Expanding Operations: When One Just Isn’t Enough

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Whether you’re an aspiring restaurateur or an experienced bar operator, it has likely crossed your mind to open “at least a few” locations.

I think it’s in our nature to think big and always look for more, right?

Multiple units can be difficult, scary, exciting, and rewarding. When the timing is right, expanding with multiple locations can make a lot of sense for a brand, but only if it is truly the right time.

A common first challenge is that many operators are simply not ready or properly positioned to open and operate multiple locations.

To take a concept from one location to two or three and/or to lay the groundwork for franchising, it takes a variety of planning methods, in-depth market research, and the proper execution of a variety of systems.

Keep this in mind: If venue No. 6 doesn't work, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker for you or your brand. But if venue No. 2 doesn't work…that will likely take you down.

Opening the doors to a new venue (or several new locations) is the most satisfying step in the growth process, but it’s also a final step—meaning it’s one that comes after several months of preparing mentally, physically, and emotionally for brand expansion.

What you first need to do is develop your map or growth guide, similar to the roadmap for starting your first location. Here’s another tip: just because you started one location doesn’t mean you can start taking shortcuts. The next one will arguably be even more difficult.

Within your concept growth guide, you need to focus on the items below.

1. Discovery & Assessments

Are you and your personal life prepared for growth? Everything you’re doing now is going to be magnified by two. You need to develop and embrace the right mindset for expansion. You also need to review your learned lessons and challenges from the first location.

Give this a read: How to Improve Business with a Guest Journey Map

And finally, you need to assess your support team—both internally and externally—to ensure you have the right structure of people around you.

2. Concept Development

From brand identity (messaging, core statements, graphic design, and trademarks) to menu development, marketing plans, ideal customer profiles, system development, staff onboarding, training methods, and sound financials—you need to ensure your concept is consistent and fundamentally prepared to properly scale.

3. Prototype Development

How is your first venue operating in terms of flow and revenue per square foot? Take a considerable amount of time to carefully review your first footprint.

Give this a read: No Shortcuts: The Steps You’ll Take to Open a Bar or Restaurant

Are there tweaks in the design that will help maximize its potential? Can you further optimize your pick-up counter, kitchen, bar, or entertainment area(s)? Is there specific equipment that could be positioned differently based on usage or menu mix analysis? Work with a design team to develop the prototype needed for sustainable growth.

4. Feasibility Study

A feasibility study is an essential component of your growing concept’s success, but it’s a process many operators today skip out on, leading to wasted time and a quick loss of investment. A feasibility study must be conducted in order to determine the potential success rate based on market viability through in-depth market research in addition to business viability, financial viability, and location viability.

5. Strategy Plan

How do you plan to grow? Do you need business partners, shareholders, or venture capitalists? Your next step is to develop a strategic plan (yes, another “business plan”) to highlight budgets, supply chain management, marketing strategies, financial objectives, competitive analysis, brand positioning, staff requirements, and contingency plans to ensure early profitability.

6. Growth Plan

It should be no secret from your first location: starting up takes enormous organizational skills. The second location will be no different. Organize your growth plans (noted above) and surround yourself with a project coordinator or manager, plus architect, designer, consultant, contractor, and vendors for furniture, fixtures, and equipment, etc.

7. Project Management

Working closely with your support team, you can delegate tasks and responsibilities to a skilled leadership team. You can’t clone yourself, so you have to make sure that everyone else shares your vision completely. You can’t spend all of your time working on this new location. Remember, you have another location as well—don’t forget about it.

Give this a read: Negotiating the Best Lease for Your Restaurant or Bar

In short, if you feel that perhaps one just isn’t enough, remember the number of locations a restaurateur, management group, or bar owner may have is simply that, just a number.

Don’t grow for the sake of growing.

It’s important to not forget the fundamentals: the quality of food, beverage, entertainment, customer service, team development, culture, and focus on the guest experience is paramount and must be replicated consistently at each location you operate.

Ready to take on the expansion challenge? Doug Radkey will dive even deeper into the nuts and bolts of expanding operations at Nightclub & Bar Show 2020 during his informative session “When One Just Isn't Enough: Expanding Your Business.” As an operator himself, Radkey has gone through the growing pains of opening multiple locations and created a system for setting the odds in favor of success. Register today and add this session to your schedule!

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