What it is like Opening A Restaurant?
The restaurant business is unique; one of the most unique aspects about it is opening a restaurant. Not a restaurant you own, but a new restaurant. It is training unlike any other, especially on the day of liquor/wine/beer tasting! Opening a restaurant is a time when the tumult of working in the restaurant business might be more than learning a menu and steps of service. It is a time when incredible professional and personal friendships boom. Everyone is doing (the often lame) ice breakers together and getting the most thorough training for ANY restaurant.
How Is Opening A Restaurant Different Than Training At An Existing One?
Ever train with people that know as much as you do? The first time you had sex was it with someone who has had it before or another virgin?
Exactly! (If you happen to both be virgins, well then opening a restaurant is similar)
That is what we thought! Training is more like the blind leading the blind. If you can imagine the Three Blind Mice from the Shrek series, always looking for each other, welcome to the adventure of being on an opening team.
It will not be easy, the hours will be crazy and tips will not be made for at least two weeks. The upside is, you will not be working late until the friends and family night (s) and more than likely be off at both Saturday and Sunday or at least Sunday.
Sadly, this only lasts for a short period of time before it is back to business. The good thing everyone has the same shot at getting the prime sections and shifts. There is no hierarchy or people used to a certain schedule and sections, more importantly, when opening a restaurant, it is impossible to tell which tables and sections will be the most popular/sought after! Take advantage of this, especially if experience is the type of restaurant is something lacking.
When opening a restaurant, owners and managers are more likely to take risks on employees that might lack experience or knowledge due to the training that will take place. On the same note, there is not hard feelings if a hire doesn’t fit in cause restaurants generally over-hire at opening; the experience isn’t for everyone! Many times that staff that opens a restaurant will turn by about 75-90% within 6 months of opening, this includes managers, usually, of which at least 1 or 2 might have never managed before.
High Turnover, New Managers and Uncertainty!?!?
Yes, the roller coaster of opening a restaurant is starting its climb up the hill…with multiple re-rides…FREE OF CHARGE! With a brief introduction of what happens, its now time to turn the focus to what really happens what to expect on this roller coaster! While, it has lots of ups and downs, the experience is generally enjoyable and an amazing opportunity to learn about business and entrepreneurship.
There is more experience in opening the doors for the first time than just learning a menu and specialty drinks. It is a time that one learns about the origins of a restaurant and its why. One learns what makes the principals/concept tick and managers get to intimately know employees and vice-versa.
During this time, the relationships that make a restaurant successful bloom, employees learn how to truly be a team when mock service is done with all servers, instead of the new server. There is no follows, only mock service, friends & family then SHOWTIME (opening night). The good thing is that when opening a restaurant opening night usually falls on a harmless night, like Monday or Tuesday.
Armed With Information, What is Opening A Restaurant Like?
Now that we know the menu and have done mock service, friends & family and have first night in the books what happens? This can depend on the concept and backing. A large corporate type restaurant (think casual chains) has a different opening than a small franchise or independent restaurant.
The corporate type restaurant will have a team that travels to open restaurants or has employees at other locations train. At the small groups and independent restaurants, training is more ad hoc; based on the needs and opportunities of management and the staff hired. Chances are in the smaller restaurants; a few of the opening employees might be employed at other restaurants owned by the group or person. The familiarity can cause a little vacuum, but not diminish opportunity too much as those that transfer might also leave if they do not like the new concept.
We want to focus on the independent and small group openings as they are very different than corporate opening and are more frequent. When a Chili’s opens it is a huge process and has a corporate backing. This is much different than when a local restaurant group opens its 3rd restaurant.
What Happens When the Local Group Opens A Restaurant?
Everything and anything!
The team is hired, the kitchen crew is starting to learn the prep, the service team is learning the menu and suddenly an owner goes storming into the kitchen. Minutes later the owner returns with a plate claiming a dish has changed!
The roller coaster goes up and down in about 5 minutes…Now the fun begins!
This is a common instance when opening a restaurant with a small or independent group. One time when working for a chef train under Alain Ducasse, the menu changed in the middle of a Friday Night dinner shift!
Yes, serious fun!
These smaller groups also favor a highly interactive training, usually involving imbibing of specialty drinks, wine and beers. You know, the good stuff!
The most unique part of this sampling is usually the owners/managers serve this and have suppliers come in and talk about the products being consumed. On these days, you may have to get a ride home or bring a pillow, it can be a gluttonous event!
During this “training” relationships develop and make the process of opening a restaurant unique. A new job at an already established restaurant is being a cog in the machine. Now you are building the machine!
While enjoying this time, remember that showtime is coming soon as is the most difficult part of opening: The first two weeks!
What Happens During the First Two Weeks After Opening A Restaurant?
During the first two weeks, at minimum expect overstaffing, unpredictable cover counts and changes to the menu. Yes, money might be slow during this time while the word gets out about the restaurant, even with social media. Many potential guess also do not want to take the “risk” of trying a new restaurant as much changes during the first few weeks (independents and small groups). The franchises and large chains are ready for busy nights from day 1 with a full support team there to help as needed.
Now that the doors are open and the restaurant is live and the dress rehearsal of friends and family is over, the field of servers/bartenders/hosts and bussers thins out. Why? The extreme uncertainty of opening a restaurant has come full circle. During the hiring and training process everything is positive about business, but be forewarned, the first few weeks are the worst part of the roller coaster.
When Does The Roller Coaster of Opening A Restaurant End?
When management/owners/investors figure it out, the downside is it can take up to 3 months, especially with seasonality.
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