You’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to pursue your dreams of opening a business. You’re now probably wondering how to start a soul food restaurant. The answer is complicated because you’ll have to consider several matters besides finding great cooks and recipes to please your customers. Let’s find out everything you should take into account to begin this journey.
1. Install a New Sign
A restaurant without a proper sign won’t be attractive to customers, especially because it’s one of the main parts of your company’s identity. People will remember the lettering, the colors, and the name, thanks to the sign. Additionally, a business sign company can make your entire restaurant’s profile, such as menus, posters, social media posts, etc., match the original logo you pick. The idea is to have a certain image fill clients’ brains and remind them why you’re the best place to visit.
It’s also smart to have signage for specials, promotions, and deals. For example, many restaurants in busy cities use a chalkboard-type sign to announce anything exciting, such as the new dishes for the day or the chef’s picks. Consider adding some concession signs at the location to help customers understand what kind of food you’re making. Any discounts on drinks should also appear on these signs. You can buy generic ones, but adding your logo is always a good idea. Make it easy to read.
People don’t want to drive around and get confused with the name of your restaurant, or they’ll lose interest in what you’re selling. Use a clear name and advertise the food you offer. It’s one of the first steps you should take in this guide on how to start a soul food restaurant. Also, remember that people like digital menus and signage nowadays, so you need to include your logo in your online presence.
2. Keep Your Space Spotless
No one wants to visit an unkempt restaurant. Customers know that if a location is dirty in the dining area, it’ll be just as terrible in the kitchen. Therefore, you must hire commercial cleaning services or have a particular protocol with your staff at closing time. One of the most important steps in this guide on how to start a soul food restaurant is making a checklist to keep the area spotless.
Break down the cleaning tasks between the entrance and lobby area, kitchen, bathrooms, and exterior. In the lobby, you should be sweeping or vacuuming and mopping regularly. However, using a vacuum while the restaurant is open is not recommended. The windows and glass doors should be wiped and dried. The reception desk and furniture have to be dusted and wiped.
The dining area must be pristine, too, as patrons hate sitting on dirty chairs and eating on a messy table. If you use tablecloths, these should be changed to a fresh one after the busser clears the table. The incoming patrons deserve a clean place to eat. However, the most important area will be the kitchen. You must mop dirty water from the floor constantly, not just because it’s messy but because it’s a hazard.
Otherwise, you should have special floor kitchen maps, which will be cleaned at the end of the day. Someone should be responsible for cleaning plates, and each cook should maintain their workstation spotless. Similar procedures should go for the bar area, as each bartender needs to have wipes and rags to keep things as dry as possible. The restrooms also have to be tended to, and that’s why many places have a janitorial staff or hire a service.
3. Find a Waste Removal Solution
Any restaurant will produce a ton of trash, especially from leftover food, plastic containers, napkins, straws, etc. You can have a ton of protocols for cleaning up, but it’s also essential to have a waste removal solution. Commercial trash cans will serve well, but you should check city regulations, just in case. Your trashcans should comply with the waste removal service’s expectations. Research recycling laws to avoid fines or other issues.
A service can provide you with everything you need. They go to the restaurant, inspect and analyze the situation, and establish a waste removal plan that can be easily managed. Food waste removal is critical because of sanitation laws; anything leftover can attract pests and shut down a business. Most owners can’t afford to close for even a day, and a commercial trash pickup is the only way to survive when you’re managing everything else.
These services will tell you what kinds of dumpsters you should get and the size that’ll work best. They will adapt to your schedule or suggest something appropriate based on the inspection. Additionally, the company can recommend ways to reduce waste in general, which will decrease losses for your business. You just need to follow the best practices, such as composting, using more recyclable items, and improving inventory management. This is a basic aspect of how to start a soul food restaurant.
4. Establish Communication Infrastructure
The restaurant industry has changed in the last couple of years, as more and more people prefer to pick up or have their food delivered than to sit down and eat. Therefore, your place has to adapt to any trend, which means establishing communication solutions so there aren’t any issues between the orders, the kitchens, and the delivery apps. Therefore, understanding how this establishment must communicate is a vital aspect of this list of how to start a soul food restaurant.
Fortunately, a restaurant communication checklist usually includes adding all the details and developing the message. Always tell your employees about any changes first, train staff to answer clients’ questions correctly, share anything through all communication channels, monitor the feedback and response, and reward the clients who return. Furthermore, adapt, learn, and optimize often.
These matters are tricky, but a service can help you understand the solutions they offer and the protocols to follow. Everyone should know how everything works and how to handle any extraordinary situation. Communication should also involve customers to a certain extent. For example, suppose you’re raising the prices on the menu due to inflation and other economic factors.
In that case, you can release a statement on the website or social media or include it as an add-on to the menu. Servers can inform clients of that change, too, before taking their orders. It’s a good way to prevent misunderstandings. Regulars will be used to a certain price, so they may not look at the menu daily. Therefore, the waiter has to inform them of changes, or it could cause problems when the check comes.
5. Remodel Your Bathrooms
If you’ve already rented a location for your restaurant, you may have considered keeping the bathrooms as they are. That’s often not the best idea. You can certainly clean them and hire plumbing companies to check that everything works properly, but it’s not the same as remodeling the restroom to your specifications. There’s something to say about a bathroom with the same feeling as the rest of the establishment.
Remember, people take selfies in there all the time, especially women who fix their makeup after meals. A beautiful bathroom shows that the owner of a location has taste. This step may not be considered an essential part of a list of how to start a soul food restaurant, but it’s pretty important regarding the image you want clients to have about your business. Good plumbers usually suggest adding more modern features, sleeker toilets, new dispensers, etc.
Unfortunately, some things look terrible over time, even when cleaned and functioning perfectly. Those subtle things can influence how a customer feels about that restaurant. This doesn’t mean you must change everything and spend thousands of dollars. Sometimes, just a new paint color or different countertops will do the trick. Tip: bathroom remodels must be completed before you open the business, and pick things that look glossy but will stand the test of time.
6. Renovate Your Kitchen
When you ask others how to start a soul food restaurant, they’ll probably tell you that the kitchen needs to be renovated. The exterior and dining areas should be aesthetically pleasing, but kitchens must be extremely functional and convenient. You don’t want your cooks to be too close to each other, unable to work on their tasks effectively, but you may not have that much space. That’s why it’s a good idea to hire a professional in construction, like a countertop contractor.
You can’t pick the same countertops for a professional kitchen as you would for a home. Choose a simple material that can be cleaned easily and doesn’t stain or get damaged quickly. Usually, kitchens have metal tables all over, but you can add some tiled countertops or something similar to complement other areas. A contractor should be able to advise on alternatives, too. However, the appliances should be the main aspects of a restaurant kitchen renovation.
First, you need to check the stove. If you rented or bought an old restaurant to save money, you may be able to use some of the old equipment. However, it’s always smart to have it inspected. Check the exhaust fans, the oil vents, and more to see what needs repairs. Only start your business if you have taken proper safety measures. A new stove may also be a good idea if you need something bigger or want to add a grill and rework the space. You can also improve the ovens, blenders, utensils, etc.
7. Get a New Floor
Restaurant owners must think hard regarding the floor, especially in the dining area. You may want something beautiful like hardwood that attracts customers and gives a certain vibe. However, there are probably more convenient options. Servers and clients may throw food and drinks accidentally, and certain materials stain more than others. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars and have to replace a wine stain shortly after opening the business.
Therefore, flooring is an important part of how to start a soul food business. Many people nowadays choose commercial epoxy floors. They work great in the kitchen because that area doesn’t need a fancy design, and most professional kitchens add mats for safety. It’s easy to clean, durable, and convenient in general. You can also consider epoxy for other parts. Talk to the contractor and see what alternatives they can offer.
Floors will complement your décor, and you want something that stands out but is still practical, like vinyl tile, which comes in all shapes and colors to provide exactly what you need. Conversely, epoxy can be slippery; you don’t want that for your employees or clients. Therefore, it’s best to consider everyone’s needs when choosing the floor. For example, the entryway should take into account that it may rain at some point, so clients will have to wipe their shoes. A nice absorbent carpet would work great in that case. It will also capture dirt.
8. Maintain Your HVAC System
Finally, this list of how to start a soul food business wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include maintaining your air conditioning and heating system. All restaurant owners must check out the commercial HVAC companies nearby and pick one that can come regularly for inspections and tune-ups so their clients are always comfortable in their space. No one wants to dine somewhere where the temperature is off.
Preventative care is the best way to avoid having angry customers who never return. It’s also how you’ll save money because emergencies are more expensive than maintenance. The kitchen should be comfortable even with cooking heat because your staff shouldn’t be miserable the entire time. Their mood will show in their work. Remember, soul food needs to be made with passion. Therefore, regular filter changes are in order.
They’re an essential part of the system, and they can get clogged easily due to the smoke from the fire in your kitchen. It’s better to change them every three months. Otherwise, your unit will have to work harder to provide the desired temperature, meaning it’ll break down quickly. The technician should also clean the evaporator coil often because it’s the way the system can produce cool air.
Now that you understand how to start a soul food restaurant, it’s time to take action! You can do everything as long as you follow these tips and don’t let the stress overwhelm you. Once you’ve taken care of the most practical aspects, you can focus on the food and the service to keep customers coming.