How to open a restaurant

Founder and managing director of The Cutting Edge Agency, Duncan Fraser-Smith, asks how easy is it to open a restaurant in Dubai, and draws from personal experience

Many people think I lead a blessed life. I get to work with some fantastic entrepreneurial operators, owners and investors, give guidance on concept development and mobilisation and really support the team to open a successful business.

Most recently I have just completed an entire turnkey restaurant opening, where I took responsibility for every single aspect of getting the space from shell-and-core to functional destination outlet. This process opened my eyes to several key areas that any future restaurateur needs to consider when planning an opening and I thought, since they are fresh in mind, I would share these with you.

Prepare for delays — this is the most important factor in opening an outlet as these are guaranteed. For example, if you are basing your mobilisation plan around opening for the peak season, plan to be soft opened two months in advance. Factoring in such aspects as construction delays, licensing and authority approvals can make the difference between a successful opening and launch of your outlet.

Staff investment — this not only applies to staff salaries, but to timing. I am not a proponent of poaching staff from existing outlets. I firmly believe that we as an industry need to continually invest in new faces to the market that bring fresh ideas and energy. It’s worth looking outside the region for new talent. In addition, allow time from arrival to opening to on-board your colleagues correctly. The more time they spend training and learning the sequence of operations, the smoother your launch will be.

Look after your suppliers. The first few weeks of operation are critical. Numbers can fluctuate on a daily basis and demand for products flexes in the same manner. Nurture your relationships with your suppliers prior to opening. Invite them to food trials and look to the venture with them as a partnership rather than a supply arrangement. These people will get you out of sticky situations in your first few months of opening.

Stay true to your concept. Everyone gets nervous just before opening, both investors and operators alike, and questions inevitably come up around ‘are we doing the right thing?’ If you have created your concept using the best in market research and customer demand drivers, let it come to life organically. Minor changes to offerings can occur once the outlet is up and running.

Enjoy the ride! Whether you are going into this business for monetary reasons, to pursue a passion, or as a halo offering within your organisation, remember to enjoy the ride. This is, after all, the hospitality business. It’s an industry that can combine both the biggest highs and monumental challenges all within one service period.

It’s an amazing industry to work in and, if you consider the above as some high level points to reflect on when making your business plan, it can be truly rewarding as well.

Now, onto the next challenge.

As featured on on November 16 2014

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency that specialises in the development and creation of benchmark F&B concepts through conceptualisation and training, as well as sourcing and partnering with international brands and high-profile chefs to successfully establish their presence in the Middle East.

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