Opening Fast Casual Dining

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Joined Jul 21, 2016
Hello All, 

My name is Terrance and I am planning to open a fast casual dining in Boston, MA. However, I am here to learn about the process before getting start. A little bit about my background, I am graduated with a financial background but I have worked in the food industry over 7 years as server and assistant manager in a fast-spaced Japanese restaurant. I know some of you may be curious on why I would want to open a restaurant even though I study finance. The answer is the more I work in the food industry, the more comfortable I feel compare to financial career even though it is definitely exhausting to work in a restaurant. In addition, I want to be my own boss even if I have to put up double hour work. In fact, I already finish my business plan but I know I still need to learn a lot from you guys. I have some questions and would really appreciated your answer!

1) I'm planning of building the whole new restaurant from scratch, do you have any recommended resource or website that I can learn about the building new kitchen (like hood, equipment brand...etc)?

2) I was recommended to hire a restaurant consultant, but when is the best time to hire one (before finding a location or after leased a location)?

3) If any of you guys live in Boston and know any consultant, I would really appreciate your recommendation.

4) I want to work with local farms, but if I am marketing my menu as "distributed from local farms", do I have to get every ingredients from local farms?

Finally, I really want to learn from experienced restaurant owner, so if any of you guys are living in Boston, I would love to meet and learn from you personally.

I am looking forward to your opinion and feel free to give me any recommendation or telling me what I am lacking. I am opened to any criticism. Thank You!!!!  
 

kuan

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Jun 11, 2001
I can talk about hiring a consultant.

You don't.

You hire a real estate industry expert to figure out the location.

You hire a chef who has years of experience running successful hotels and restaurants.  One who is realistic about your food costs, one who is realistic about how much labor it takes to produce in the kitchen.  You pay the chef on a per diem basis just like a consultant to figure out whether what you are trying is a go or no go in that space.

Once you get these two solidified then you figure out the rest.  You probably need a kitchen manager, not a chef, but again, one with a lot of experience running the same kind of place successfully.
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
1 Every municipality has different requirements and health depts., they should be able to give you their criteria.

2 Why build a place from scratch? Kitchens need infrastructure---very expensive infrastructure. The biggest one is kitchen ventilation and exhaust. Putting this in can get very involved and very expensive. Then there's the plumbing, you will be required to have so many sinks, and they all need to be hooked up to a grease trap, this can get very expensive very quickly. Its far easier, cheaper, and faster to take over an existing place. Yes remodel the ----- out of the dining room, but keep what infrastructure you can in the kitchen.

3 Location...Choice properties are uncommon. Not only do you need good access, but you need parking, public transport for staff, a building that won't open up a can of worms when you change use to a restaurant, and a lease that is fair. Getting all of those things lined up is probably your biggest challenge, getting the place to open on time and on budget will be the second.

Good luck!
 
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Joined Sep 5, 2008
4) I want to work with local farms, but if I am marketing my menu as "distributed from local farms", do I have to get every ingredients from local farms?
Be honest. Find a way to word it that doesn't make it sound like ALL your ingredients are from local farms. "We source many of our ingredients from local farms" would be honest. Many restaurants name the farms on their menus here, for the main ingredients (such as where the main veggie or the main protein comes from).
 
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Joined Apr 25, 2014
 
Be honest. Find a way to word it that doesn't make it sound like ALL your ingredients are from local farms. "We source many of our ingredients from local farms" would be honest. Many restaurants name the farms on their menus here, for the main ingredients (such as where the main veggie or the main protein comes from).
Here's an example-  this restaurant never claims anything, but simply lists in the margins all their locally sourced ingredients and the farms they are from. It's good for you AND the farmers  http://www.evoorestaurant.com/PDF/dinner.pdf
 
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Joined Jul 21, 2016
Thank you everyone for your quick respond! 

@kuan: You are absolutely right, and I am going to hire a commercial realtor to help me with the location. However, my food is more like fast foods but in a more healthy way (with the traditional recipes of course). Those items will me make-to-order right on the spot. Therefore, I think I would hire kitchen staffs rather than great chefs because of the existing recipes. Nevertheless, in the long-term I will definitely hire a kitchen manager.

@foodpump: I will work closely with the city inspector to figure out all the regulations and health codes. I have a list of criteria when choosing a location, and I am look for space that has existing ventilation. This is the most challenging one!!!! I have been looking for restaurant for sale almost a year now; and honestly they are all very expensive and most of them come with a lot of equipment that I will not need. In addition, good available restaurant location in Boston area is extremely limited and expensive. In fact, renovating an existing business will eliminate so many difficulties, and I will absolutely choose to do that if I could find good location and price. Otherwise, I am planning to build the new kitchen so that I can control the assemble float around the kitchen.

@MillionsKnives  you are right! this town has a lot of fast casual and that is a big challenge. As I work here, I understand that people here are very open to fast casual dining and I just want to a new fast casual place to their dining list. I mean every restaurant owner believe they have something special about their business right? but only customers can decide it. I choose to believe so as well. No Pain, No Gain! :)

@French Fries  Thank you very much! it is good to know that because local supplies ain't cheap :). I will try to work around that. However, I will try to get distributed from local farms as much as I can; especially Vegies. 

I still have more questions if you guys dont mind helping me out:

1) If you ever work with farmers in Boston, How to deal with them and where is the good source that I can start looking? I know a company called "Market Mobile", and they deliver local goods in Boston and Rhode Island region. However, their pricing is very high. I dont know if that is common in your business.

2) About the kitchen builder, How much in general these installation would cost (ventilation, hood, greased trap, plumbing, fire extinguisher, walk-in freezer, cooler,..etc)? Any website, brand that you guys would recommend? In general, My kitchen would definitely need gas range, gas grill, fryer, freezer, cooler.

3) is it necessary to hire designer to design your restaurant?

4) If you ever worked with a consultant before, When is the best time to bring them in and what can they do in general?

5) What are some tips that I need to know before dealing with landlord?
 
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Joined Jun 23, 2015
Do you have your finansing in place? How can you have a business plan without costs? Your plan sounds like a seven digit investment.
 
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Joined Jul 21, 2016
@Jimyra  Thank you for the respond! I don't have the finance in place yet. As I mentioned in my first post, I am planning to open it in 2 years, and I'm here to learn as much as I can. I am working on my finance right now, and I do not plan to spend 7 digits investment. This is my first business and I plan to keep it as small as possible. I would just start it out as a small eatery; about less than 2000 sf. 

To be honest, Nobody could have the exact cost of every item on the business plan before opening the business. But it doesn't mean you cannot have a business plan. Even though I do have my business plan ready, the expense is just basically forecasting based on my financial experience and restaurant manager job. I have a sense of how much supplies would generally cost but the cost that I want to know is start-up cost. That is why I am here to learn more about the actual cost from experienced owner to compare.
 
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Joined Oct 23, 2013
100-250 to build small kitchen new.

Similar for front end.

So, my 2 second estimate is 200-500k new buikd not including location.

Just a guess but 2k square feet in Boston is another 250k-500.

Total build =750k-1M

Operation costs for 1 year another 500 cash in hand. Of course you can lease and finance cash.

Better have a millionaire partner ready to loose it all and have a good lawyer!
 

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