Lesson 8: Brick & Mortar

More than one restaurant owner ended up muttering “What was I thinking?” when they started a brick-and-mortar eatery. We’ll walk you through the process to reduce the chance you’ll have a similar epiphany down the road.



Brick & Mortar Restaurant


As you start to think about your restaurant, you want to think about the roles you will need, including the service side, kitchen and support roles. If you run a bar, you’ll need a bartender, too. Unlike some business enterprises, restaurants can be a “who you know” kind of operation, at least when it comes to the staff that will anchor your business, particularly the chef and cook staff. But don’t forget the other key roles, including managers for day and night shifts and your back office people – the bookkeeper in particular.

As a food business operator in the past, you may be used to wearing many hats in your business. But you can’t possibly be everywhere at the same time in a restaurant. Even if you are the one-of-a-kind person who can, eventually, you’ll need a vacation or some time to reacquaint yourself with family and friends.

When considering the different roles, especially in the beginning, consider staffing in terms of generalists rather than specialists. Initially, you may also need your bartender to be the bar back and server. Find people who are willing to become trusted partners in your success. Appreciate their willingness to be a jack or jill of all trades and reward them as you build. These people can become your trusted management team down the road, giving you more time to think about the big picture and less time to think about the nitty gritty.

Give them the autonomy to do their jobs. Yes, there needs to be someone in charge of a restaurant. But you don’t have to hover over your team if they have been given the proper training, know their jobs and what is expected of them, and have the power to do it without having to check in every time an issue arises. Empower them to solve problems and focus on serving the customer beyond their expectations.

Remember, too, that you must fill that gap every time someone leaves for another opportunity. You have to find someone to take the shift while you frantically search for a new hire. This takes time since you have to do a recruitment, interview, hire and train. An experienced member of the team with the ability to know the operation front to back, as well as your customers by name, is invaluable.


Managing the bottom line

If you’ve been running a business for a while, you probably have at least some level of financial management practices in place. You may even still be doing your own books. With a restaurant, you need to watch where every penny goes, mainly because a restaurant runs on pretty thin margins, especially with all the costs noted above.

You want to ensure that you have the correct financial practices in place, such as knowing how to read a profit/loss statement, do cash flow projections and make sure all your taxes are paid, and paperwork with city, county and state agencies is up to date.

To help you more fully understand best practices, including pathways to seeking loans to fuel growth, we have put together a Mastering Financials tutorial in partnership with the Small Business Administration.


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