You dreamed it—every single detail—from the retro wooden shingles on the windows to the font of the menu printed on eco-friendly paper. The dishes have gone through rigorous research and development and you are finally ready to open your doors. Now comes the tricky part: You have to actually operate a business and make sure you profit from it.
As most seasoned restaurateurs know, there is no secret formula. It’s always different for everyone. And in an industry that is oftentimes trendy and fickle, you must learn to adapt. There is a lot of hard work involved, perhaps a little bit of luck. To make it a bit easier for newcomers, we’ve gathered advice from successful restaurant owners to lessen the unknown variables.
Sometimes polygamy is okay, when it comes to saving money on inventory at least. “For our Japanese outlet Saboten,” says Andrej Wisniewski, vice president of Raintree Hospitality Group, “we usually get two to three suppliers of exact meat cuts, which saves on time and effort and allows for easier storage.” To service their 10 restaurants, he says, it also helps to have a central purchase group that deals with specialized suppliers. “It makes the process more organized and manageable.”
Have a good relationship with your staff
This advice, Fernando Aracama says, is just as important as his relationships with guests at his eponymous Bonifacio Global City restaurant. He discovered that it leads to better employee morale and, ultimately, higher customer satisfaction. “Create a culture of respect and professionalism. Everyone greets each other when they come to and leave work. Education and proper training give them confidence and sureness when they engage with customers.”
Always plan for expansion
Finding the right location is always vital advice, but it requires a little more strategy than just counting foot traffic. “We try to spread it out geographically,” says Charlie Paw of Tasteless Restaurant Group. “For Le Petite Soufflé, our first branch is in Century City Mall (Makati City). Second branch will be in SM Megamall (Mandaluyong City), then the third branch will be in UP Town Center (Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City).” Pacing also needs to be right. “Even if the concept is doing well, we still expand slowly. We won’t open more than two branches a year, para hindi magsawa ’yung customers.”
Understand your profit and loss
Known usually as “the dirty work,” the business end of running a restaurant is mostly about crunching numbers and making sure they make sense. “Investing in a restaurant is like investing in emerging markets: The risk is high, but the reward is also high,” Sarsa’s Tracie Anglo-Dizon explains.
“You need to run a tight ship in order to get a high return.” When you decipher the issues behind your profit and loss, you will know what needs to be done to make money. “If you are losing money on a certain dish, you need to ditch it to stop the bleeding.”
Recognize your role as owner
Delegating is key, and it is something Locavore’s Tin Magsaysay-Matic believes is what keeps their establishment’s machinery running smoothly. “You almost have to be able to see problems before they come,” she says of this advice. With her running the kitchen with chef and business partner Mikel Zaguirre, her sister and co-owner Carla is free to focus on human resources issues, while another partner handles administration and finance. “Our job as owners is that we need to be on top of everything.”