Restaurants 101

 
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As we have launched into full restaurant mode over the past three months, I have learned quite a bit about what it takes to make the transition from food truck to brick and mortar. While building a custom kitchen on wheels seemed daunting two years ago, it pales in comparison to building a 2,500 restaurant space with a fully equipped kitchen. When building our food truck back in 2012, we had to deal primarily with one person: Jimmy, our builder at Craft Mobile Food Units in Houston, Tx. You see Jimmy had an existing shell truck already at his disposal, so when we went out to Houston for the first time we had a mechanic run through all the existing problems on the truck and then we moved forward. It was pretty straightforward actually. We told Jimmy how we wanted the truck laid out and he went to work. The only real decisions we had to make were the quality of the equipment (high vs. low end) and what type of generator we wanted (high end RV generator or low quality hand crank). We had to deal with 2-3 vendors tops (our equipment vendor, a mechanic, and the tire shop).

Flash forward to present day and we have a lot more on our plate in opening this restaurant. When you open a restaurant, you are the maestro of the orchestra. You are the director, and if you fail to put everyone in place and properly align everything, it will cost you in time and money. So you may be asking yourself what is there to direct? You pay your architect and your general contractor and call it a day. Not quite. First and foremost, you have your kitchen equipment. A great kitchen equipment company will lay the equipment out for you and provide you all the CAD drawings. So you'll have one point of contact at your equipment purveyor. If you're like us and can't afford all new equipment, then you're turning to used equipment. That's another purveyor. What if you want a water filter so that your guests can drink purified water? That's a potential third purveyor. And we haven't even gotten out of the kitchen.

If you have a bar you likely have soda lines. So you'll need to talk to Coke or another beverage company in your area that can run your soda lines and provide you your bag-in-the-boxes. What about Co2 tanks? Well, you guessed it, those are another purveyor. You'll also have your liquor, wine and beer purveyors. Want craft beer? A lot self distribute, so you'll be working with each individual beer company to deliver. Just in the bar area alone you might have 8-10 points of contact.

As for the overall restaurant, you can't forget about (1). security, (2). sound, (3). low voltage wiring, (4). POS systems, (5). cable, internet and phone and (6). coffee installs (if you have a serious coffee vendor, they are going to want a notable install company). We haven't even touched on food purveyors. And if you're like us, you may have another 8-10 of those.

And what about maintenance? Somebody's got to clean your grease trap once a quarter. Who is going to pick up your grease/trash? Luckily, someone might pay you to take your grease. Hey, grease is a precious commodity these days! Store it in a jar and save it for a rainy day. You'll need a company to provide your linens assuming you need bar towels, aprons or napkins. And let's not forget deep cleaning. Your staff will clean daily, but you still need a company to deep clean 1-2 times a month. That's another 4-5 vendors easily.

So I guess I've found out the hard way: a restaurant is a much bigger operation. There are a lot of lines cast out into the sea, and it's your job to have an understanding of who/what is involved and make sure you schedule accordingly. Scribbling some notes on a notepad isn't going to track everything. Nope. Delegate within your staff where you see fit, but at the end of the day, project managing is a job. Somebody must be devoted full time to make sure the restaurant is up and running. Otherwise, you may learn the hard lesson that time is money, and that all this time you have wasted has left with you pennies in your bank account.