Have you ever thought of starting your own food business, perhaps you’ve thought about starting a restaurant (or something simpler like launching a pre-portioned, pre-packaged meal prep service.) Regardless- launching this type of venture can be as exciting as it is rewarding.
Today, we wanted to highlight 3 basic tips for starting a gastronomic venture: define the concept, study the market, and turn your business into a brand. (We’ll also provide a 4th bonus tip at the end of this article.)
To start, we wanted to focus on the business conceptualization phase of launching a gastronomic venture—because it requires a significant amount of creative work. The dollars and cents portion of starting a venture is equally important, but we’ll address that in another article.
That being said, let’s get started!
Define the concept
This is the first step in starting a gastronomic venture and it’s undoubtedly among the most important. This step consists of establishing the idea (or ideas) that will be the basis of your business. Some of the questions that need to be answered include:
What kind of food will you offer?
The type of food you plan to offer will largely depend on your tastes, but it should include meals that you not only know how to prepare—it should consist of meals you know how to prepare well. It might also be useful to do some research to determine the most popular dishes in the area you plan to establish your business. For example, are people leaning toward homemade foods, fast foods, vegan or vegetarian cuisine, or do they prefer foods from a different country?
One of the most common mistakes made by gastronomic entrepreneurs is to offer “a little bit of everything”, because they believe that this way they will reach more people (and hopefully, generate more sales.) But what would you think if you went to a Mexican restaurant that also offered sushi, pizza and Gyros?
The ideal is to offer a menu that’s been adapted to the tastes of a specific audience. This does not mean that you discard the variety; you can always include different alternatives as long as they are interest of your target demographic.
How will the food be sold?
The second question you must ask yourself is whether you want your customers to come to you (i.e. whether you’ll set up a food stand or establish a food truck) or whether you’ll go to your customers (i.e. whether you’d like to start a catering business.) Other businesses only offer food delivery service.
Once again, this decision must be made based on your tastes, your budget and the space you have available.
Study the market
Once you have a clearly defined concept, you should dig a little deeper into the market by researching your competition and your target clientele.
What about your clientele should you study? You’ll want to determine what they need, what they like, what worries them (or bothers them) when it comes to buying the product you intend to offer. For example, do they need quickly prepared food items? Do they prefer fresh food, but are concerned about “how fresh” the ingredients in each dish are?
Also, take some time to figure out what their habits are and whether your clientele will be business / corporate class or casual diners. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant in busy business corridor, your target clientele is likely to be much different than if you decide to start a food truck that mostly sells its products at special events, such as 4th of July or Labor Day celebrations at the park.
Once you have this information you can create a business plan that meets, and hopefully exceeds, your target clientele’s expectations.
Reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of your competition is also a key. Why? Because it will allow you to differentiate yourself, establish different strengths, and to develop strategies for how to become the best choice for your clientele. Yes, there are companies that can perform this research for you, but if you don’t have the budget to spend on that, you can always perform a very basic study applying by reviewing the feedback your competitors have received on various websites, such as Facebook, Yelp and others.
Make your business a brand
Once you’ve completed the first two steps, you’ll need to choose a name for your business. From there, you need to define the personality of your business, including, its mission, its vision and its values.
This may sound very “corporate” to you, but defining your brand will not only help you shape your project, it will help you keep track of your objectives and your progress. For example, have you noticed that vegetarian food brands often use colors such a green, brown, and white in their logos? Have you noticed that some of the world’s most popular fast-food chains use a lot of red and yellow in their marketing?
That’s not a coincidence!
Since vegetarian food is associated with being healthy and natural, their logos often incorporate green. Fast food restaurants, on the other hand, tend to target a younger audience that’s looking for foods that are quick and easy. Yellow is associated with joy and red is associated with energy– and both of these colors align well with the lifestyles of the typical fast food lover.
Your gastronomic venture must also have an identity—and that identity will be defined by your logo, its colors, and the fonts you choose to relay your message. For this process, we recommend that you turn to branding professionals and graphic designers, as they can help you find the elements that will help you to reach your target audience, differentiate yourself from your competition, and communicate the mission (and value) of your gastronomic venture.
Bonus: Create the ideal menu for your audience
Lastly, your menu is especially important because it will define what you’re offering to your customers. In many cases, your menu will read like the cover letter to your venture’s resume.
When you choose what to include in your menu, we recommend you make a list of the foods you think you think you can sell. You’ll also need to sort them by categories. Remember that the theme of your gastronomic venture should be the central point.
For example, if you plan to launch a traditional restaurant, the most common menu items may include appetizers, main dishes, drinks, and desserts. On the other hand, if you plan to start a desserts business, your menu may include categories for cakes, cupcakes and donuts. Everything that’s on your menu will depend on your concept.
After you layout your menu, you’ll need to prepare (and taste) the dishes to see whether they resonate with your target audience. Although some people do this by organizing a tasting for a small group of people, others make the event a bit more formal, and host a “soft opening” for select guests. In a soft opening, small portions of dishes are served, and attendees provide feedback for each one.
Consider their comments and make any adjustments as needed. This can help you finalize your menu, in addition to help you decide which dishes will stay.
Again- the dishes on your menu must be consistent with the needs of your audience, the concept of your business and your available resources.
You’ll also need to write up descriptions for each menu item. The descriptions may include the dish’s ingredients, how it’s prepared, and how it’s presented. (In addition, if you plan on having additional cooks / chefs, you’ll want to create a recipe manual, to ensure that each dish is prepared the same each time.)
Lastly, you’ll want to have your menu designed by a graphic designer. This will help ensure the final product conforms with your venture’s brand and its identity. Remember that a good menu has all the information that the customer could need. It should also be presented clearly and be easy to read.
At EFOODTRAINER we have one last tip for all entrepreneurs: train constantly, get advice from specialists in each area and, above all, keep your curiosity awake. We love this last point because it is very important to generate new ideas, improve processes and not be leave behind in the gastronomic world.