Preparing a Successful Business Plan

Preparing a successful business plan is the first step in making your dream of opening a successful restaurant a reality. If you see yourself serving amazing food made with fresh ingredients, working with an attentive and well-trained staff, and a dining room filled with satisfied guests at every service, then ask yourself: How do I achieve this? Where do I begin?

The short answer is by remembering that Business is Business, and your business will not get off the ground without investors or without a clear vision of how your restaurant will run, not just operate. They want and need to see a solid plan on paper; a plan that they can believe in and trust can be executed, and a plan that will instill affirmation that they are making a solid investment.

It all starts with a well-constructed, comprehensive business plan that clearly identifies your concept and looks to growth in the future… here are key elements to include:

Mission Statement. Developing a clear mission statement is key. One succinct sentence (or two) that encompasses your overall concept, inspiration and atmosphere – the look, feel and experience you want to convey.

Brand Filter and Concept. Your mission statement will be further enhanced (and explained) through the brand filter. Your brand includes the name, the tagline, and succinct identifying characteristics that tell the story of your restaurant. The brand filter is the set of terms or phrases that guide your brand perspective and help define the concept. All conceptual elements should flow through the brand filter and bring your vision to life… from menu offerings and menu design to the logo and color scheme to seating, décor, aesthetics and the floor plan.

Business Model. This is where the ‘business is business’ mantra really comes into play, because the business model means the financial models that demonstrate how investment becomes profit. Without proper financial backing, there is no restaurant. Therefore, a realistic, balanced financial business model that outlines your operating budget and expected costs, such as rent/utilities, food purchases, capacity, salaries, insurance, and anything else that means a cash outlay. Importantly, a conservative growth plan is crucial for getting investors on board.

Marketing and Promotion. Once financials are in place, the next step is to develop a strong marketing and promotions program. Add a section to your business plan that outlines strategy of how you’ll gain brand exposure, create brand awareness, attract guests to fill the seats, and keep them coming back for more with some formal or informal guest loyalty program. Even some measure of marketing or promotional and outreach programs might include print or direct mail advertising, community involvement/outreach, digital communications, (website!) in-store promotion, media relations and social media management. Your goal: Get people talking about your business!

As you proceed, there will most likely be some unexpected twists, modifications, revisions, and adjustments along the way, but if you stick to the key elements of your original business plan, maintain the passion about your business, and expand your strengths as you go … your business plan should prove to be your roadmap to success.

Photo: VSAG co-Founder, Michael Vucurevich consults with a VSAG restaurant business client.