A drug problem can transform an entire life into one big mess, hurting career prospects, education, relationships, health, and your everyday world. While recovery is always possible, perhaps the most challenging aspect of life after recovery is learning to celebrate living again despite your past.
Maybe there was a family intervention, or perhaps you made the brave decision to get addiction help on your own. Either way, you know that a good life after recovery means not only staying away from substance abuse in the future, but also finding a new identity and sense of self-worth.
There are lots of ways to celebrate yourself and carve a new self-identity after overcoming addiction. Some people get a tattoo to commemorate their victory, while others move to a new city or return to a hobby they used to love. One of the most fulfilling and effective ways to move into a good life after recovery is to start your own business. And one of the most rewarding types of businesses you can build is a restaurant.
Whether you’ve just said goodbye to the rehab center or you’ve been clean for a few years, it’s never a bad time to get a fresh start at life after recovery. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to start your own restaurant business.
10 Steps to Success
Food service businesses are more complicated than they might appear. Beneath the simple seating arrangements and detailed menus are a plethora of regulations and best practices. To help explain what’s involved in starting a restaurant in your life after recovery, we’ve broken it down into 10 simple steps.
Define Your Concept
Your concept is your restaurant’s main thing: the idea that sets it apart from your competition. It should also be defined by your passion, or what you’re most interested in. For example, do you want to serve unusual gourmet dishes to millennials in a trendy, minimalist environment? That would be your concept.
The concept of your restaurant should appear in every aspect of your business, from the dining furniture to your customer service to the food itself. Your concept will be reflected most in your restaurant’s name and decor, as it should determine your brand as well as your menu.
Create a Business Plan
Once you have the initial concept, you need a business plan that lays out the foundation for all your operations. A traditional business plan includes an executive summary, a company description, industry analysis, a geographic analysis, a target market analysis, a food safety plan, a sample menu, a marketing strategy, a management strategy, and finally a financial plan.
If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is. But it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. A business plan simply describes the basic steps that will go into building and running your restaurant, and you can probably come up with most of them just by thinking about it. The technical terms themselves aren’t as important, although they help explain your idea to business-minded investors. With one or two good business books, you can master the fundamentals of writing a business plan well enough to get started.
Explore Funding Options
For this part of the process, you need to estimate what your restaurant’s startup and operational costs are going to be. This is the first step in deciding what type of funding to pursue. Knowing up-front how much it will cost to run your business will also define what your sales and revenue goals need to be.
When it comes to getting your business funded, you should have several options available to you. You could apply for a traditional small business loan, or pitch your business to investors. You might qualify for certain government grants depending on your situation, or you could even try crowdfunding your restaurant if your idea is interesting enough. Do some research and brainstorm all the possible sources of funding that might be open to you.
Get Licenses and Permits to Open Your Restaurant
There are standard licenses and permits that every business owner needs to legally set up shop, but as you can imagine, regulations are even more strict for foodservice companies. You’ll need to do your research to find out what permits and licenses are required to open a restaurant in your city. While you’re at it, research and compile a list of all the safety and quality standards you must be able to meet as a restaurant owner. This will really come in handy down the road.
Register Your Restaurant Business
This is where things start to get exciting — your restaurant idea begins to take shape here, starting with its name and legal status. First of all, you need to register your business with the IRS, which will give you an Employer Identification Number. You will need this to file business taxes once you’re earning revenue, which is an important part of complying with business law.
Next, you should consider registering your business name as a trademark to prevent others from copying it. You should also buy a URL, or web address, that makes sense for your restaurant. Your best option is usually your business’s name followed by “.com,” but if that address isn’t available, you may need to add another word or two (such as the name of your city) or use a different extension than .com, such as .bar, .restaurant, or .cafe.
Choose Your Restaurant’s Location
Location can make or break a business, and for your life after recovery, you’ll want to make sure you’ve chosen the right spot for business success. The two primary factors you should consider in choosing a location are visibility and foot traffic: you want people to be able to see your restaurant from a distance, and you also want a place that people commonly walk by every day.
You probably won’t be constructing a new building for your restaurant, which means you’ll have to settle for a building that already exists. Besides paying attention to its visibility and nearby foot traffic, evaluate the size and shape of its interior to determine whether or not it’s truly fit to be a restaurant.
Finalize Your Menu
Before you proceed with planning or developing your business, it’s important to develop your menu. You should have created a concept menu before now, but at this point, you need something more concrete to base future decisions on.
Your menu is the centerpiece of your business. It needs to reflect your concept and your brand. It’s also its own marketing tool, as the items on your menu will do more than anything else to persuade people to try your food.
Once you’ve chosen the recipes and meals to showcase, you’ll need to write descriptions for each of them. The descriptions should be appealing and appetizing, but most importantly they should effectively describe what the customer will be getting. You might want to outsource this to a good freelance copywriter, because they will know how to make the text come alive with color and appeal.
Design a Marketing Plan
Now that you have a location and a menu to promote, you should come up with a plan for your marketing, before you invest any more money into the business. The strength of your marketing strategy will determine whether you have a consistently full restaurant, or a comparatively lifeless one.
Your marketing efforts should drive awareness, draw in new customers, and create a loyal following of existing diners and fans. There are countless tactics you can use for marketing, but the key is to choose one that makes sense for you and excel at it. You can only spread your attention across so many things, so try to do one type of marketing well instead of trying to do several at once. You should strongly consider hiring a professional marketer with restaurant experience and a stellar track record, at least while your business is getting off the ground.
Order Restaurant Equipment
Assuming you successfully acquired funding for your business (congratulations!), your next step after securing the location is buying the equipment. There’s probably a huge difference between what you use in your home and what your restaurant will have to use, but you should aim to keep your kitchen as simple as possible. This is a business, after all, so make a list of everything you need to prepare the meals on your menu. Try to stay away from buying equipment just because it would be nice to have. You can always expand to a larger menu and a more elaborate kitchen later, after you’ve seen some success. When you’re purchasing foodservice equipment for the first time, focus on what you need.
Hire the Perfect Staff
You probably figured out how many employees you would need back when you made your business plan. Now it’s time to find and hire these employees.
Once you’ve found all the people you need to bring your dream to life, you’ll need a system for processing payroll. You can do it manually using physical books, but it’s often much simpler to use payroll software, especially for restaurants. Keep in mind that restaurant payroll can become very complex, as different areas have different state and local laws regarding income taxes, wages, and tips. You might want to consult an attorney or business accountant to make sure your numbers will always add up. The last thing you want in your life after recovery is an accidental tax violation.
It’s easy to oversimplify the process of starting a business. After all, it’s a little more complicated than pulling a frozen pizza out of the oven. But these 10 steps sum up everything you’ll need to do to start your new life after recovery as a restauranteur. To wrap up this article, next we’ll discuss the major segments of the restaurant industry, so you can decide which one you feel most inclined to pursue.
Restaurant Industry Segments
There are hundreds — even thousands — of decisions you must make on your way to running your own restaurant. However, one of the first decisions you must make is where your restaurant will fit in the overall industry. Besides giving you a place to start your life after recovery, choosing your segment of the restaurant industry will help define the choices you make down the road, from brainstorming your menu to creating your marketing plan.
The restaurant industry is divided into the following five segments:
Also called quick-service restaurants (or QSRs), fast food joints specialize in rapid preparation and casual service. It’s the sort of place amateur athletes will go to fill up their performance drinkware. Seating is typically limited in a fast food restaurant, since many customers order at the register and take their food to go, so they don’t require as much space. If you’re on the fence about whether to offer drive-through options, consider that roughly 20% of all meals eaten in America are consumed during a car ride.
Fast-casual restaurants are the perfect cross between fast food and family dining. They don’t typically offer sit-down service (that is, they don’t usually have waiters or waitresses), but they will often use non-disposable utensils and plates. More importantly, they offer wholesome, freshly-prepared food, like more upscale restaurants, with the speed and casualness of a fast food place.
Casual dining restaurants provide a relaxed, quiet environment for customers to enjoy their meals, with a full-service, sit-down experience at an affordable price.
Family dining options are very similar to casual dining restaurants, but instead of having a limited menu, they’ll often be open all hours of the day, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They typically don’t serve alcohol, as they maintain a definitively family-friendly atmosphere.
As the name implies, fine dining restaurants give customers an elegant, upscale dining experience. Customers pay high prices for top-quality food and service. It’s an exciting type of business to operate, but standards are incredibly high, so you’ve got to do your due diligence to make sure you’re up to it.
And with that, you should know everything you need to start researching your new restaurant idea. Establishing a life after recovery is always a challenge, but with things like nutritional care and a fulfilling career path, it’s always within reach.