Freebies for Startups: You Don’t Have to Pay for Everything

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free stuff!Things have certainly changed since I opened my first restaurant in 1988. Back then, if I got a napkin holder from a vendor, I was thrilled that it was one less start up expense. Now, vendors who are clamoring for your business (and even some who don’t really need it) have official budgets for anything from samples to trade show tickets to marketing paraphernalia. So, for those of you who are unaware, or may be new to the “start up” business of opening your first restaurant, here are some expenses that you can count on for which you will NOT have to pay.

Beverage coolers
National brands will give you one to use, providing you use it for their products. But, since you were going to sell their products anyway, why not accept it?

Food and beverage
When developing a menu, it may be necessary to taste the ingredients to make sure they fit the bill. If your food and beverage suppliers want your business, they will get you the food and beverage samples you need. Ask, and you will receive. That includes samples of wine, beer and soft drinks as well, all of which you can use to tease your potential customers at your pre-opening venues.

Sanitation dispensers
Suppliers of chemicals, soaps, hand towels and toilet paper will gladly loan you and install (free of charge) the dispensers as long as you agree to use their products. Why not? They charge less for the paper products than you could purchase on your own, and the dispensers are FREE.

Table tents, sandwich signs, recycling bins, menu boards, condiment holders, clocks
Your beverage suppliers are dependent on branding. They want to expose as many potential customers as possible to their brand and are willing to give you whatever it takes to flash their logo. Accept whatever you can, even the patio umbrella!

Bar glasses, bar mats, wine openers, napkin holders
If you are opening a food service that includes a bar, your vendors will provide you with all of the above if you ask. Some will even go so far as to provide (non gratis) the fountains and taps and the maintenance as well.

Neon signs
Who needs to pay for an “open” sign, when you can get neon signs with the vendor’s brand for free. As long as it lights up, it means that you are “open”.

So, when you are planning your “start up” budget, you can eliminate these expenses and use the funds for something that you DON’T get free—like employees!

Buon Appetito e Buona Salute, Chef Angela Bell
Beyond the Bull (an “eat smart” kitchen)
233 W. Main St., Central, SC 29630

Last modified: March 7, 2013
Angela Bell

This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: Insider's perspective, MPR Authored, Restaurants, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, Tips, Uncategorized

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