What to expect when opening a restaurant

What to expect when opening a restaurant

No one can truly understand what it’s like to open a hospitality venue until they themselves have done it.

There’s so much uncertainty involved: how will staff perform, will there be enough stock, how many customers will show up during the first week, and will they return? It’s likely to be stressful, exhilarating and educational at once, and anticipating the unexpected might come in handy when opening day arrives.

Patron numbers may vary after opening

It may be difficult to predict turnout during the opening few weeks. There might be excitement in the community and – with an article or two in Dish Cult – customers may come in droves. For other venues, it can take some time for customers to appreciate what the business has to offer. After a quiet start, attendance may build over the coming weeks. Despite the uncertainty, it might be best to organise as if customers will arrive as soon as the doors open. Being under-prepared might not allow the venue to offer the best experience possible which, in turn, may disincentive customers from returning.

Use data to make informed decisions

Certain elements of the venue might be popular for a period of time but, after a while, that can change. Perhaps turnout has dipped, customers are spending less or a dish isn’t selling well. Fortunately, this data can be accessed and reviewed through ResDiary reports, which can help business-owners determine what needs to change. If customer spend is relatively low, it may require menu or pricing adjustment. If no shows are prevalent, it might be worth introducing deposits. Also, keep a keen eye on regulation, labor laws and small business support and grants – as there may be opportunities to expand and grow the business. Opening a restaurant is not a static process, and having access to critical research and data can be key to making appropriate and timely changes.

Speak to relevant stakeholders

It might take a period of time – and the accumulation of experience – to figure out where to get the best produce, what dishes are best-enjoyed and so on. But, reaching out and listening to the right people may fast-track the learning curve. After trialling a dish, it might be worth contacting customers – in person, via email or on social media – and asking what worked and what needs to be changed. Speak to neighbouring businesses who might have undergone similar challenges, and are in a position to offer advice. Regularly engage with staff to see how they are faring, and whether anything can be improved. These conversations might be pivotal in picking up, or sustaining strong performance.


An engaging and relevant promotional campaign can help to encourage new and returning customers after some of the buzz of the opening fades. Consider discounts to entice customers to sample different dishes. Introduce new specials to create a sense of urgency for customers to attend before the dish disappears. A vibrant social media presence that introduces the personalities behind the venue can generate a sense of good will, and help the venue stand out. There’s no shame in self-promotion – everyone’s doing it.

Preparing and planning as much as possible – and speaking to the right people – should mitigate some of the uncertainty that’s involved in opening a venue. It’s an incredibly exciting adventure, and the opening few weeks might only come once. Take it all in!

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Disclaimer: This guide is general in nature and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Before acting on any information, you should consider whether this is right for your business.