Food for Thought: Considerations for Your New Restaurant

After looking into the various elements of pub insurance in a previous blog, we wanted to take a closer look at another arm of the hospitality…

After looking into the various elements of pub insurance in a previous blog, we wanted to take a closer look at another arm of the hospitality industry – restaurants. Running a restaurant, bistro or café can be a truly rewarding experience. A successful restaurant can become a cornerstone of the local community, as well as a potential goldmine – if it is done correctly. From the style to the cuisine, and the location to the décor, there are a number of elements that come together to create a lovely place to wine and dine.

All of the above are great starting points to work from and you are likely to have this in place long before you are ready to open to the public. In this blog, however, we are going to delve into the back-end administrative aspects that new restaurant owners will need to consider.

Licensing for Your Restaurant

Depending on the type of restaurant you have, there will most likely be a number of licences you must apply for in order to be in line with the law. There are the more obvious ones like food safety certificates and alcohol, but there are a few that you may not have thought about. Some of the main licenses are:

  • Food Hygiene Certificate

    This one probably goes without saying and you are obligated to have this license by law. Essentially, it offers proof to both authorities and customers that you are operating within food safety and storage regulations and that you are aware of best practice for preparing and serving food. You can find out more at Food.gov.uk.

  • Food Premises Approval

    Any restaurant or premises that handles animal-based products (including meat, fish, and dairy) must have their premises approved for such activities. The only exceptions for this license are if serving food accounts for less than 25% of your overall trade.

  • Alcohol License

    If you intend to serve any kind of alcohol on your premises, you will need an Alcohol On-License. As opposed to and off-license, this will allow your customers to consume alcohol purchase from your restaurant. You can get this type of license from your local council; visit their website to find out how to apply

  • PRS for Music License

    If you plan on having background music for your customers, it is integral you have a license to play it. A PRS (Performing Rights Society) for Music license must be in effect as any music being played constitutes a ‘public performance’.

Finding the Right Utilities Supplier

Restaurateurs make their money from selling tasty food to happy customers, who becomes patrons and come time and time again. However, there can financial haemorrhages that even a full restaurant every night cannot plug. Having the right utilities supplier is an integral part of running your premises. Your electricity, water, gas can amount to a huge portion of monthly outgoings. A way to reduce the cost of these utilities is to go for an independent supplier rather than one of the Big Six.

A recent study by the Federation of Small Businesses cited that utility costs account for 5% of total expenditure, making it the second largest cause of rising business costs. There a few steps you can take yourself in order to reduce costs, from ensuring you have double glazing to keep in heat, to keeping refrigerator doors as much as possible.

A few other ways to keep costs down include:

  • Switching to energy-efficient CFL lightbulbs; these do not need to be changed as often as regular bulbs. You could also install sensors in areas of your premises that are not frequented that often (such as cellars or storage rooms), so lights only come on when someone is in the room
  • Keep your thermostat at a continual temperature, or you can get an automatic heating system that adapts to the number of people in the restaurant or the time of day
  • Use water flow regulators to ensure to reduce the amount of water that comes from your tap, as well as bringing down the temperature of your heated awater
  • Get boilers and energy-using machinery serviced regularly to ensure they are operating at the optimum levels and not eating up too much energy.

Buying Kitchen and FOH Equipment

From tills and POS to fryers and fridges, you need to have equipment that performs under the pressure of a vibrant restaurant. The initial spend on this might seem too high, but having reliable equipment outweighs the cost of repairing it. Of course, having the relevant insurance cover for your equipment will negate much of that stress.

You could save a great deal if you choose to go for second-hand equipment. Sometimes, if a restaurant is closing down, they will be willing to sell you their bits and pieces for far less than brand new in order to recoup costs more quickly. It is highly advisable to get as much history on the equipment as possible, including previous service dates and information on any breakdowns or problems.

Hiring the Best Team of Staff

Your restaurant relies on its staff, but the hospitality is well known for being somewhat of a revolving door industry. Waiting staff are usually young and are sometimes filling time between educational courses, childcare, or during holidays and breaks from university. It is therefore important to find a team who are dedicated and passionate.

  • Back of House

    For back of house staff, you will likely need highly trained individuals who understand the sometimes significant pressure that can be involved with working in a busy kitchen. Your head chef will need to have a good knowledge of the cuisine you intend to serve (it may therefore be a good idea to only interview candidates with that level of experience) as well as how to manage a team of sous chefs and kitchen porters. It is also very important that your kitchen staff are trained and certified to handle, store and serve food. According to Regulation (EC) 852/2004 of the European Parliament on the Hygiene of Foodstuffs, the Food Safety Act 1990 and Food Hygiene (England Regulations) 2005, all food handlers must be appropriately supervised as well as receive the training that is relevant to their position. Moreover, the head chef (or whoever is responsible for the levels of food hygiene) must have had HACCP training as well.

  • Front of House

    Finding the right staff for front of house can be tough. You want to hire dedicated staff, but the nature of the industry often means it can be a stop gap for some people. Having said that, there are benefits of hiring younger staff members, even if it is for short period of time. Waiters and waitresses can often be found by advertising in local colleges and universities, as well as utilising your restaurant’s social media pages. Take time to understand what drives younger waiting staff, which is often: consistent weekend shifts and the prospect of tips. You can also make the most of part-time workers such as new parents getting back into work after leave, or older generations who require fewer than full-time hours.

There are many ready and willing staff out there, so work out the best way to target the staff you want. Even a simple advertisement in the restaurant window could attract staff or turn dedicated customers into passionate workers.

Finding the Best Restaurant Insurance

Of course, the best way to give yourself peace of mind when starting in the restaurant business is having the most comprehensive insurance cover you can afford. Having the right cover for your premises, your staff, your equipment and your customers is integral in order to have a safe environment for everyone – not to mention giving you financial protection.

Careful management of all the above aspects can make opening your new restaurant somewhat easier. It can be easy to let certain elements fall on the back burner. Don’t just go for the first cooker you find, or the easiest water company to communicate with. Do your research and find what works for you because a little extra attention to these administrative tasks can help you recoup costs further down the line.

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