Starting Up: A Solo Restaurateur’s Dream — How to Minimize Risks to Maximize Success

by Peter Ortiz4 Min Read

Considering your own restaurant? A franchise may be the smarter option.

Many of us have been to a successful restaurant and thought “I can do this, maybe even better!”

Choosing to operate a restaurant is a business decision, and must be approached that way.

An excellent restaurant could be likened to a duck swimming on a pond. Everything seems calm and effortless as the duck glides across the water. However under the water is a different story: their feet are in constant motion, always moving, seldom stopping.

While restaurant operations can seem so simple when viewed from the dining room table, few truly understand the concerted efforts taking place behind the scenes.  Choosing to operate a restaurant is a business decision, and must be approached that way.

If you are exploring the idea of opening your own restaurant but have limited restaurant management experience – or none at all – then a restaurant franchise could be the best option for you to increase your odds of success.    

While franchises require buy-in costs, solo restaurant startups have costs too – and these are often far more than financial. If you lack retail savvy or don’t have the ability to manage others and the drive or ability to work 70 hours per week or more until your restaurant gains traction, a franchise is worth serious consideration. I can’t stress enough that starting and growing a business is more difficult than many people realize. From operations to marketing to sales, there is so much to do when running your own business – and it becomes even more challenging when you’re doing it alone. 

As you weigh your options, consider these advantages a franchise offers over an independent restaurant startup.

Team of Experts

It’s rare that entrepreneurs have experience in every aspect of a business. Some are strong in accounting yet lack people or marketing skills. That is why it helps to have a resource in all of the areas you consider to be your weaknesses and even in areas you consider your strong suit.

With a franchise, you receive expert guidance in every facet of the operation.  Starting with a franchise is like being given a tested playbook – it is up to you to execute and refine as local conditions warrant.

Marketing and Brand Awareness

Everyone is a marketing expert – until they try marketing their own business. While it is easy to consider yourself an expert, there is no greater test than when you open for business and the customers just aren’t there. When the time comes to develop and execute marketing strategies that will bring foot traffic to your door, having a marketing team behind you with a track record of success – and a repeatable system for your success – is priceless.

With the myriad of media platforms available, there are countless ways to reach customers today. The downside is that marketing channels, such as social media, are constantly evolving and it is a full-time job just to keep pace with changes – not to mention determining what actually works for your  

Tapping into the marketing resources of a franchise enables you to focus on day-to-day operations and profitability without wasting money on trial and error.   

Eliminating Unexpected Costs

If you are considering a solo restaurant here is some sage advice: take whatever amount you think it will cost, and then double it.  A blank slate is difficult to estimate – unforeseen expenses always arise and items or services often cost more than expected.

With a franchise, those costs are pre-determined so you avoid surprises. This is especially true in the area of real estate. It may be tempting to sign a lease in the hottest part of town, but a franchise may have additional insight you do not as it relates to market potential for another area that can be very valuable. From negotiating a lease to choosing a contractor to build your storefront, franchises tell you what those costs will be upfront, often providing designers and site location experts that can advise on critical items such as traffic flow, point-of-sale considerations and more.

Training Assistance

Aside from managing employees once you have brought them on, the process of training new employees is a significant one and not without challenges. However, those who are part of a franchise find there is no need to reinvent the wheel. They enjoy carefully developed training procedures that have been vetted to ensure employees get comprehensive training. The result? Well-trained employees who offer consistent, high quality customer service based on thorough employee training practices.

Supply Chain and Distribution

This is an area that is extraordinarily problematic for inexperienced restaurateurs. One of the most critical and costly mistakes a restaurant owner can make is having incorrect inventory, either too much or too little. 

Franchises have often solved some of the most perplexing business decisions you’ll face.

Also, sourcing distributors to supply your fresh food and other perishable goods can be difficult and expensive if you are going it alone. Having the purchasing power and relationships afforded by a franchise eliminates guesswork in inventory management and distributor partnerships. 

The unknown can be one of the most frightening aspects of starting a business. Partnering with a proven franchise takes many of the unknowns out of the equation. Franchises have proven, repeatable success systems in place to help every part of the business run optimally.  Franchises have often solved some of the most perplexing business decisions you’ll face, and give you the benefit of the knowledge and experience so that you don’t have to experience setbacks.

If you have a strong desire to own your own restaurant but lack the experience and operational resources, you may wish to investigate a franchise. 

Partnering with the right franchise provides a stronger likelihood that you will be calm on the surface of the pond in the face of a highly competitive marketplace. To be sure, you may still be fervently paddling under the water, but your successes will be enhanced greatly.

Peter Ortiz

@uberrito | Website

Peter Ortiz is the Chief Development Officer for Überrito, a fast-casual concept that is part of Mexican Restaurants Inc., which currently operates 47 Mexican restaurant locations across five brands: Überrito, Casa Ole, Monterey’s Little Mexico, Tortuga Mexican Kitchen and Crazy Jose’s.

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