What we've learnt: the restaurant start up life
Top Tips for any
restaurant start up!
There’s no surprise that we had to put a 3 week deadline in the diary just to get this blog post ready and on time. No matter how you plan your day, by 9am something has gone wrong, 4 people have called in sick and all the equipment isn’t working – awesome.
No-one and I mean no-one can prepare you for the savage nature of opening a restaurant, let alone 2 in 12 months – are we mad? Probably! But do we do this because it’s suddenly become a ‘TREND’ for the industry – definitely not.
One thing is for sure, we have mad respect for the restaurant industry and those who are doing it really well, those who support and nurture others and bend over backwards for their customers, even when it all hits the fan (which is always).
So we thought we’d write a small summary of our learnings from the past 12 months in the hope we can inspire, help or guide someone out there.
Here’s our top 5 tips (purely from our experience)
in a handy sized guide:
1. POWER OF POSITIVITY
Ok it’s easy to say and that’s pretty much what everyone will tell you. But when something goes wrong almost daily, you simply have to remain calm, focus and keep your inner positivity no matter what. If that means taking an extra 10 minutes out, just do it, it will keep you sane in the long term! We have had our fryers stop working mid service, our mac n cheese oven not work for the first 2 weeks of opening, suppliers letting us down ( you get the picture). If you can’t stay calm, think on your feet for quick solutions and positively move forward, this is definitely not the game for you.
2. HIRE WELL
In this industry it is becoming increasingly difficult (especially with Brexit) to find those who are both passionate about your concept, fit your company culture and have a love for customer service in the hospitality industry. So naturally, when your business has a gap to fill and everyone is working above and beyond to cover those gaps, it’s so easy to simply hire the first person that seems reasonable. JUST DON’T! If the wrong person stays around for a long time - it’s only you and your business that will suffer! Select those who are positive, refreshingly committed and see a long term path within your business. These are the true gems, the ones who speak highly of you behind your back and the ones who dispel gossip not create it. For the record, our team are incredible, but hiring well is essential to everything you do, so just take that extra moment to think, ensure you get feedback of all trial shifts before hiring!
3. MENTORS MENTORS MENTORS
We realised early on, in fact during our market stall days, that whilst we had never run a restaurant before, there was nothing that we couldn’t learn. Whilst that is so so so true, and we have learnt everything from the ground up, I would say that it’s so important to reach out to someone who has been there before to help you navigate through those nagging questions you have. It can be such a daunting experience to reach out to those you admire asking for help or support, but I would say it ended up being one of the most important things we ever did. When you get worried about something, have a challenging issue you’re going through or a simple question, there is nothing like asking that friend, you know the one who’s always there for you! The one where no question is too big or too small and no phone call is too much – having a support network around you of those you trust is not just important, it’s essential – so go get them, the right one will stick around trust me!
4. DELEGATE !
It became so apparent so quickly how much your time is pressured as founders of a growing business. You have zero time to breathe let alone do all those wonderful activities that are supposed to keep you sane and healthy!
These are just a summary of the tasks that are required just to keep the business alive and there were only TWO of us doing this in the first 8 months :
Accounting / Finance / Team hiring / training / food innovation / menu changes / fresh food prep / food deliveries in our car daily sometimes twice a day / supplier ordering / staff issues / appraisals / team rota / holidays and sickness management / raising investment / marketing / collaborations / PR / reaching out to build business relationships / dealing with supplier catastrophes / website management / all social media management / photography / promotional activities / packaging management / researching best packaging innovations / software management – set up of tillpoints, printers, building maintenance – painting, broken toilets, door locks etc / event activity outside of the restaurant ……….
Whilst this is a summary and not exhaustive, imagine doubling the size of your team over night and multiplying these problems!! We had to learn to delegate and train our team to be able to deal with every eventuality. Has this taken time – Hell yes! Are we perfect – definitely Not! But we are learning the importance of good communication and delegation to all key stake holders, and this is definitely an on-going challenge that everyone faces for sure.
5. STAY IN YOUR LANE
You often find yourself, especially in the social media age, consistently comparing, contrasting and looking outwards for answers. The truth is, the answers never lay with anyone or anything else! If something is going wrong, look inside to see why, if something is going well, celebrate with those who made it happen. With a whole parade of restaurants now available, whether completely vegan, with vegan options, or dedicated vegan burger restaurants from a consumer point of view this is AMAZING! From a start up business POV it can be seriously distracting. So we made a pact internally to notice, admire and step back and then move forward positively with OUR plans and OUR goals. It truly is a life changing head space to be in, allowing you to think clearly and take on the world on a whole new level. Don’t worry about anyone else, you’re doing just great!
I really hope these top 5 tips give a small insight into both the challenges the restaurant industry suffers with, especially from a personal POV as a start up restaurant employing almost 50 people within 12 months! We are here to challenge perceptions of vegan food and I just want to take a moment to recognise and thank those who have supported us from the beginning, from our team, our customers, our investors – who each provide so much encouragement, support and love.
This has been the craziest 2 and ½ years of our lives, but we wouldn’t give it up for the world. So we’ll keep powering onwards, with the right team by our side there is nothing we can’t achieve!
Please share your experiences below, or send us an email, we’d love to hear from you!!
Have a fantastic day,
(The Vurger Co - Co-Founder, CEO)