A New Restaurant Opening: Large or Small?

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beyond the bullIt was finally time to open the doors after 87 days of renovations, menu planning, equipment and furniture buying, painting, inspections, licensing and vendor sourcing. What’s next? How about a grand opening event? Or, should it be invitation only? Or, how about just opening the doors and hanging out the “open” sign? This is a decision that every new restaurant owner must make. And, it is not an easy one.

In my case, I chose to hang out the sign. Here’s why.

Grand opening
A grand opening requires hiring staff that you might not necessarily need later on. A grand opening must be advertised and requires extra preparation of food and beverage as well as tables and chairs, smallwares and equipment you may need only once. You will have to plan for the possibility of a large attendance of customers who may respond to your massive marketing effort. In other words, a grand opening requires a large investment of funds in payroll, food and beverage cost, advertising, and even possibly rental of equipment and furnishings. In addition, a grand opening does not exactly give the customer the real deal. For example, I once worked at an Asian restaurant that served a buffet for the grand opening. But, in fact, the restaurant service was tableside. What’s the point?

beyond the bull menuSlow opening
A slow opening is the final rehearsal before the curtain goes up. It is by invitation only and will provide feedback from friends, coworkers, local dignitaries and family. Although you will have an actual customer count which makes for less guesswork in preparation, there is still the expense of providing food and beverage for which there is no revenue forthcoming. It does give your employees a chance to practice their roles and correct mistakes before paying guests are exposed to them. But, once again, what’s the point?

mmmHang out the flag
And then there is my choice. I chose to open on a Friday night (Good Friday to be exact) and hope for the best. By that, I mean, just a few guests, not too many to overwhelm the staff, but enough to expose the problems and take the time for corrective action. And that is just what we got—practice, no extra expenses, a little revenue and a lot of confidence.


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

Last modified: April 16, 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, startups, Tips