Starting any business costs money. Restaurants are no exception. There’s a common adage about going into the restaurant business that advises people they should be prepared to lose money for two years before they can expect make a profit, and that’s only if your restaurant can generate a steady clientele and loyal following. If being a restaurateur is your dream and you’re ready, willing and able to put in that hard work, what big expenses can you expect to have to budget for?
Arguably, the most important part of any business you start will be the people you hire to fulfill your customers’ needs. Are you a chef? If you are, you already know about all the kitchen staff you’ll have to hire to serve your customers. Whether you’re a Mom and Pop diner or a 5-star upscale establishment, you’ll need to have people around you who can not only cook, they can also work together. Your head chef, or chef de cuisine in finer dining, manages the kitchen. It is she, or he, who makes menu suggestions, directs the kitchen staff and purchases the needed supplies. A Sous Chef pinch hits for the Head Chef and is more hands-on with the kitchen staff. Station Chefs each prepare a different kind of food; each station has its own title, too. Junior Chefs are frequently still in training. Porters have cleaning duties and help with smaller tasks like washing vegetable and peeling potatoes. Dishwashers do just that and Wait staff delivers the prepared meals to the tables. A smaller restaurant may combine several of these jobs into two or three positions. However, it’s the chefs’ jobs that will be combined. Wait staff and dishwashers are the backbone of your kitchen and need to be treated as such. If you plan on having multiple locations, you may have to add an Executive Chef to your roster of employees who can manage your locations and coordinate their efforts and brand identity.
While your Head Chef makes the purchasing decisions and makes menu suggestions accordingly, you as the restaurant owner need to enable those decisions and suggestions by both budgeting wisely and fostering good working relationships with your food suppliers. Pay attention to food trends like the burger craze of a few years ago or the excitement about wood-fired pizza so you can capitalize on those trends and move away from them when they’re done. Some trends have sticking power, like the farm to table movement.
You’ll have other start-up costs like rent, tables and signage, but staffing and food are your on-going large expenses – and your most important investment for bringing people back to your restaurant.