How to start a restaurant (Part 2)

The Video Transcript

So we’re going to move from preparation straight into execution. Execution is very important. Execution involves operation and production. This is probably where either you or someone close to you is – where their talents lie. This is where they’re very good – they’re very good at what they do, or you’re very good at what you do. Make sure what you’ve done in the past matches what you’re going to be doing now. Don’t bank on all the experience that you had because you’re working in a different atmosphere. You’re working in a different restaurant. Make sure the concept and style of service matches your experience, and if it doesn’t, adapt your experience. I know you’re adaptable, I know you’re changeable. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re great. Fix it now. Start thinking about those things now. And adapt it out so that way you can start thinking about how am I going to operate this.

One of the key questions I ask is style of service. What kind of style of service do you have? What kind of method of cooking are you going to use? This is where sometimes people have the big grand idea of what they’re going to do and what they’re going to have. Well I’m only going to have 3-4 servers, but I have 20-25 tables. How are 3-4 servers going to handle 25 tables when you’re busy? Those are things you need to think about now, because you’ll be understaffed and overwhelmed. You also don’t want to be the other way around, where you’re overstaffed and underwhelmed. You have to have a balance there. Operationally speaking, if you’ve done your homework in the preparation phase, some of this stuff will make a lot more sense.

Checklist. I have never met an operator that’s not a fan of checklists. I’m talking how you open to how you close to what’s on the line to where it’s on the line. There’s very few businesses that I’ve been involved with where every minute of every hour of every day is not timed. Restaurants are that way. Our days and minutes are timed. We’ve got to make sure this is done in 6 minutes, this is done in 12, this is here in 2 minutes, the person gets sat, how long before we get sat… There’s tons of timing issues here. So how we do this in creating an operational plan is very important for your restaurant.

Execution, we’re talking about that, and we talked about operations and daily operations – staffing. Do you have appropriate staff levels. Do you have the right people in the right place? Have you hired them? Are you hiring them? What is their role? Are they getting paid too much or too little? Does it match your financials in your preparation plans? Always go back and make sure it matches in the preparation phase, but your execution phase of actually staffing is important. Make sure you’re staffed appropriately for the style of business and the method of cooking that you have.

Training: does your training match your concept? You’re not going to be there. As much as you think you’re going to be there 24/7, people are going to be there to represent you. Have they been trained accordingly and appropriately to match your style of service, to match your method of cooking, to follow through with what you want – what you desire for your restaurant? This is your restaurant! Are they going to represent you the way you want them to? That always comes back to training.

Customer service: there’s so much that falls under customer service, from how we do things to what we do to guest awareness to guest presence to making sure that they’re taken care of, from marketing to branding to making sure they’re aware of what we have. One of the things I hate is when I see incredible pictures of food on the internet and the food doesn’t match. There’s got to be some continuity there. That’s one of the things I pride myself in is I want people to be able to take pictures of that food and post it on Instagram and it’s the same looking food that’s on your menu. Don’t pull in stock photos from everywhere and hope for the best – that people don’t care about that. It’s not that people are picky. People are very specific because the food knowledge of what people have learned over the past 15-20 years amazes me. To know that the average person sitting there knows the difference between a line caught tuna and yellowfin tuna that’s frozen from here, salmon from the North Atlantic vs. Pacific salmon. They have access to this on Facebook and the internet. They watch shows. You can’t take people for granted. There has to be continuity between your product and your menu, and continuity of training with your staff, so that way you’re delivering a product that people are willing to pay for.

Make sure that quality is there. Make sure that the quality matches your price points in the beginning. You can’t say you thing and deliver another. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s, especially when it comes to that. Don’t take your customers for granted. There won’t always be a line at the door. There’s not always holidays. Do everything you can to create regulars and raving fans. I know that you’re at the top of the food chain regarding where you’re at now – it’s one of the reasons you want to do your own business. You see the success of your career and what you’ve done and you want to do that. Make sure that your staff shares that vision and that you have rock solid customer service and guest-centered people that are very focused on the guest needs. You don’t want to just deliver what you think they want. Find out what they want and deliver it to them, and you’ll be very successful with that.

Management controls. We talked about identifying some key roles you are going to play and the responsibilities you’ll have in the restaurant. Who else is going to help you maintain and manage what goes on in the day-to-day. You don’t have to be the police, but you do have to make sure there are certain controls in place and certain management controls that are happening day-to-day. This will get away from you very quick. Every minute of every hour of every day is timed in a restaurant. Tons of products. Tons of people. Tons of things to be managed. I don’t manage the guests. I love all my guests, I make sure I’m there for them. I manage people who work for me. I manage the property. I manage the product of which I have. People. Product. Property. Those are the three main things I manage. The guests benefit from that. Don’t get so caught up in trying to manage the guests that you forget what your job and role is in the restaurant. People, product, and property.

Administrative policies and controls. This is where people lose focus. They’re either very good at the restaurant business – they’re really good cooks or really good bartenders. They have incredible customer service and awareness and a great persona and they do this restaurant gig perfectly. But then they forget it’s a business. They don’t want to get involved in the paperwork. They don’t want to get involved in the nitty gritty. Have the same passion that you have for the restaurant that you do in the administrative part. Take that very seriously. The devil is in the details here, and this is where a lot of people take for granted and think “That will iron itself out. My bookkeeper or my accountant will take care of that.” Listen, the best way to take care of money is right there when you’re getting it, or right there where you’re spending it.

You can have the best inventory programs and the best POS system and the best everything. If you don’t have a practice or a culture in your restaurant of taking care of the money part, it’s going to get away from you very quick. Create that culture. I think for me, when people ask what my role, responsibility, or title is, I always told people I’m the culture engineer of my restaurant. I want to create a culture that’s conducive for my staff to deliver the product that follows through with my business plan, and I have to do everything I can to create that culture in my restaurant for my people, for my staff, so that way it’s consistent in order to do that.

So as a takeaway from all of this, what I would like you to think about:

There are two phases: we’ve got preparation and execution. Remember those things. Prioritize what you’re doing in those two phases. Is this in the preparation phase or in the execution phase? And don’t get lost in either one. You’ve got to have the balance there, it’s ery important.

Product. People. Property. Identify those three key areas and manage those things. A business plan – financial responsibility. Take ownership of your restaurant. Take ownership and responsibility and be very accountable to your staff, not just to the IRS or the state or your taxes or your payroll. Be responsible to yourself. Take that very serious. Become a student of the business. Learn this. Go on the web. Find these things. I have access to a lot of different websites out there that can give you so much more information than you got from me about how to do the day-to-day. Become a student of the business, learn those things, and do it.

Have a passion for it. Fall in love with it. It’s a great thing to do. It’s a fun business to have. One of the things… one letter in this word changed my life. When it moved for me from having to “got” to do this to “get” to do this, my whole world changed. My whole business changed. My whole work ethic changed. Me coming to work changed. Moving it from an “o” to an “e” was amazing in that word “got” to “get.” You don’t “got” to do any of this, you “get” to do this. When you get to do this, it’s going to come through to the rest of the people who get to do this with you. Thanks for listening to me, have a great time.

Video Information

Alex Richardson - How to start a restaurant

About Alex Richardson

Alex Richardson is the co-owner and developer of {RA} Bistro. He has developed and operated numerous award winning restaurants in the Lynchburg area that perennially rank among Central Virginia’s favorite establishments. Born in the continental US but hails from the Caribbean island of St. Thomas USVI. Alex’s culinary skills are deeply rooted in his rich French West Indian heritage and both cooking and entertaining are long standing traditions of the Richardson Family. In October 2002, at age 31, Alex left a successful career on the national stage with Outback Steakhouse and created what would become one of Lynchburg’s premiere restaurants -- The Neighbors Place.  With the Launch of Robin Alexander, an America Bistro in 2009 and Taste American Catering and Event Company in 2012 Alex has cemented his place in the Lynchburg Dining scene as a restaurateur. He has a passion for food, an eye for detail and a heart to serve. Alex feels very strongly about the use of local, organic and sustainable products and works very hard to strengthen his relationship with Virginia farmers, producers, suppliers and vendors while at the same time staying focused on keeping it simple and delicious. Alex loves the Lynchburg community and is always on the move to improve or enhance the local Lynchburg area with his continued support and leadership of local charities, groups, church, and community organizations.


Author Alex Richardson
Date Added July 13, 2016
Length 10:53
Views 27


In part two of this helpful two-part series, Alex Richardson of RA Bistro covers the "Execution" phase of starting a restaurant. He points out key considerations that entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry need to consider: 
  • Developing your operating plan
  • Staffing the appropriate levels
  • Meeting time constraints
  • Training
  • Customer service
  • And more!