The food and restaurant industry is one of the most difficult businesses to make a living in. It’s not an easy business to be in. The margins are tight. It usually takes at least a year to make any profit at all–if you don’t close down first. First-year restaurants go out of business about 60% of the time.
However, if you can come up with a unique menu, lower your overhead, and appeal to the right people in the right location, you could be very successful. With celebrity chefs and public interest in cooking, there are plenty of other ways to get exposure and make money to invest in your food business.
When you are trying to sell your ideas and food, there are plenty of modern tactics to get started before opening a full restaurant. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing these days. You can dip your toe in. You can see what it feels like before going all through this difficult business. Whether your dream is to own high-end restaurants or provide food to people in need, below are some tips for getting your kitchen started.
1. Create a Small, Original, Affordable Menu
Before you do anything, you need to cook. You also should come up with a unique small menu. You want to think about how the menu can be affordable while providing high-quality items and using good ingredients. To make money in the food business, you want to attract people with both the quality of the food and reasonable prices.
So, that’s why before you get started, you should do a lot of cooking at home. You should cook for as many friends and as many families as possible. Test your menu again and again. Try out new ideas and be creative with your food. Find a vision.
It’s a good idea to work with different ingredients and focus on lowering the cost of the dishes while providing delicious, high-quality food. When you spend time on your concept, menu, and array of dishes, you will be ready when the time comes to expand to a full restaurant, a chain, or a brand-new venture.
2. Do a Pop-Up
A pivotal way to get started in the food business is to test the waters before investing a lot of money. One option is to try a pop-up. Rent a small space for a specific night or a weekend. You can ask around about events if you can sell food and do a pop-up with collaborators who can help you fulfill your vision. While pop-ups are a risk for established restaurateurs, they also offer a wide range of opportunities for newcomer to the food business. It’s necessary to try and fail before committing fully to something you’ve never done before. Even if you have worked in kitchens, running your own is another bag of hammers.
There are plenty of benefits of pop-ups. You can try new menu items. You can experiment and make mistakes. This is your trial-and-error period. The engagement with customers is more intimate and specialized. Ask people what they thought, what you could do better, and what worked. The pop-up has become popular because it is a do-it-yourself, punk rock style of cooking and selling your food. It’s the perfect way to get started for a lot of aspiring restaurateurs.
3. Get a Food Truck
Another version of a pop-up, which requires more commitment, is the food truck. Food trucks have become popular in a lot of cities around the country. It is a new take on street food. The regulations and laws vary a lot from city to city, county to county, and state to state, but if you are allowed to set up shop near a bar or in a designated area you can have the benefits of a kitchen without the overhead of a full restaurant. You can get going without the rent or upkeep of a brick-and-mortar establishment. There are plenty of other benefits too.
Food trucks can serve where they want to if they are allowed under city regulations and property laws. There is a lot of wiggle room here. Go set up at sports games or do a deal with a local brewery. You can also use social media to tell your followers and customers where you will be. If you have a good menu with delicious food, a truck can be the difference between a lucrative start to your food business and not knowing how to get going.
4. Open a Dark Kitchen
A “dark kitchen” is when you open a kitchen just for deliveries. This has become very popular. During the pandemic, restaurateurs relied heavily on delivery. A lot of business owners opening food spots during this time decided to go delivery only. It has proven as an effective business model. There turns out to be a lot of advantages to opening a ghost kitchen that cooks food for delivery and catering.
Ghost kitchens enable you to have only a few employees and choose your hours wisely. There is a lot less overhead without a kitchen, allowing a lot more room for profit. You can work with a specific delivery platform or use all the ones at your disposal. Just about any type of food can be delivered effectively these days. You could even hire your own delivery drivers. Whatever your idea, opening a dark kitchen could be the right move.
5. Work with Other Businesses
Finally, another idea to get your food business off the ground is to work with other businesses. Is there a café that could use some food? Should your local beer spot have a food truck? Can you do a pop-up at the local concert or show? There are plenty of ways that you can work with other businesses to start getting your food in the mouths of locals and start saving for your full restaurant. Whatever your goals, working with other businesses is usually a good idea.
It isn’t easy to start a food business, but if you have a good idea, a cohesive menu, and a way to get the food into people’s hands and mouths, you will have a way to start. You don’t need to open a full restaurant to get the job done. You can dip your toe in, test, experiment, and find the best way forward for your culinary ideas. Don’t give up so easily, try your best to find the best way forward.