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How I Knew I Was Ready to Open a Restaurant
Is there a right time or a wrong time to open a restaurant? How will you know when you’re ready? According to several restaurant owners, planning is essential. From brainstorming your concept to writing a business plan, each element plays a role in readiness.
Phillip Hoffman, NYC restaurateur with more than 35 years of restaurant and food entrepreneurial experience, tells Entrepreneur, “I don’t think there’s a good time or a bad time to open a restaurant.” Regardless of preparation, sometimes the opportunity strikes and the restaurateur jumps on it.
However, in many cases, the timing coincides with the availability of a prime location following months or years of planning. While it’s essential to make sure that you’re financially and emotionally prepared, when it comes down to it, sometimes it just feels right.
Lesley Connelly, Co-Owner of Vegas Wings in Ottawa, IL
For Lesley Connelly, co-owner of Vegas Wings, much of her and her partner’s plans came about while dining out at hundreds of restaurants. She said, “We started looking at what worked for others, and that gave us the confidence to build on our own ideas.”
However, the availability and affordability of a location was often the final piece of the puzzle. Connelly says, “We didn’t have all the details worked out, but then a building became available. The price was right, the location worked well, and we knew that we had to act on it immediately. Once you’ve made that decision to open a restaurant, then it’s just a matter of those pieces falling into place, so you’re forced to take action.”
Jamie Suckow, Owner of Firewater Saloon in Chicago IL
For many years, Jamie Suckow, owner of Firewater Saloon, and her business partner, Richard Dorsch, a retired firefighter, discussed opening up a local restaurant. Both were well-established in the community with plenty of friends and contacts.
So when a place opened up for rent, they seized the moment. Suckow says, “We had it planned out for many years and jumped on the opportunity when it became available. We wanted to stay close to home, and everything just got together perfectly.” By far, the location was their most significant criteria when it came to timing.
The bottom line is that having a game plan and a great concept is crucial. Plus, having all of the details in place allows you to act swiftly to secure a prime location. David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurant Consultants, tells ConsumerAffairs that “You don’t want to go into something to lose money. It’s the quickest way to blow your life savings. If you have a great concept and you can put in the right location, and you can get the financing and have the wherewithal to do it, it’s a good time.” Success requires business owners to act quickly. Take all the time you want to plan ahead but if the time feels right or the location fits, then go with your gut feeling. As Andrew Miller, creative director of Good Fortune in Chicago, tells Upserve, “No matter how prepared you think you are, it’s never enough. You will always be finishing right at the buzzer.”