T Nation

Want to Start a Business - Where Do I Begin?

So, i’m doing a job that i like, and i make decent money. But it’s not something i see myself doing for the rest of my life. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and i’ve always liked the idea of having my own business. What i want is to own a cafe bar.

I don’t really have a clear vision of what i want it to be exactly, but im working in asia at the moment and im picking up some great ideas that i might be able to apply in England, and target a niche market.

I’m in no hurry to get this started. I’m saving money and im getting ideas. I do have a friend who is an excellent chef, and who has expressed an interest in being a business partner somewhere down the line. If the food is good, well that’s part of the battle won, right?

My problem is i have little experience in this area. Yeah i’ve eaten and drank all over the world, I was a restaurant waiter during my student days, but i’ve never run a cafe or a bar. I don’t really know the ins and outs. Where do i begin? One thing i think i understand is that often, in this industry, people just open a place without any real experience in the area, and use poor planning, and think that by just throwing money at it, it will succeed. Then it goes down the pan after a year. And often people provide a service that they like, but it’s not what the customers in that area actually want. Like opening a fancy wine bar in a town that has about as much culture as Slough.

Also, what about financing? What’s the process? How do i go about working out how much money will be needed? How much i can borrow?

I understand these are fairly broad questions, and there are lots more questions that need to be asked, ins and outs etc. I just wanted to throw it out there and get the ball rolling. I’d really appreciate any advice from those who have experience.

Thanks

I’ve worked in several restaurants, some profitable, some not.

I’ll try and offer some advice.

  1. Capital is king. You need enough money to cover your expenses for atleast a couple of years. This means a loan and/or investors.

  2. Get some restaurant experience. Go work in a few of them. Without experience, you are just a fool blundering into the abyss.

  3. Realize that this will occupy all your time. You’ll work every morning and every night, with very little opportunity for time off until your business is so well established that you can afford to hire a manager.

  4. Understand that even when your business is slow… dead… you still have to pay your employees. You don’t pay, and pretty soon your restaurant is the hottest place on the cinder.

  5. Have a fucking plan. This is where experience comes in.

  6. Realize that even though you may do your best, it might not be enough. Some great places just fail.

  7. Factor in enough money for YOU to live on. Its great to pay all your restaurant bills, but you must have some money left over to live on.

[quote]AdamC wrote:
So, i’m doing a job that i like, and i make decent money. But it’s not something i see myself doing for the rest of my life. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, and i’ve always liked the idea of having my own business. What i want is to own a cafe bar.

I don’t really have a clear vision of what i want it to be exactly, but im working in asia at the moment and im picking up some great ideas that i might be able to apply in England, and target a niche market.

I’m in no hurry to get this started. I’m saving money and im getting ideas. I do have a friend who is an excellent chef, and who has expressed an interest in being a business partner somewhere down the line. If the food is good, well that’s part of the battle won, right?

My problem is i have little experience in this area. Yeah i’ve eaten and drank all over the world, I was a restaurant waiter during my student days, but i’ve never run a cafe or a bar. I don’t really know the ins and outs. Where do i begin? One thing i think i understand is that often, in this industry, people just open a place without any real experience in the area, and use poor planning, and think that by just throwing money at it, it will succeed. Then it goes down the pan after a year. And often people provide a service that they like, but it’s not what the customers in that area actually want. Like opening a fancy wine bar in a town that has about as much culture as Slough.

Also, what about financing? What’s the process? How do i go about working out how much money will be needed? How much i can borrow?

I understand these are fairly broad questions, and there are lots more questions that need to be asked, ins and outs etc. I just wanted to throw it out there and get the ball rolling. I’d really appreciate any advice from those who have experience.

Thanks[/quote]

I have been my own boss for over 20 years, I would find an establishment, I most respected and go to work for them, until I lean the ropes. Call it research.

Call an accountant, make an appointment, ask him/her your questions. (bring in your basic information too. Tax returns/bank statements etc.)

They are cheaper than lawyers.

If he/she is good at their job, they will guide you in the general business aspect & help you establish your financial framework. Most will be able to set you up with a note & basic insurance needs also.

You don’t have to go big four, but rather try and ask around and find a smaller firm (<75 people, 3-5 partners) that has industry experience & reputation for quality.

Remember you pay for what you get. If one CPA bills out @ 220 an hour and another @ 175, there is a reason the second is so much cheaper.

Look for gray hair & if they bring a younger senior/manager with them for the meeting, be happy. The senior/manager will be involved in the details of your situation, while the partner is more of a macro perspective.

Thanks a lot for the advice.

Do you think it’s realistic to expect to be successful in this kind of enterprise, without any experience? The reason i ask is because if i did get a job in a restaurant or bar, it would certainly mean a pay cut and a drop in my quality of life. But i guess that’s the sacrifice you have to make? As I mentioned, my potential business partner, and friend, is an excellent chef (has worked under Gordon Ramsay) and has been a head chef for a few years now. But, like me, he knows very little about the business side of things.

Thanks.

This site may help you out.

[quote]AdamC wrote:
Thanks a lot for the advice.

Do you think it’s realistic to expect to be successful in this kind of enterprise, without any experience? The reason i ask is because if i did get a job in a restaurant or bar, it would certainly mean a pay cut and a drop in my quality of life. But i guess that’s the sacrifice you have to make? As I mentioned, my potential business partner, and friend, is an excellent chef (has worked under Gordon Ramsay) and has been a head chef for a few years now. But, like me, he knows very little about the business side of things.

Thanks.[/quote]

From what I know about Restaurant ?Bars it is location location location and remember a penny saved is 10 pennies earned, especially in the start up cost.

I have no experience in the area, but Gordon Ramsay does.
I seem to remember quite a few episodes where he dealt with ‘smaller’ restaurants in his ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ series [I’m talking the UK one here…]. I love watching that show, but sometimes, expecially in the US episodes, the restauranteurs really piss me off. They’re ignoring specific advice from one of the richest chef’s around. Those that don’t however always seem to do well!

If it were me I’d invest in all of the Nightmare DVD’s [or perhaps torrent them/on-demand if they’re not available on DVD], just incase I could pick but one thing up from an episode that would help. That’s practically free advice - even if you do pay for the DVD’s - from the world’s third best chef!

Good luck!

Some good advice on here.

In the real world I actually provide financing for startups and I can tell you, it’s a pain in the ass.

We have to repo about 60% of deals within 18 months of opening. Everyone thinks they have the best idea in the world and perfect location, most don’t.

The number one reason for failure is lack of working capital. Don’t blow your wad just to get the doors open, you will probably run a loss for the first couple of years. Also as it was mentioned, all of your time will be spent here.

Before I started doing what I’m doing I wanted my own biz, now, not so much.

Monopoly

[quote]Hadow Khan wrote:
I’ve worked in several restaurants, some profitable, some not.

I’ll try and offer some advice.

  1. Capital is king. You need enough money to cover your expenses for atleast a couple of years. This means a loan and/or investors.

  2. Get some restaurant experience. Go work in a few of them. Without experience, you are just a fool blundering into the abyss.

  3. Realize that this will occupy all your time. You’ll work every morning and every night, with very little opportunity for time off until your business is so well established that you can afford to hire a manager.

  4. Understand that even when your business is slow… dead… you still have to pay your employees. You don’t pay, and pretty soon your restaurant is the hottest place on the cinder.

  5. Have a fucking plan. This is where experience comes in.

  6. Realize that even though you may do your best, it might not be enough. Some great places just fail.

  7. Factor in enough money for YOU to live on. Its great to pay all your restaurant bills, but you must have some money left over to live on.[/quote]

Awesome post!

If your jumping into a certain feild, you NEED experience in that field first. Learn the ropes of the environment.

[quote]LankyMofo wrote:

This site may help you out.[/quote]

You beat me to it!

This site is a great resource. Take use of it.

If your in Asia, maybe you should consider applying your ideas there as well.
When you open any service industry business connections are king. You want to be able to fill your restaurant for the first month through personal pull. The advertising those people will generate will help you more than any money you inject.
Definately take a jop restauranting before you start your own, thats where your connections will start (and obviously your buddy will be huge for this).
Good suggestion with Nightmare Kitchens. If you look at the episodes he always does the same things.
Tighten the menu, update the decor, use his name to generate popularity, clean.

Hygiene, happiness, word of mouth and effeciency.

I too one day hope to get into this business, which is why I’m passing up government jobs for serving ones. Consider it an investment in time if your scared of leaving your comfort zone.

Good luck man!

thanks a lot for all the great advice!

actually, i have a very good friend over here in korea, who is bar and restaurant owner. and he’s a local. he’s very connected. that combined with my chef friend in england, could be a useful combination.