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How to Manage a Successful Restaurant

Updated on October 18, 2016
Tashaonthetown profile image

Natasha Pelati has published three books of poetry and writes on real-life experiences with the help of psychology.

Owning a restaurant is not as fun as it sounds. It is hard work and long hours with a huge amount of pressure and stress. There is no time for a social life and many a time spent fighting with staff members that do not arrive on shift.

Equipment always breaks down, there are always angry customers and people sending food back. Staff that do not pay attention and lots of wastages.

It is very important to know what you are doing and as the owner, YOU MUST ALWAYS BE THERE!

To own a restaurant, you have got to have passion for the industry and know that for it to work, you have got to put in the hours.

This is a guide to making your restaurant successful, to ensure that you can eliminate stress and it will help you to understand "Restaurant Business" so that you can eventually sit back and watch your business grow.

A restaurant must have something to make people want to return
A restaurant must have something to make people want to return

Location, Location, Location!

People always say that finding the right location for your business is vital! I think that it helps especially when you are a new business and you need passing trade but a well run business can survive on "word of mouth."

It doesn't matter where your business is situated as long as it has good service, great food and is worth finding. The most important thing to remember is that the owner must always be present!

Start up Costs

When you have established what type of business you are going to open, shopping around for the cheapest prices is a necessity.

Décor could land up costing you double if you do not have a budget or a limit. You should ensure that you have at least three months rental ahead of you, (excluding the deposit and first months rental) three months staff salaries and three months stock.

Have a limit to what you are going to spend on décor, menu's and uniforms.

Anti Fatigue Mats

Anti fatigue mats are a great buy for a kitchen
Anti fatigue mats are a great buy for a kitchen


You know what type of restaurant you are going to be now and it is time to sit down and design your store. Don't overspend on the décor but décor could bring customers as a beautiful and eyecatching design will get people talking and if they are comfortable there, they will return.

Avoid making your store cold and unfriendly. White is clinical and in China it symbolises death, so do not open a Chinese restaurant and paint it white!

Colours that attract people are:

Red - excitement, strength, passion and speed but using that on it's own would mean danger.

Blue - trust, reliablility, belonging and cool. ( The most popular colour)

Green - nature, fresh, cool, growth, abundance and calm.

Purple - royal, spiritual, dignity

Pink - soft, sweet, nurture and security

Black - elegant, seductive, mystery, sophistication (sexual nature) best blended with other colours.

Gold - expensive, prestige, elite

Silver - cold, scientific, prestige ( for cold countries)

Brown - dark wood is always good for warmth and comfort but if you want people to eat and go than this colour will keep them there. (Good for a pub or bar)

Make sure that when you design your store that you do not have the cashier or reception desk in the very front of the doorway. This stops people from wanting to come in.

An arch way or two palm trees at the entrance will attract customers to your store.

Carpets get dirty very quickly and if you choose to put carpets into a restaurant than be prepared to spend on carpet cleaner on a regular basis as one spec of dirt will give your restaurant the perception of dirt.

Select low maintenance colours and materials that are easy to clean and will last for a long time.

When selecting cutlery and crockery, ensure that it's not flimsy as breakages happen all the time!


This is the hub of your restaurant, if it is not set up correctly than your kitchen will not run properly!

The layout of your kitchen is very important in order to be efficient it must be practical.

Invest in a dishwasher and ensure that when you buy one there is a company that can service it for you. Keep it clean and make sure that your staff know hot to use it properly.

A glass washer is an added expense but it will save you on broken glasses.

Your grill, flat top, ovens, stoves should be almost new as second hand equipment always breaks down.

Fridges and walk in freezers should be big enough for you to move in as this has to be cleaned often and be prepared to have it serviced too.

If you are investing in an industrial microwave than you are wasting your money as no microwave is good enough to last in a restaurant, so my suggestion would be to avoid it completely but for a quick cheat in a rush hour it comes in handy.

Divide your kitchen into sections so that each section has a different thing to prepare and a hot pass is where everything comes together to be quality checked and sent out by your waiters.

Separate your scullery from the kitchen prep area and have enough space to make collecting cutlery and crockery easy and accessible.

Always have a separate entry and exit door for your staff to leave the kitchen to avoid accidents.

Kitchen walls and floors should be easy to wipe tiles and in the scullery area a suggestion would be to add rubber mats that will avoid water spreading through the kitchen causing hazardous falls!

A good tip for your kitchen staff is to get antifatigue mats that they can stand on for hours without feeling it!

Front of House

This is where customers receive their first impression and first impressions count. Your restaurant must be set up with good lighting, it must look clean and welcoming.

Chairs and tables should be set up with half a metre distance in-between them. If it's cramped and people are bumping chairs than your customers will feel uncomfortable and want to complain.

Avoid situating a table at the very entrance and if you have to than hide it with a plant.

Don't put tables and chairs under a staircase and if you do have one make sure that they have non slip rubbers on them to avoid people slipping off. Also rather put a couch under a staircase because eating there will automatically put people off their food.

Bar/ Barrista

Everyone can see what is happening here so this must be made with darkish tiles to avoid people spotting every little speck of dirt.

If you are buying a coffee machine, get one new one and a second hand one for back up as they always break down! You must be prepared to have it serviced often and ensure that you and your staff know how to clean it.

Dark counters are a good idea as spillages happen all the time and this area is on display. Make sure that you have a practical plan for waiters to collect their products.

Bakery or cake section

Cake fridges are high maintenance and must also be serviced often, so bare that in mind when buying one. Don't get a second hand one!

If you sell ice - cream than invest in an ice- cream machine to keep your costs low. This too has to be serviced and it must be cleaned correctly or it will not work for long.

Underbar fridges should be spacious enough to keep only what you use on a regular basis. Avoid storing too much as it will encourage theft and wastage.

If you have picture frames and lighting that hangs from the ceiling than remember that it should be cleaned daily as dust attracts to these items.

Chairs should be comfortable in a restaurant in order for people to stay and order more. If you are opening a coffee shop than don't get comfy chairs because you will need to turn tables quicker than a sit down restaurant in order to make a profit, which means that you need people to eat, drink and leave.

Wooden chairs with a cushion are suitable for a coffee shop but comfort is better left for a restaurant that needs to have a high spend per head.

Having a theme for a restaurant has got to be thought out with your customers in mind
Having a theme for a restaurant has got to be thought out with your customers in mind


When designing your menu don't forget to choose colours that attract the eye! Once you have decided what type of restaurant you are than keep your menu simple and don't have too many options for customers to select.

Having chicken, fish, steak, pasta, burgers and all sorts on your menu will make your food costs very high and the aim of a restaurant to survive is to keep your food costs low.

A simple plan is to make sure that if you are a chicken restaurant than don't put pasta on your menu!

A steakhouse can get costly because prices increase and decrease all the time. A good idea is to ensure that you have your own butchery, cutting your own meat and using as much of it as you can.

Spend time searching for quality products and the cheapest. Your menu prices should cover the cost of your stock, platting, labour and profit.

Have a special or a speciality on your menu and beverage options should also be kept simple unless you are opening a bar.

The menu must be clear and easy to read. If you are giving the ingredients than ensure you always have those ingredients in your kitchen.

Keep the menu's clean and the prices bold.

If you have a kids menu a good idea is to highlight the lowest costing item so that kids will be attracted to pointing it out on the menu.

A Great Restaurant

As a customer would you choose ambience over service?

See results


Never stop searching for the lowest prices! Even a good supplier can increase their prices and that effects your bottom line.

Portion your stock and invest in a scale!!!! Your kitchen manager should ensure that everything is portioned and it is the correct weight in order for your food cost to be kept low.

Prevent wastages and if you can re- use something than do it (I do not mean if something has been half eaten or dropped onto the floor) If you have made the incorrect order, than re- use.

Breakages are also something that you need to prevent and put into place a system to avoid your staff breaking anything.

Rotate your stock- use labels with dates on them and use FIFO ( first in, first out) system.

Put your new stock at the back of your fridges and the old stock in the front.

Don't over order- order only what you need and you will know how to do this by checking your sales on the system. You will be able to see what product sells the most and what doesn't sell at all. Your system, if used correctly will tell you how many items you have sold and if you follow the pattern you will know exactly how much to order.

Stock Control - A stock count should be done at the beginning of a shift and at the end. This will keep your management up to speed with when stock is most vulnerable and it will also prevent staff from stealing.

Bar stock is difficult as even with a digitot system, there can be theft. Alcohol can be diluted and to avoid this from happening, you need camera's in place. Again, use your system to see how much you have sold in a day.

Breakages need to be avoided and strict measures should be put into place for staff.

Have incentives for staff to sell a low cost item on your menu and make sure that if you do not have a fast turn around time that your staff are good at suggestive selling.

Your food cost could be 35% if you record and re-use wastages, portion your stock and keep your menu small and limited with strict stock control in place!

Labour costs can get high and a suggestion would be to keep it small. When paying staff remember that good salaries attract professional people and poor salaries attract poor staff.

Calculating a Food Cost


Invest in camera's to keep control of your store and staff.

A good computer system is a must and when getting one; it must be able to calculate stock, it must be user friendly, check that it cannot be cheated by your staff or management and get one that has a good back up service because these too break all the time!

Appoint one person to do credit cards to prevent fraud and cloning and allow only management to do discounts or promotions.

A fingerprint system is the best option.


Your staff could make or break your business!!!

Hire correctly and train them well.

Staff should be friendly, efficient, energetic and they should have passion for the industry or they will hate coming to work.

All your staff should know the menu and be trained in all aspects of the business. Waiters should know how to greet customers and make them feel comfortable. They should know how to upsell items on the menu and learn suggestive selling. They should be aware of timing and look neat and tidy at all times. Waiters should work as a team on the floor and acknowledge other waiters tables should there be a need.

Hosts are important because customers do not want to be left standing around waiting to be seated and a host is a good idea to greet customers and then seat them at a table with a menu.

They should also know the menu and if customers are waiting for service than the host should be able to step in.

Runners for food and drink should be used when you are busy because CUSTOMERS CAN'T WAIT!

Cleaners should be there permanently to make sure that the floors are clean and the restaurant looks respectable but all your staff should be trained to clean as they go.

Management should know how to do every job in your store because if you have a day where the staff do not arrive for work than your management team should be able to run your business as usual.

Finding management to suit your restaurant is not a hard task if you are willing to pay good salaries. They will be there for the long term if they have a future with you.

Ensure that they have experience in the industry and training is required for your business so that they know how you want it to work.

Ideally you should have two front of house managers and two back of house managers working on opposite shifts, a general manager and on one or two supervisors.

The general manager should be able to communicate with customers and get feedback from them. This person should be interested in making a profit for your business and must have training to motivate staff and should know what is going on in every inch of your restaurant at all times. This person is there when you are not and should be trustworthy enough to be left to run your business for you. So when hiring staff take your time and find the right people because it is vital to have the correct people in place for your business to run successfully.


Marketing is important to promote your business and you should know when your busy times are and when you need to promote your restaurant. You do not have to hire marketing people in order to do this because all it takes is an attractive special to bring people in when its not busy and advertise a new menu item when you feel that people are getting bored. These are things that you have to be aware of in order to market your business.

Stay on top of things, keep focused on what is selling and what doesn't, who works well for you, get constant feedback from your customers and ensure that all your staff have your bottom line at heart.


Be prepared to make your restaurant your new home. The owner should be there running it for the first two years before you even think of hiring someone to run it for you. Keep your overheads low and shop around continuously for cheaper prices. Don't keep bad staff and monitor their performance regularly.

If the owner is always there communicating with the customers and the food is consistently good, the service is always great and the restaurant runs smoothly than customers will keep on returning and they will tell others of their great experience which will help your business grow.

Customers like to feel important and they do not mind paying if it is worth it. The experience on the whole should be one for them to talk about in a good way not bad and your restaurant should be the place to be seen!


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    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      PR and networking is important in every business in order to get feet through the door

    • profile image

      Charlie King 

      5 years ago

      These are certainly great tip. But I think PR should be included in everyone's approach to opening a trendy restaurant. With some many people opening an closing restaurants on a daily basis, you need to go out there are promote your restaurant so people know it is there.

      Here are a few PR tips which every restaurant can benefit from before and after they open:

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      6 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A very good guide :)


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