You have an idea that you think will resonate with your target audience and you seek to bring it to market. Our first step is to create a financial model that explains how much your restaurant concept will cost to bring to life and then how it will perform once it is open. A big chunk of restaurant concept development occurs during the financial modeling phase, but there are plenty of things to consider.
Creating a restaurant concept by linking together steps in sequential order is short-sighted. It doesn’t balance the brand offering or allow for adjustments. Adjusting one element will affect the other elements…like a mobile that goes off balance when one of it’s charms is altered. Opening a full-service burger restaurant in Texas, for instance, might make sense…until you decide you’d rather to go to Montana where there is no tip credit, forcing your labor model higher and torpedoing the presumed profits. Does it mean you need to stay in Texas? No, you just need to adjust the model for, say, fast casual… stripping away table service… which affects your menu, management, hours of operations, size and location assumptions.
Whether trying to borrow money, impress a landlord, or add to your portfolio, you will need to clarify how much it will cost, what business you will be in, how it will make money…and how much it will make. No one (no one) will fund your project without a Profit Model and, if you’ve never done this before, the chances that you’ll be able to whip up accurate financials are pretty slim.
Once your concept is defined by your Profit Model, it’s time to write about it. This includes concept brand narratives, market research, competitive analysis, brand filter and operating practices, so your investors and stakeholders fully understand your idea.
When it’s time to pitch your project to potential stakeholders, a Concept Book just might be the difference between YES and NO. Our Concept Books bring your pitch to life on large format, glossy bound booklets that showcase the vibe and feel of the concept through imagery and narrative. We do a preliminary layout, show touch points, graphically treat financials, generate sample menu layouts, and inject aspirational imagery. Our philosophy is that you should spend your money only on things that will get you more money.
Once the concept has been articulated through the Phase 1, Phase 2 gets the project moving toward hiring management. This is where we find your location, create timelines, design the space, create menus and then finally hire your management team. By the end of Phase 2 you should begin transitioning your opening process to your management team. We’ll get you there!
We are your agents, confidants, allies, and protectors. We have no conflict of interest because our role is purely to protect you. When a broker shows you their inventory and tries to pass off bad ingress/egress or a one-sided lease agreement, we can be in your corner to separate fact from fiction. As always, we recommend hiring an attorney before signing a lease, but we can help you see through most bad ideas with our only ulterior motive being your success (so you can rave about us later).
Like any project, once you have funding, it’s important to stay on track. Our “warboard” will organized your tasks for the duration of the project in order to map resources and establish important project milestones. We’ll also create a Critical Task List for your team to use as opening day approaches so there is no idle time or double work.
Shortly after you sign your lease, you will be under the gun to get the business open. Landlords often offer a grace period but, at some point, rent will be due. Before you can start construction, the space must be designed, including the kitchen. We create high level menus that will drive your kitchen layout and equipment selections, so you don’t accidentally build a Mexican restaurant engine for your Italian restaurant.
Interior designers are amazingly creative but often overlook design related to time-and-motion efficiency. Kitchen designers are often paid by equipment manufacturers so they have incentive to bloat your kitchen with equipment. Both designers view themselves as the tip of the spear. We control the design process to ensure that your project will operate profitably while making sure it delivers on your brand promises.
With financials, site selection, menu structure and design out of the way, construction can begin. Once it does there are hundreds of small decisions that need to be made about how you will execute your brand. By pulling all of your guest experience decisions through your brand filter, we ensure that your concept stays crisp and easy to understand. Everything from sequence of service, lighting, and employee safety, to merchandising (retail), menu conveyance, website, receiving and trash removal – must be thought through and defined. Poor decisions during this phase and your investment and hard work land in a business that confuses your audience.
Some restaurant owners think they can hire a good chef and then think no more about their menus. This is dangerous because: A) the talent that can carefully craft a profitable menu is usually well beyond the pay range of the talent that it takes to maintain existing recipes and B) the business is at the mercy of talented individuals who may or may not write anything down. We say, outsource menu engineering …to craft menus that deliver target profit margins, spread the workload among stations, feature industrialized recipes with accurate yields, and can be executed by an affordable staff. It’s easier to find people who can execute what they’re taught than to find affordable creative talent that will stay put.
Satisfying consumer enthusiasm for great cocktails is no longer an option for restaurants offering a bar. The days of Sour, Margarita or Bloody Mary mixes coming from a bottle are over. Fresh squeezed juices, house-made shrubs, infused syrups and hand-crafted specialty spirits have become the rule, not the exception…and the average server-turned-bartender cannot drive your program. Like any good menu, your cocktail menu must be engineered to deliver your brand. Let us create your inaugural and seasonal menus so you can focus your team on execution and consistency.
Whether you’re launching a gourmet market, a convenience store or simply adding impulse sales to your restaurant, we can create an assortment that is profitable, unique and on-brand. We’ve run multi-million-dollar gourmet retail operations and have installed retail components in hotels and restaurants around the country. We understand ordering, inventory, merchandising, pricing, signage, and customer shopping behaviors, so let us help you bring your retail program to life.
Your service model and menus are only as good as your ability to execute them. Checklists and routines are only as good as the people that enforce them. We organize management structures for maximum efficiency while establishing areas of responsibility and accountability structures that you can manage. When a restaurant’s food, drinks and service are excellent and consistent, day in and day out, you can be sure it’s no accident. We customize systems to suit your team’s capabilities while establishing a benchmark for performance that let’s everyone know what it means to do a good job.
As your management team comes on board, we pull your guiding principles and operating philosophies into a cohesive and interactive management seminar to make sure your team is singing from the same sheet of music. Your management team must coach and counsel in a way that supports your brand and they must decide to succeed as a team before being asked to manage your staff. Our Management School becomes the foundation on which you train every manager going forward…but first it needs to be created and implemented. That’s what we do.
As Phase 3 unfolds, it is important for your fledgling management team to imprint on your hourly staff as they’re hired. Blue Orbit will work with them to refine manpower plans, develop the hiring system, schedule hiring fairs, organize materials and otherwise direct the hiring process with the management team. As with anything in Phase 3, we can do as much or as little as you need. Just be sure to hire with a plan and do it with purpose. We help you establish those protocols.
Without cash handling protocols and purchasing / invoicing discipline your business is just a shoe box – money goes in, bills go out, keep what’s left. Restaurants need organization in the back office, even more so than a retail business…because restaurants are both retail and production facilities. Weekly profit and loss statements, an open-to-buy system, invoice discipline, declining budgets and annual budgeting are all vital to running a tight ship. Additionally, forms and procedures need to be defined if they are to be communicated to your controller or office manager.
Aspiring to make great food or to deliver great service is one thing. Making it a reality is another. We create “train the trainer” programs that work from pre-opening orientation and into ongoing operations. We will write your training manuals, employee handbooks, training shells, and instill training philosophies that protect your new-hires and reduce turnover, saving you money and headache in a tight labor market. What we create for opening gets adapted for ongoing hiring and training beyond opening day.
Testing your new money-making machine is critical. You don’t want to test it on real customers if you’re not sure everything is perfect. We can help you organize and execute your mock runs to get the most out of them so when you do open, you’re confident that your guest will experience what you built your business to give them.
After opening day, it can be daunting to keep up with new operations, new customers, and new teams. Your managers will have their hands full trying to protect the guest’s first impression during the honeymoon period. Blue Orbit will stay on for several weeks in an advisory capacity to help tidy up the transition from pre-opening to post-opening. This may include production setting in the kitchen, invoice accounting protocols or re-jiggering side-work and station charts to reflect unforeseen nuances. The last thing you want to do is get it open and then fall into decline simply because your team is a little overwhelmed. Your investment is too great.
Corporate offices exist for a reason: to provide support to operators and to hold them accountable for delivering results through systems (not through being good at winging it). Blue Orbit can serve as your corporate office by inspecting your facility, systems and financials regularly. We can provide guidance and coaching to managers while being able to spot trouble before it festers into something the guest sees. Let us know if you need regular oversight and coaching to keep your restaurant in top shape.