With a record number of people opting to eat out instead of cooking at home, the restaurant industry can be a thriving field to enter.

The food service industry continues to have a strong foundation, but it has seen trends of success and failures just like any other. If you are looking to make your mark here, there are a few questions to ask yourself before opening a restaurant.

What is my brand or concept?

There are so many restaurants to compete with that it is essential to have a unique brand or concept. Your unique branding includes everything from service style, the food, and the overall ambiance. The combination of these creates your brand, i.e. your restaurant’s identity, mission, and personality. The brand is the driving force behind the concept and, ultimately, the success or failure of the business.

The physical space should reflect the brand and concept to communicate who you are as a business. The environment should create a meaningful and memorable experience so that customers want to come back. Aim for a unique but functional concept.

What do I want to serve?

Before the doors open, you need to know what is going on the menu. Deciding the menu plays into the equipment, the staff, and the intended demographic.

The menu does not need to be completely set at the opening stage. However, you need a solid base to start so that you can build business needs around the cuisine. These considerations are especially crucial for investing in equipment. For example, if you plan on opening a pizzeria, you’ll want to make sure you invest in a commercial pizza oven for your restaurant.

Also, keep in mind how you’ll integrate variety. If your menu hinges on a single concept, you should have a variety of that concept available. For example, a pizza place might not be prosperous if they only serve one kind of pizza.

As your restaurant grows, you can add menu items and rotate out less popular items to increase profits. You also can upgrade or install equipment. You can make these adjustments as you learn what works and does not work for your customers.

What is your business plan?

This question is something you need to ask yourself because others are certain to ask you for it. A business plan communicates to potential investors that you have thought things through and are a safe investment. The business plan allows you to develop a strategy and show the feasibility of your restaurant’s details.

Components of a good business plan include:

  • Company overview and description
  • Executive summary
  • Business offerings
  • Market analysis
  • Equipment needs
  • Management plan
  • Financial projection
  • Public relations and marketing strategies

How will you fund your venture?

After you build the plan and project the costs, you have to find the money to get started. Estimate the total start-up costs needed for your restaurant to function and create a budget based on that. Ideally, your projections will cover the first year of business. Keep in mind it may take a little while to have a profit margin as you stumble through new and unforeseen expenses.

Assess what you have available and how much is remaining to start-up. Do not forget to include licenses and other permits. Apply for loans or seek investors to get started.

Where will this restaurant location be?

Location can spell success or failure for a restaurant. You can have the best concept and brand, but if you are not in a good area or the right facility, you can still fail.

A prime location will be visible and accessible to the demographic you are targeting. Ideally, you will not be near any competition, and you’ll be able to maintain labor and overhead costs for the area.

Anything else?

This post covers the tip of the iceberg when it comes to opening a restaurant. Some other aspects to consider will be asking yourself about those final puzzle pieces. Additional considerations include:

  • Obtaining permits and licenses
  • Finding a food and equipment supplier
  • Designing a layout
  • Hiring staff
  • Marketing

Once you can furnish answers to all these questions, and you have completed the right steps, you can have a soft opening and get yourself off the ground.