Your family has been making pizza for years, and you’ve always gotten compliments on it, so now you’ve decided it’s time to open your very own pizza place. Or you and your spouse both love cooking barbecue, and your guests always love it too, so you’re thinking of opening a barbecue joint called “Meat Up.” Or maybe you just have a really great guacamole recipe passed down from your grandmother, and you’ve always loved Tex-Mex, so, hey, why not open a Tex-Mex restaurant featuring grandma’s guacamole?

There are as many reasons to open a restaurant as there are types of food you can serve at the restaurant. Running your own business comes with challenges, to be sure, but the whole “90 percent of small businesses fail” line you’ve probably heard repeated over and over is actually a myth. According to the Small Business Administration, around two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years, and about half make it at least five years. Those aren’t amazing odds, but that’s a lot better than a 90 percent failure rate.


Look at the market


One of the biggest questions you can answer: Is there a market for what you’re selling? The market for fresh sushi in your hometown could already be saturated, or it could be virtually non-existent. Plenty of restaurateurs misjudge the demand for whatever they’re making. Just because you live in Southern California, a place where the demand for Mexican food is sky-high, doesn’t mean you’re going to succeed. The expectations of your customers will also vary widely depending on where you are, as people in Southern California will probably have more exacting standards than people in Northern Idaho.


You also need to pick a theme and ambiance. If you’re serving Tex-Mex, do you want a clean, modern restaurant space, or do you want patrons to feel like they’re on the set of a spaghetti Western movie? If your market base is full of college kids, you’re going to want to decorate differently than if you were living in a town full of retirees. Food sourcing is another important issue. Sourcing locally is all the rage now, and some places even grow their own produce.


Equipment and regulations


Cooking for crowds is a lot different than whipping up some food at home, too. You’ll need industrial-sized kitchen equipment, and that’s not cheap. You may be able to find quality remanufactured pizza ovens for serving all those pies. That’s a great way to save a little money while still ensuring you have good equipment that will serve you well in the middle of the dinner rush.


Don’t forget that you’re going to be dealing with your local Department of Health now, too. You need to study all the regulations and get to know them better than you know your spouse. All of your employees need to do the same. Health inspections are public information, and you want to ensure that you’re getting a good report. Nothing can sink a new restaurant faster than a bad inspection. Your kitchen should be clean enough for patrons to eat off the floor.


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