How to Succeed as an Entrepreneur
in the Food Industry

See also: Marketing Skills

If food is your passion and you’re ready to take the next big step in your career, then opening your own restaurant, cafe, or takeout business - with a view, perhaps, to establishing a chain - is something you may have been turning over in your mind for some time.

What may be putting you off is the stats. It’s commonly believed that the vast majority of newly opened eateries close within the first year; this, however, is not the case. The truth is that 83% of food establishments make it through their first year, which is higher than the national average in terms of businesses operating in other industries.

So, now we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at some of the tips, tricks, and hacks that’ll significantly boost your chances of succeeding as an entrepreneur in the food industry, whether you’re dreaming of opening the next big takeout chain or are planning on creating an upmarket niche fine dining experience.

Don’t Skimp on the Research

One of the most vital parts of your endeavor must happen before you’ve even set foot in your potential new premises, and that’s undertaking a mass of research!

Think very carefully about the niche you’ll be operating in and how you will find, attract, and keep your target market. The restaurant industry is saturated, so offering a USP (unique selling point) is important to help strengthen your branding and stand out from the crowd.

Consider all the risk factors and possible challenges and how you’ll tackle these things. Proper planning is likely to impact your chances of entrepreneurial success significantly, so spend as much time as you can on this stage of the set-up process.

Building a Brand

As mentioned, how you’re going to build a brand is a key part of your pre-set-up planning. Whether you aim to open a single establishment or a state-wide (or even nationwide!) chain, developing a strong brand will play a huge role.

As part of this, you’ll need to consider every element of how your business presents to customers, from the restaurant furniture you’ll incorporate into the dining space to the fonts used on the menus. Your brand should reflect the overall ethos of your business, and your branding should be consistent: the style of your business’s website, social media platforms, and promotional materials should all reflect the style and tone of your brand.

Starting Small

Even if the ultimate goal is to open premises in multiple locations, it’s often a good idea to start small with a single establishment. As well as being much less financially risky, this will allow you to test out your concept and tweak various elements of your operation as required before opening elsewhere.

You could even consider trialing the basics of your concept by using a food truck: this will allow you to test out your menu items and concept. It is also an excellent way of getting a ‘feel’ for the food industry if you’ve only had limited experience working on the frontline within it.

Get Your Funding in Place

You’ll need to know exactly where your financing is coming from before going forward, which should form part of your business plan.

There are several options for this. You could approach your bank for a business loan; you’ll need to have a robust business plan ready for assessment before meeting with your bank representatives.

Alternatively, you could consider angel funding or crowd funding to get your business off the ground. Finally, there may be a number of government grants available for which start-up concerns can apply - look at your government website for more details and find out if you’re eligible.

Know All the Regulations

No matter the details of your plans, it’s crucial to ensure you’re familiar with all regulations and laws that govern businesses in general and those operating within the food industry.

These regulations could relate to, for example, taxes, health and safety, employee contracts, zoning, and food handling.

Consider Getting a Business Mentor

If you can find a mentor with lots of experience running successful food industry establishments, then this person could be your most valuable business asset.

If you don’t have any personal connection to an individual who would be prepared to fulfill this role, then consider making contact with a local restaurateur to find out whether they would be interested in providing you with the first-hand advice and need-to-know tips that will help you navigate the setting up and opening of your business.

Finding the Perfect Premises

Location is king if you’ll be opening a concern that incorporates a physical dining space. Firstly, checking the zoning is fundamental to avoid running the risk of taking out the lease on premises only to discover that you’re not permitted to use it to run a food business.

Once you’re happy on this front, the next things to think about are your target audience and the nature of the footfall and passing vehicle traffic relating to the location. Will your establishment be visible enough to those you’re trying to appeal to? How high is the likelihood of getting plenty of spontaneous walk-in diners? For example, if you plan to open a fast-food burger joint, are the premises located near various bars and other night spots to best capture hungry folk on their way home from a night out?

Alternatively, if your dream is to open a Vegan restaurant focused on sustainable, locally grown, seasonal produce, then find premises in a cosmopolitan, vibrant, ‘trendy’ part of town where there are plenty of health shops and stores selling artisan, local produce is likely to be a good idea.

Make Growth Part of Your Planning

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you will need to build a growth ethos into every element of your business plan. Think of your branding, including the menu, in terms of what can be rolled out into second and third (or beyond!) premises, and always be on the lookout for ways to expand through innovation.

This could be achieved in myriad ways, from creating a fully deliverable menu to creating kits so that happy diners can recreate the meals they’ve enjoyed at home.

The most successful entrepreneurs are driven, creative, and committed to the success of their vision. This doesn’t mean they are blind to the challenges present in a difficult market - but that they’ve already got the plans in place to overcome them.

About the Author

Eddie Davis: Having produced content in a number of technical fields, it's fair to say that that my experience in these markets is superior to most. Whether it's cybersecurity, editing software or anti-virus products (and many other areas) I've worked and written for some of the key players in the industry and as such my work comes from a place of experience. I try to inform and educate, while making sure not to alienate those with less know-how, it's a tricky bridge to cross but it's one I've journeyed on for some years.