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How to Start a Mom and Pop Restaurant in Your Community


Starting a mom-and-pop restaurant is a great way to encourage local consumption, make an income, and ensure the distribution of wealth. Mom-and-pop establishments contribute directly to the community by offering diverse services customized to the needs of the locals. According to the Financial Times, there were 4.7 million mom-and-pop stores in the U.S. by 2020. Discover how to start a mom-and-pop restaurant in your community with these ten tips.

1. Make Your Space Secure

To learn how to start a mom-and-pop restaurant, you must consider security. Setting up the place will cost you some savings and loans, so it’s only logical to protect your investments. Besides, a secure space creates a positive impression on your customers. No one wants to dine with their family while worrying about an invasion or accident. The more secure and satisfied they feel, the more likely they’ll return. Yet security is important to your employees too – especially in the cooking area. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 61% of restaurant fires involve cooking equipment.

The first step in securing your restaurant space is installing quality locks for the windows and doors. You can work with a commercial locksmith to get a good match for your property that deters burglars. Also, ensure that your property is well-lit. Some burglars are easily deterred by illumination because they’re more conspicuous. However, security goes beyond tools – it involves behavior. Start by training your employees on safety and security. For example, what’s your planned system for handling cash? Is there a system in place to report suspicious activities? Also, work with local law enforcement since they have solid security knowledge.

2. Add Accessibility Features

Restaurants serve a diverse market with people of varying needs. So, if you want to learn how to start a mom and pop restaurant, you must consider accessibility. Accessible businesses promote inclusivity and customer reach. Everybody feels welcome in your space and knows you went out of your way to offer a true ‘mom and pop’ experience. As the world becomes more inclusive and sympathetic to people with disabilities, laws are also evolving, requiring businesses to make buildings accessible.

Before you can add any accessibility features, it’s best if you conduct an accessibility assessment. You can work with a professional to evaluate the layout and areas with potential barriers. Next, consider the parking: is there a designated spot for customers with disabilities?

Ensure you add spots wide enough and with clear signage. If your restaurant is located in the upper parts of the building, consider engaging a commercial elevator service to ensure the floor is accessible. If your restaurant has steps at the entrance, add ramps so persons with disabilities can easily access them.

3. Get Your Finances in Order

According to Lending Tree, 1 in 5 small businesses fail in the first year. While that is a stark statistic, you can protect your business in its younger years by organizing your finances. Before starting a business, you should be financially prepared to cover costs such as employee wages, initial inventory, and leases.

You can balance expenditures and savings once you understand the estimated costs and budget. Some small businesses fail because of overspending or over-relying on the profits in the first year. However, a budget keeps you in line because you know how much you can spend without affecting your financial standing.

A good way to put your finances in order is to create a business plan— what are your target market, revenue projections, and expected expenditures? A business plan may not capture everything in your business, but it is a good starting point. Ensure you have enough funding before starting the business, so check your savings and loans.

Next, set up an accounting system to accurately track income and expenses. You may consider hiring business tax accountants to help you keep a detailed account of your finances and ensure compliance with the law. As business owners, it’ll be essential to keep a close eye on the cash flows so you can identify issues before they become too deep.

4. Set up Your Payroll

One thing that is easy to skip when learning how to start a mom-and-pop restaurant is payroll accounting. You can be so focused on the customer that employees skip your mind. However, setting up your payroll helps you comply with labor laws and keep your employees happy.

Labor laws expect you to accurately calculate employees’ wages, overtime, and pay on time. Your employees will also be satisfied when payment arrives on time in their account. But that’s not all. Setting up your payroll enables you to facilitate tax reporting easily.

Begin by registering with tax authorities by obtaining an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. EIN helps you report and remit payroll taxes accurately. Evaluate if your employees are hourly or salaried because it affects how you calculate wages and overtime pay. Next, choose a payroll system through payroll software or a reliable third party. Managing a mom and pop restaurant is already enough work; you don’t need a manual payroll system to add more work to your table.

5. Decorate Your Dining Area

The whole point of visiting a restaurant is to dine and have conversations – so think about dé cor when considering how to start a mom and pop restaurant. Thoughtful dé cor can set the tone and ambiance of dining, thus encouraging repeat business. The restaurant industry is quite competitive, so dé cor is a time to reflect your unique personality and theme.

When the dé cor is consistent and well-curated, customers will remember your brand identity and the customer experience you offered. Some customers will feel appreciated and thought of in your visually pleasing setting. Besides, restaurants are spots for romantic birds, so make their time worthwhile with the best floral centerpieces.

Start by determining your theme and style – is it cozy and rustic, modern and minimalist, or dreamy and artsy? Determining your theme will guide your dé cor choices and style. Furniture is a core dé cor element, so invest in high-quality tables and chairs that can withstand heavy daily use.

Don’t forget to factor in furniture maintenance and aesthetics. Color can also define your restaurant’s identity, so choose colors that evoke your desired emotions but match them with your branding elements. Former customers should be able to identify your brand identity anywhere.

6. Keep Your Kitchen Spotless

Did you know that 26% of customers will leave because of a dirty restroom? Some restaurants know this, so they keep the bathrooms pristine because customers frequent the restrooms. But what of your kitchen that’s generally out of sight for customers?

While you can clean up to keep the health inspectors at bay, you can clean for better reasons. If you are considering how to start a mom and pop restaurant, you care about your community. By maintaining high standards of hygiene in your kitchen, you are saying you care about your customer’s health and the extension of your community.

Start by creating cleaning procedures. Even if you subcontract some aspects to a third party, such as a drain cleaning company, you should have standardized procedures everyone should follow. Train your staff on how to keep the kitchen spotless.

Also, use an ergonomic design in your kitchen so it’s easy to clean up without interrupting daily operations. A good strategy for cleaning is the ‘clean as you go’ approach. It helps staff clean up as they work to prevent buildup and cross-contamination.

7. Invest in a Sign

You’d be forgiven for thinking that online branding is the only visibility you need as a business. Physical branding is still alive and contributes to the growth of a business, especially restaurants. A survey of 1000 participants by Custom Neon found that 76% of the respondents had visited a business because of attractive signage – so invest in a sign.

Commercial signage communicates your location, services, and values. A minimalist signage could communicate you are more about experiences than stuff, while an eco-sign shows off your sustainability values. The signage is also your 24/7 marketing arsenal.

Before you can buy signage, ensure you have a memorable and outstanding logo. Work with a graphic designer who understands physical signages so that the logo is easy to work with. You can choose storefronts, awnings, channel letters, or neon signs for the signs. Ensure that the signage is the right size so it’s visible from far but not too large to overwhelms your establishment. When it comes to materials, opt for durable and weather-resistant clothes, especially if you live in an area with adverse weather conditions.

8. Upgrade Your Lighting

Lighting in a restaurant doesn’t have to be too bright – but the right choice can affect mood and satisfaction. Depending on the kind of mood and functionality you want to create, upgrade lighting to affect the mood and increase the ambiance. However, light is also for functional reasons, especially in the evening hours.

After learning how to start a mom and pop restaurant, the last thing you need is to find a rant on Twitter because someone tripped in your restaurant. So, ensure the bathrooms are well-lit, and the stairs are visible from afar. Some people prefer warm light when eating, so work with a commercial electrical contractor to find the right balance.

Your first step should be conducting a lighting audit: where do areas need improvement? Working with a professional will help you zero in on the areas that need your attention the most. Next, add lighting fixtures that complement your restaurant’s theme and ambiance.

Chandeliers and hanging lights can add character to your space invitingly. A good tip is to layer the lighting: ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting illuminates the space, task lighting helps focus on specific areas, and accent lighting spotlights the features.

9. Install AC

The current building probably already has A.C., but how effective is it? You may have to install a new A.C. if the current one is ineffective. A good A.C. saves money by consuming little energy. According to the University of Florida, leaks in the ductwork could lead to a 40% loss in energy consumption. You want to ensure your A.C. works for you and not the other way around.

Customer comfort is another reason for considering air conditioning installations. While the A.C. whirls, are your customers drying off sweat every two minutes? A functional A.C. makes patrons forget about the weather and focus on what matters most – your food.

As you learn how to start a mom and pop restaurant, assessing your needs is crucial. Evaluate all your cooling needs by considering your space, equipment, and general climatic conditions. The best bet is working with professional contractors.

Experts can help you choose the right HVAC system based on your needs. For example, you can choose central air conditioning, split systems, and ductless mini-split systems. Once you have installed the AC, schedule maintenance to ensure quality air control throughout the year.

10. Find a Waste Solution

Restaurants are a big source of food waste. According to Fourth Enterprises, a restaurant can produce about 25,000-75,000 pounds of waste annually. If you want to learn how to start a mom and pop restaurant, you must prepare to deal with waste.

For starters, it’s your environmental responsibility to ensure the safe disposal of waste, especially considering the climate change crisis. Besides, without a proper waste solution, your restaurant will be unhygienic and thus unattractive to customers. You may also face hefty fines. The best way to address waste is to look for a dumpster rental business to partner with.

To bring it all together, you can contribute positively to your community by learning how to start a mom and pop restaurant. While other things like marketing matter, laying down the basics of security and hygiene is a good starting point. Some small restaurants closed down because of avoidable issues such as pest infestation. Hopefully, using these ten tips, you can make your community proud.

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