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Ron Parikh Shares Five Important Lessons for Aspiring Restaurateurs by Ron Parikh

  • Posted by: Ron Parikh
  • 30th May 2016

Running a restaurant, whether it’s a stand-alone facility, or a national franchise, is a tough job. From the time you start conceptualizing to opening day, you’ll be over-worked and more than a little stressed. As one of the managing directors of Chalak Mitra Group of Companies, I’ve been a part of hundreds of restaurant openings over the years. I understand what you’re going through and I have some important lessons that I would like to share with you that will make it much easier. I guarantee you that I haven’t always gotten it right, in fact, I have failed miserably before. Use my experience and you won’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

What’s Your Flavor?

Choosing the flavor of your restaurant seems like a fairly straightforward thing, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t. People always say, do what you love, so, I absolutely love Indian cuisine. Why don’t I just start an Indian restaurant? Well, the simple answer is that just because it’s something I love, that doesn’t mean it’s a viable business option. The truth is, the more exotic your menu will be, the smaller your market is and the higher your potential for failure. Choosing a more mainstream menu concept, however, opens up a large market, and a greater chance of success.

Get the Location Right

No matter how good your food is, if your location is poor, you won’t succeed. My first experience in restaurant ownership turned to disaster when the realization struck that there was no dinner business during the week. It wasn’t just slow, it didn’t exist. Lunchtime was a buzz of activity, but later in the day, there simply wasn’t enough traffic. Weekends were better, we got a lot of traffic from the theater nearby. What I didn’t do, that you should, is to study the traffic patterns, keeping an attentive eye to the evening traffic. Don’t just focus on what happens on weekends, your restaurant, like mine, needs customers every single time the doors are open. Choose locations that are highly visible from main thoroughfares, close to other busy retail stores and entertainment venues to maximize their traffic as well.

Hands-On Approach

One thing that I am not afraid of is getting my hands dirty. I used to revel in the intense work that went into opening a new location. I would spend all my waking time for ten days in a row for each restaurant opening. What I’m telling you is that you’re going to be putting in a lot of hours, more than you can imagine, just to get things started. It’s not going to be easy, in fact, it’s going to be hard as hell sometimes, but it’s temporary. Once you have the systems and people in place, take a step back and allow your trusted employees to carry out the plan. By all means, jump in and help when you need to and be open to suggestions for improvement.

Stay Close to Your Staff

Your employees are the ones who keep your business open to customers. Without them, your entire revenue stream would not exist. Customers keep coming back for good service, not just good food and drinks. Stay in close contact with your staff and immediately address any issues or concerns they have. Most of all, though, you have to cultivate a fun atmosphere for your staff. Employees that laugh and smile at work are much more satisfied and they’ll stay loyal longer. Not only that, but they’ll also perceive you in a more positive light than if you act too stiff, so lighten up.

Grassroots Marketing

When business isn’t exactly booming at your restaurant, you can’t just sit back and take it in stride. You have a kitchen full of cooks, coolers full of food and servers that have no customers. Take proactive measures, like offering crazy drink specials, or giveaways. The allure of $1 beers, or a $5 bucket of beer, or some free appetizer is often enough to bring customers in. You don’t need a big budget to make a big impact. Print out some coupons, head out to the street, pass them out to motorists and pedestrians and drum up some business. This kind of grass root marketing works for weekday evenings, slow holiday weekends, just about any time.

With more than 300 restaurant holdings, everyone here at Chalak Mitra Group of Companies understands the challenges you face. What I’ve said here won’t necessarily make your restaurant opening easy, however, it will help you avoid costly mistakes. Remember to carefully consider your concept and proposed location and prepare to spend a huge amount of time getting ready to open. Once you’re open, keep the atmosphere fun for your employees and develop simple, grass root advertising to draw new customers in continuously. Most of all, enjoy the journey.

Ron Parikh