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  • Writer's pictureWolstonbury Hospitality Consultant

How to start a restaurant that's ready to scale | Part 1 - Planning

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Starting and running a restaurant is both exciting and fulfilling; but it's also risky. Getting brilliant advice along the way is key to helping you succeed. To help you with your start-up journey, I've got a whole series of helpful tips for you. In this first part, we'll be looking in detail at your business plan and how it can really help you throughout the entire life of your restaurant business, not just at the start.

It’s no secret that writing and following a bullet-proof business plan plays a vital part in building a solid restaurant business. But it’s surprising how many people I’ve seen skip this step and dive straight in, head first, without really thinking about the direction they want to take and how they’re going to get there. People can have a great business idea and be passionate about the food. They’re keen to get stuck in and make things happen. I get that. I’ve been there too!

If this sounds familiar, the good news is: it’s not too late. Follow these tips and you’ll be right on track!

Set Your Core Pillars

Writing a business plan can definitely seem intimating. But it doesn’t have to be. And it doesn’t have to be too lengthy, so don’t put it off because you think you can’t spare the time. There are so many of resources out there to help you. Try not to get blind-sided by all the practical things (premises, regulations, tech etc) right at the start. Remember to focus on the core pillars that should steer your direction:

- Why your business exists – once this is properly defined you can make all your decisions with this crystal clear vision in mind. It also gives your staff an identity to bond with and be proud of.

- How it will satisfy this purpose

- What exactly needs to be done to establish and remain in profit and growth

I believe that having a solid plan takes you 90% of the way to establishing a successful restaurant business. The remaining 10% is then made easier as the majority of the strategy can be shared with the team; training can be provided, and everything can be set up for success in a proactive manner.

Think 80:20

You don’t need to have a fully finished business plan in order to launch your restaurant either. In my opinion, a restaurant owner should have 80% of their business plan written before trading begins, and the remaining 20% is trial and error, which is based on test-trading.

Once you begin training, as you learn about your business - perhaps by running pop-ups or setting up in premises - you’ll more than likely need to adapt your original plan. You’ll discover more and more about what your customers actually want and need, so expect to make relevant changes to meet these requirements.

And don’t overlook that last 20%! It’s often the final piece that helps everything else slot into place and makes your business flourish. Once a restaurant has opened, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running and leave that last 20% of the plan unfinished.

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Plan

Once you’ve nailed that final 20% don’t even think about just pushing it to the back of your mind, ticking it off as a job done. You can’t afford to take your eye off your business plan. Think of it as your North Star. Use it to help you set direction and make decisions.

Consider it a framework for decision making and considering opportunities. Ask yourself:

- Can you answer every question with certainty?

- Do you properly understand your customers?

Give yourself 3 to 6 months to really fully understand these points. Test trading is vital if you are going to fully understand your restaurant business, so get as much feedback from customers as possible. Work on building a really great relationship with them and, of course, provide a world-class customer experience.

Know Your Customer

The most important thing when starting out is knowing and understanding your customers. They determine everything that you will do with your restaurant business. In order to understand:

- What you will sell

- What prices you will set

- Your opening hours

- Your location

- Your marketing strategy

- Who to employ

You need to establish:

- What exactly you can sell to appeal to your customers

- How much your customers are expecting to spend

- What does your price say about the quality of your brand/product?

- Are your customers time-poor? Cash-rich?

- How do your customers choose to pay?

- How do they like to be communicated with?

- What are their lifestyles and how does your business fit with this?

Your business plan sets the core foundation of everything that you decide for your operations, and customer experience is one of the main focuses for this. Gathering data on your customers will be key in gaining a crystal clear picture of who they are, specifically: their behaviour, average spends, the times they visit your restaurant, and the purchasing needs for different types of customer, to name just a few. The more you understand this, the more you can make sure your customer experience is on-point, and you can start to build loyalty.

I’ll be covering this in more detail later on in this series so make sure you’re the first to know when our article is live, to help you stay ahead. Follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter, or sign up to our mailing list so you always know when the next part of this series is out!

Look After Your People

While knowing your customers is vital for the success of your restaurant, there is another group of people that needs your focus and attention even more: your team.

They are quite literally your everything. You need to make them your priority, ahead of everything else in your business. Look after them because they will look after your business, your suppliers, your customers, and your bank manager.

This is another topic that I’ll expand on in this series, so keep an eye out for that too. In the meantime, take this opportunity to start (or re-address) your business plan and ensure that you’re setting yourself up for success.

If you need a hand, feel free to get in touch.

Thanks for reading,


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