Ten Tips on restaurant concept development

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Famed Carmel restaurateur, Bill Lee, recently opened his latest restaurant, Lucky’sluckys Roadside in Sand City, Ca. When I ran into Bill at the Specialty Food show in January, he was only days away from opening and he was rapidly reviewing products for the new digs.

Bill is one of the best concept-design men in the business.

He’s made a career of developing, operating and selling eateries. It’s a segment of the business few explore. Yet, it is a very exciting way to make money with food. Most restaurant owner’s who have successfully sold properties will agree that there is more money in a sale than many see in their long, tedious careers. Exploring the possibilities of becoming a concept developer is an interesting and adventurous proposition. Here are ten tips to keep in mind when considering developing and flipping a space.

1). Think of a few concepts you would enjoy developing. Narrow your choices to your three favorites.

2). Look for spaces that failed due to the previous concept’s tired, worn, and boring atmosphere, menu and staff.

3). Secondary spaces within a cluster of successful restaurants are gems.

4). Search for spaces that already have kitchen equipment in place and meet all building and health code requirements. If still in operation, the restaurant you’re considering should be on its last legs, strapped with debt, and the owner should be two steps away from lying in the fetal position in the corner, under the dishwasher.

5). Develop a budget that coincides with your capitalization. Stick to it.

6). Don’t get too elaborate with the remodel. With the exception of a wall here, or a banquette there, most of the alterations should be cosmetic and aesthetic. Furniture, silverware, china and glassware are of the utmost importance. These items make a positive, “new concept” statement. When the first Buca de Beppo opened in Minneapolis, the mixed array of chairs, combination silverware, and mismatched plates-, which all could have come from Italian grandmother’s basement – were the perfect appointments for the concept-which was simply, New York Prince St. over-decorated Italian.

7). Develop a firecracker staff that is fine-tuned and well trained in the art of hospitality, personality, and service.

8). Keep orderly books from the day you sign the lease.

9). Open the doors, work out the problems, study the logistics, perfect the menu, look for another space, come up with a new concept, and let people know your first property is available – because you are working on another project that needs your full commitment.

10). Price the new concept reasonably. Investment + Time + design fee + 2 year profitable market potential = sale price. Be careful. Have fun.

John Foley is Publisher of foodiedaily.com

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