug-of-war with competing ideas.

The Concept

The concept is the very heart of a new project. Without a concept, no project exists. A concept points to the intended audience of a new eatery, as well as the likely décor and the outline of the menu. When people hear about the concept, they should be excited to eat at the restaurant. Importantly, the restaurant should live up to those expectations. As the trajectory of a restaurant changes due to unforeseen circumstances, the concept must also change. If potential customers hear about a concept that brings extremely traditional Japanese food to a local area, those individuals will probably have an idea of what the space and the menu will look like. If a restaurateur cannot find a qualified sushi chef or a space that allows for floor seating, then the concept necessarily needs to change, or customers may be disappointed to find an essential part of the menu missing or a complete lack of traditional dining settings.

italian food

When deciding on a restaurant concept, one must also keep in mind the location. If the space secured is in the middle of a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, then a concept focused around pork and pork products is completely inappropriate. The concept must make sense for the location. If a restaurateur secures an amazing location where the original concept does not make sense, then the concept needs to change. Some restaurant developers may look for a location that matches their concept, while others may search for an ideal location and then brainstorm concepts appropriate for that specific spot.

The Location 

When considering a location, restaurant developers should pay attention to population demographics, the labor pool, rent, and parking. All of these issues speak to the sort of concept appropriate for that location. Parking becomes an especially important issue in more suburban settings, since some districts may actually have ordinances about the minimum number of spaces needed given the number of seats in the restaurant. Even in urban settings, parking can be an issue for upscale restaurants whose patrons may expect valet service.

Manhattan sunset

Sometimes, restaurant developers will play with location and concept. For example, someone may open a barbecue restaurant on Park Avenue in Manhattan that offers upscale versions of barbecue favorites. These types of concepts are a gamble that sometimes pays off, but other times does not. In these situations, it may be beneficial to find a local chef or someone very familiar with the city, or even the neighborhood culinary scene. In the end, however, a traditional barbecue restaurant with wet naps and racks of ribs will probably not last long on Park Avenue.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Life of Luxury: Manhattan's Condo Market

After half a decade of stagnation following the recession, it appears that the luxury real estate market in New York City's Manhattan borough has made a comeback. The median sales price in Manhattan reached $980,000 at the midway point of 2015, the highest since the market peaked in 2008 at $1,025,000. Similarly, around 6,500 luxury condominiums are expected to be built and available for sale by the end of 2015, the most since 2007 when over 8,000 were listed. By all accounts, the luxury condominium real estate market is booming, and developers are scrambling to take advantage.

manhattan realestate

Sky-High Views and Prices

The median sales price in the city's most populous borough has clearly been affected by a growing trend in the industry: superluxury and ultraluxury condos. Superluxury units are those sold for $5 million to just under $10 million; ultraluxury are those that go for more than $10 million.

Drastic changes are afoot even within the ultraluxury category. For example, in 2009, a luxury condominium building opened at 15 Central Park West, and buyers including MLB star Alex Rodriguez and various financial titans filled eight units that went for above $10 million. In West Village, a building called Superior Ink sold nine apartments at a cost-adjusted $10 million or more. By contrast, in 2015, a complex just south of Central Park called One57 sold 27 units for more than $10 million; six of them went for over $50 million, and the penthouse went for just over $100 million.

Market Stability

In view of these staggering prices, some developers have tapped out of the luxury real estate market in New York City and pursued other ventures out of the fear that too many luxury apartments are being built without a sufficient number of buyers willing to pay for them. According to Adam Gordon — the developer who converted the Bouwerie Lane Theater into luxury condos, and also created a boutique building in West Chelsea with an $18 million penthouse — it's getting to be a dangerous game. "Residential development has gotten too risky; it is just not a good bet," he said. "A lot of the guys who are staying in the game now are gamblers, and I’m just not one of them."

This viewpoint is based on the assumption that there are a limited number of buyers who are willing to pay these astronomical prices. However, those who share this perspective are in the minority; most agree that the luxury market will remain strong for the foreseeable future. According to Susan M. de Franca, president of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, "We are of the mindset that the market will continue to be very strong and deep for these high-end properties, as it is fueled not just by domestic but by an international market as well... New York City is still rivaling London as the top city" in which high-net-worth individuals are seeking to invest their capital.

Additionally, the idea that developers are making drastic moves toward producing high-end units is actually incorrect. In reality, development is spread across all price points. Ms. Kennedy Mack of Corcoran Sunshine asserts, "We’re seeing a relatively steady pricing mix from year to year, which is really supported by robust buyer demand at all levels."

Supply and Demand

The law of supply and demand is on full display in the Manhattan condo market. If there is a gap at a certain price point, developers fill it. For example, developer Aby Rosen saw a need for smaller, more modestly priced units, so he and his partners are currently constructing a 61-story complex at 610 Lexington Avenue in Midtown that will provide a mixture of one- and two-bedroom units for approximately $8 million and $10 million, respectively.

Currently, there is demand across the board, so there is full-spectrum development. According to the Olshan Realty Company, 104 units were sold for more than $4 million each in September of 2015, so there is clearly still a requirement for high-end development in addition to more affordable options.
Despite this promise, some developers have begun to see the early signs of stabilization between supply and demand. For example, appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. found that in the second quarter, newly constructed apartments spent an average of 130 days on the market before they were sold, up from 117 days a year earlier. According to Toll Brothers' David von Sprekelson, who heads the company's City Living unit, "Supply has started to catch up with demand."

The Manhattan real estate market has benefited immensely in recent years from a strong local economy, employment gains, a booming tech center, tight credit conditions, low inventory, and low mortgage rates. Consequently, residents are earning more and more, and the demand is not likely to disappear or even decrease in the coming years. While the market will fluctuate, it is important to note that the law of supply and demand will continue to regulate the number of luxury options on the market.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Four Tips for Negotiating a Restaurant Lease

restaurant bar

In New York, as well as other cities across the East Coast, the rent for restaurants is negotiable. As restaurant developers seek out the best commercial space for their newest venture, they must understand how to effectively negotiate a lease. Lease negotiations will not only save money in the long run, but they will also provide important protections against common issues and verify that the space is indeed the right one for the restaurant. Following are some key tips for restaurant developers as they enter the lease negotiation phase:

1. Research the history of the space and the landowner. If a space has been vacant for a while, restaurant developers have more leverage to negotiate favorable terms. While this may not happen in cities like New York, where competition for space remains high, restaurateurs — especially those with a proven track record — may be able to work out a special deal with the landowner. Some of the most commonly agreed upon deals include making no rent payments until the restaurant is actually open, getting rent breaks during the startup months, and pro-rating rent for the first year of the lease. In the latter case, restaurant developers need to ensure that they do not set themselves up for disaster after the first year by agreeing upon a rate that is simply impossible to pay. The flexibility of the landlord, the demand for commercial space, and the reputation of the restaurant developer all play a role in making these agreements feasible.

Conducting a background investigation on the commercial property’s landlord can reveal a lot of information about what to expect moving forward. Restaurant developers may want to have a conversation with other tenants about the pros and cons of the location and the landowner.

2. Consider protection clauses that may be necessary to include in the lease. Each lease is up for negotiation in terms of the clauses included, and landlords are generally open to revisions or the inclusion of new features. Since restaurants carry a great deal of risk, restaurateurs may want to build certain protections into the lease. A break clause, for example, can provide a means for ending a lease early without financial penalty. Another important clause to add involves exclusivity, which can prevent a landlord from leasing nearby space to direct competitors. A sublease clause can give restaurants greater flexibility by allowing subletting to other businesses. Restaurant developers often also add a co-tenancy clause in major commercial spaces. The clause allows a restaurant to break a lease if an anchor tenant, a major attractive force, is not replaced within a certain time period after it closes. Losing an anchor tenant can have a major impact on a restaurant’s income.

3. Conduct all necessary inspections during the negotiations stage. To open a restaurant, a space must pass many inspections, including fire safety and health inspector checks, among others. If a space does not pass inspections, restaurant developers can require the landlord to fix the issues prior to signing. Sometimes, the presence of major issues gives the restaurateur some leverage. Many landlords prefer to miss a few months of rent rather than pay for repairs so restaurant developers can negotiate a reduced monthly rate until the space is operable. In general, any repairs that are still needed to the building after a tenant vacates, such as plumbing, are the responsibility of the landlord.

Some issues commonly arise when people try to open restaurants. One of the most common is a lack of public restrooms. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a certain stall-to-seat ratio, so individuals may need to build out more bathroom space. Is there money and space for such construction? Another issue that is commonly encountered involves outside ventilation. Since restaurant kitchens produce great amounts of smoke and odor, proper ventilation is necessary to maintain a healthy work environment. In older buildings, creating such ventilation can prove difficult if it does not already exist. Restaurateurs also need to ask about garbage services. If there is not space for a dumpster nearby, can the restaurant share one with other nearby businesses?

4. Prepare for the possibility of a restaurant failure. Some landlords may ask that a lease be put in the name of the restauranter. This measure puts a great deal more financial responsibility on the restaurateur should the restaurant fail. If possible, negotiations should use the name of the corporation rather than a person’s name to limit liability.

This line of negotiations may reveal how a landlord feels about dealing with businesses rather than individuals. Flexible landlords who understand the challenges of conducting business may be more apt to work with restaurant developers if financial expectations are not met. Ideally, if the lease payments cannot be made, the landlord will work with the restaurateur to figure something out rather than immediately locking the doors or going through eviction proceedings. While it is not pleasant to think about such situations, building contingencies directly into the lease can alleviate anxiety and encourage cooperation.

Minimizing the impact of failure also involves securing shorter lease terms. When opening a restaurant, individuals should avoid signing a lease that lasts more than a year. While landlords may sometimes use longer leases to negotiate lower monthly installments, a lease is a legally binding document, and a landlord can then sue for the rest of the money due even if the restaurant fails after a few months. Shorter terms can minimize the financial obligations that remain if the restaurant fails.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

3 Tips for a Successful Restaurant Grand Opening

A grand opening event can help to fuel the success of a new restaurant. While grand opening events often involve a significant investment of capital, they can build excitement, increase a restaurant’s visibility, and secure a loyal following soon after the doors open. While many of the steps leading up to these events are the same for all restaurants, the exact approach will depend on the specific restaurant location’s mission and brand. Often, the success of such events lies in the details. Restaurateurs need to plan such events meticulously and ensure that they create a realistic and comprehensive plan and budget. The following tips can help restaurant developers plan and execute a successful opening event:

1. Identify the goals of the event. The details of the event will largely depend on the restaurant developer’s goals. While the goals may seem obvious, individuals need to identify the primary reasons for holding such an event. Some people simply want to drive awareness and create buzz through social media, the press, and word of mouth. Others may want to focus on building relationships with other area businesses, the local press, and even politicians. These strategic relationships can help to fuel growth down the line. Another goal of many restaurateurs is to create an unforgettable experience for guests, one in which everything goes right and the restaurant creates a remarkable, lasting impression. Many events will achieve all three of these goals, as well as others, while some will strategically choose to focus on only one or two. Regardless of the goals, identifying them early will help to structure planning.

2. Book a date for the event. Choosing a date for a restaurant grand opening can be one of the most crucial elements of success. First, people need to think about what day of the week will draw the most customers. Typically, Friday and Saturday evenings are the busiest for restaurants, but other competing events may make it more feasible to hold the event in the middle of the week. Often, restaurants choose to hold their events on a seemingly random night like Tuesday, when not many other competing events will steal the attention of potential attendees. Restaurant developers should also pay attention to holidays. Holding an event on a Sunday before a Monday holiday could prove very successful, whereas holding the event the day after a major holiday may result in a poor turnout. In general, restaurants should operate for a week or two before the grand opening in order to help iron out some of the kinks beforehand and make a solid impression.

3. Think about what type of event will appeal most to potential customers. An upscale dining establishment will try to appeal to a different crowd than a family restaurant. As a result, the opening events for these two restaurants will likely look very different. The former may take place in the evening and involve a formal, sit-down dinner, while the latter may be a daytime event that includes live music and even games. Some ideas to consider include:

- Special menus: For opening events, some restaurants may choose to offer a special tasting menu that gives individuals the opportunity to try many of the signature dishes. Some restaurants will even provide smaller tapas-style versions of dishes so that diners can sample a variety.

- Formal receptions: Some restaurant developers hold a very formal event where they invite journalists, public officials, and area business owners. This approach can work well for people who want to promote the space as a reception facility or for restaurants that offer catering services.

- Free gifts: A grand opening often includes something free for guests, whether it’s a free appetizer, dessert, or drink to complement the meal. This approach can bring in people who are hesitant to try something new simply for a good deal. Restaurants may also choose to send people home with free swag or food.

- Donation events: Restaurants that want to demonstrate their ties to the community may want to team up with a local charity for the grand opening and pledge proceeds from the event to the cause. This approach can help to build key relationships, solidify a good reputation, and get people excited about the restaurant, as well as an important cause.