Opening A Restaurant Is HARD, Keeping One Open Is As HARD!
Around 60 percent of new restaurants fail within the first year.
How do you avoid falling into that percentage and create a successful, long-running restaurant?
I believe, and I speak from experience, starting a restaurant is the most critical phase.
To have any chance of longevity in the industry, it’s imperative even before raising money for your startup idea, consider these critical steps to establish first.
Keeping One Open Is Just As HARD!
Think about the places where you dine in your town. How many will still be around in ten, twenty, perhaps fifty years? Even if dining guests keep coming, there are so many other factors that can put a restaurant out of business.
Though I work with mostly restaurant startup entrepreneurs, I also enjoy researching restaurants with longevity. There is a good chance after all if they started strong, they will remain secure and prosperous.
You will get a variety of answers from owners why they have been able to last in the business, here are a few from those who have been in business 7 to 50 years!
~ Being able to adapt to the changing times while remaining consistent.
~ A menu that corresponds to the locality and availability of fresh produce and farm-fresh ingredients.
~ Change when you are no longer the new guy on the block anymore, mixing things up and adding new options is critical for future success.
~ You must be a good leader, whether you’re a chef, GM, or a bar manager before jumping into being a new owner. If you appear not to have your shit together, you will not gain the respect of your employees and customers.
~ Focus on what customers want while staying true to why you started the restaurant. Set goals for what you want to be, and never lose sight of those goals.
I could have listed a ton! I’ve decided to highlight once a month, a restaurant that has been in business for over seven years. I will share their success stories and secrets on how they have kept striving and growing in one of the most challenging industries.
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The inaugural featured restaurant in my longevity November blog series is :
Romano’s Italian Restaurant | OUR FAMILY SERVING YOUR FAMILY
Romano’s Italian Restaurant opened in 1967 on a sleepy little street a few blocks from Littleton’s Old Town. For fifty years now, it’s been serving big plates of homemade spaghetti covered with a thick, red sauce drowned in garlic. It’s so good you’ll want it poured over just about everything else offered there.
At some point, a restaurant stops reflecting the personality of one chef or owner and becomes an institution, a family affair. That is what has been happening at Romanos.
Neil and Ellie Romano founded Romanos. It is now run by a second-generation, siblings John Romano, Nick Romano, and Sue Romano-Calhoun, the Italian eatery pleases generations of regular customers while drawing in new ones, too.
The Romano family is looking to pass the restaurant on to a third generation.
Sue Romano Calhoun was practically raised at Romano’s; she left for a time but eventually returned to help her brothers run the business. “It’s important to pass along to the next generation,” she says. “My mom and dad did a great job. For my brother, John, it’s the only job he’s ever had. The family and the restaurant it’s all intertwined, and it’s all one thing.”
Fifty years ago, the restaurant landscape was very different, both in the city and the suburbs. Littleton was a small town, Romano-Calhoun recalls, “There wasn’t as much competition, so you had more time to get your feet under you. Now you see restaurants close after less than a year.”
Opening A Restaurant Is HARD
But things weren’t easy for her parents, either. They barely had two dollars in their pockets when they decided to open Romano’s, and they had to borrow money from a relative to get the place going. They paid the $1,000 loan back before the end of the first year, not an easy feat I can imagine.
In the early days, the menus offered a little more than pizza, pasta, meatballs, and ravioli. The kitchen has added new dishes over the years, eggplant was added in the 1980s, they wanted to keep things fresh, but the tradition was not to be messed with. “People need to know it’s going to be the same every time they come in,” she says. “And the atmosphere is a big part of maintaining familiarity.”
Still, over fifty years, the customer base turns over, and it’s essential to bring in new guests. Romano’s did that by embracing social media and hosting fundraisers for nearby elementary schools. Young families with kids at the schools who had never heard of Romano’s quickly become regulars because of the family’s commitment to the community.
Now the Romano family is looking to pass the restaurant on to a third generation. Romano-Calhoun and her brothers have eight daughters between them; Nick’s daughter Jordan is already a full-timer with interest in continuing the legacy. And the others? She speculates that “maybe they’ll do their own thing for a while and then come back to the restaurant after a time as I did.”
Highlighted reasons for Romanos longevity:
Family Business – Parents established an Italian Pizza and Pasta business when the town was quiet not yet populated.
There was not much competition and built a generation of regular customers over the years before the town grew.
New items added to the menu, eggplant was added in the 1980s, they wanted to keep things fresh, but traditional selections were not to be messed with.
Consistency and Familiarity, “People need to know it’s going to be the same every time they come in,” And the atmosphere is a big part of maintaining familiarity.” Sue Roman0 Calhoun
They saw the importunacy of bringing in new guests and embraced social media.
They committed to their community and hosted fundraisers for nearby elementary schools. Young families with kids at the schools who had never heard of Romano’s quickly become regulars.
They are passing along a successful business to the next generation. “My mom and dad did a great job. For my brother, John, it’s the only job he’s ever had.
Running A Business With Family Members
Running a business with family members can be great or not. In the Romanos case, it worked out great!
In a small business, typically, everyone wears several hats and pitches in whenever a job needs to get done. But it’s still a good idea to make sure you spell out everyone’s primary role.
If you’re trying to groom the next generation, you may want to rotate jobs from time-to-time, but give each person an area of responsibility, a job description, and title.
If you are thinking about starting a restaurant with a family member(s), it could be a great decision and lead to a long term successful business. Regardless if you go it alone or with family, understand what you’re about to embark on and be confident as you take on these hard tasks. The best way to do that is to download my FREE resources TODAY!
Good luck and may restaurant longevity be with you!