When you decide to set up a business, there will always be questions to answer. Interestingly, “what type of business?” usually isn’t one. Let’s face it; you should already know what type. You know what you’re good at and what you enjoy. That’s the easy part. The other questions are a little more nuanced, and it is how you answer these that will make all the difference.
So you know the niche your business is going to fit into. But you’ll need your USP. Just deciding you’re going to sell jewelry, for example, is not enough. What type of jewelry, where’s your price range going to be? Are you making your own, or are you going to buy from abroad and sell at a profit? These questions, mind you, are barely scratching the surface.
You know you want to start a business, and you know what kind. But there are bigger questions too, of which one of the most important is where you will be based. You can run a business cheaply from your garage or bedroom, and turn a tidy profit. But if you want to start really making money, or diversify what you do, you’ll need business premises. That’s where you need to get creative.
Starting From The Ground Up?
Let’s say you’re opening one of the most popular types of business currently out there – an old-fashioned diner. There may be plenty of them around, but there’s a lot you can do to make yours stand out. Pick a dish that you can specialize in and make it a central focus of the diner. Maybe even put that dish in the name, as long as it doesn’t make customers think that’s all you do.
Any kind of food joint needs to be up to a high standard before you can run a business out of it. Of course, you know this. You weren’t going to sell burgers out of a doorway. But once you’ve got an idea in mind, you have a lot of work on to make the reality match your imagination. The same principle applies to any kind of business; find what makes you unique.
We’re going to continue with the diner as an example, but the same techniques apply across all industries.
The first thing you need to consider is where you’re going to be based. Great sites obviously cost a lot more than average ones, and you’re less likely to find space in them. On the other hand, you’ll need to do less with it if you can afford the lease; that’s a significant advantage.
You may look at vacant lots in your hometown and nearby. The advantage to these is that they’ll be affordable. The disadvantage is that they’re vacant. Which means that someone was running a business there, and isn’t anymore. As no-one has swooped straight in and snapped up the premises, the likelihood is it wasn’t making a profit.
That’s not to say you strike those properties off your list right away. What was the person before you doing with the lot? If it was a bookshop, for example, maybe they just didn’t have the footfall of bibliophiles. Scope out the area, maybe do some market research and check what’s nearby. If there are plenty of bars, for example, there’ll be plenty of hungry customers.
Think, also, about whether you’ll be running a delivery service. Prime location is less important if you’re going to be doing a lot of your business online. If your premises are mainly just a place for preparation, with limited seating, then you don’t need to be as picky. But a sound zip code still counts for something. You don’t want people to think “Ewww, I’m not eating from THERE.”
- Keep an open mind
- Do your research
- Think about how all aspects of your business will work from that location
The look of a place is what brings customers in and makes them want to stay. We’ll deal more with that in Step 3. But to give them a reason to stay, your diner needs to be functional. Before you ever open your doors to the public, you need to make sure the place is in full working order. This can mean some extensive work is required.
If a site has lain dormant for a while, then you have to assume that there are some issues with the infrastructure. If any appliances remain behind from the previous owner, judge them on an item-by-item basis. A point of sale system that still works may be useful once refurbished, but that largely depends on the industry you are in. For example, if you are in the restaurant industry, you’ll want to determine which POS system is best for you before determining if you should keep any that have been left behind. On the other hand, if the place was used for food preparation, get rid of any traces of prep equipment/materials and replace with new ones. You can’t be sure any of it is still safe to use.
You’ll also be wise to call in industrial electricians to at the very least look at the wiring of the building. If you’re lucky, it will be up to scratch, but it’s more likely some rewiring will need to be done. If a building has been left empty, there is always the chance that it will have become a haven for rats and other unwelcome intruders. Chances are there will be parts that are unsafe.
Also hire an industrial cleaner for at least a day. Whatever your diner was in a previous life, some traces will have been left. They will prevent your diner from being up to health code, so they need to go before you ever put a paintbrush to a wall. Which brings us to…
- Be aware of regulations
- Make sure the premises are safe
- Consult the professionals if unsure
Step 3: Decor
It’s a fact that any premises where you expect people to come through the door need to be attractive from outside. When it’s a fast-food joint, this is all the more important. There needs to be a lot of light, natural and electric, to put out a message that this is a happy place. A 50s vibe is a good way to go. It’s even more important than that, though. If you walk past a fast-food place and it’s dark in opening hours, what do you assume?
If you’re like most people, you’ll assume that it’s dirty and grimy inside. Your message needs to be that this is the kind of place they want to eat, or at least to buy the food they’ll eat elsewhere. Perception is hugely important. Even if you keep a place scrupulously clean, dim lighting creates the impression that it is not. In the minds of the customer and, possibly, that of the environmental health inspector.
To sum up the above two paragraphs in a sentence, you want Grease the movie, not grease on the floors.
- Fitting to your business type
Have you ever driven through a town looking for a business you found online? How many times have you slowed down, stopped or otherwise hesitated, asking “Is that it?” because of shops and cafes that don’t have prominent signage outside? Particularly for a business that is focused around service, you need to be visible. So you need to be in contact early on with sign makers and possibly digital display experts.
Another important aspect to remember, though inexpensive, is to show the menu for the diner prominently. Have it front and center of the window that faces out onto the sidewalk. People walking past will stop to read it as a reflex, and if they like what they read, they become a customer. Someone who was just on their way to catch a bus will suddenly decide they want a milkshake.
- Be obvious and unmissable
- Make it clear what your business is from a single glance
- Provide a preview of the products you offer (such as, in the example above, your menu)
Similar to step 4, we’ve all been in a car going somewhere and on arrival started to pull up. We then freeze, shrug and say “where do I park?”. And surely all of us, at one time or another, have then decided we’ll go somewhere else. If it’s raining outside, you’ll want people to be able to get out of their car and come straight in. Make it as easy as possible for them.
Parking is also of primary importance if you are going to be running a delivery service from the diner. After all, you want to get food from the diner to the customers in as short a time as possible. Leaving your delivery driver to march back and forth to a car parked halfway down the block will make this tougher. It’s even fair to say that a smaller building with a larger car park may be better than vice versa. It will certainly attract takeout customers.
- Think how customers will get to you
- Consider the weather possibilities
- Think about your own loading/unloading needs
Follow these rules, and put your own spin on them. The thing that makes your business unique. Then get going with putting into action a business that is fun and unique to run, makes people happy and gives you the chance to show off. The possibilities are endless; decide on yours and get going today.