For those who are thinking about getting into the competitive and challenging restaurant business it is good to first settle on a format. The choice depends on budgets, goals and often experience. For those with limited resources, a food truck or pop-up restaurant may be the best option as opposed to a brick-and-mortar restaurant which is capital intensive. It’s important to do research into the local market and understand what type of restaurant will be most successful for your specific needs.

There are several types of restaurant formats, each with its own unique characteristics. Some of the most common types include:

  1. Fast casual: Fast casual restaurants offer a limited menu of high-quality, made-to-order items that are typically served quickly. Examples include Chipotle and Panera Bread.
  2. Casual dining: Casual dining restaurants offer a more relaxed atmosphere and a wide variety of menu options. These restaurants often have table service and may offer a bar or lounge area. Examples include Olive Garden and Applebee’s.
  3. Fine dining: Fine dining restaurants offer a high-end dining experience, with upscale menus, formal service, and elegant decor. Examples include The French Laundry and Per Se.
  4. Family-style: Family-style restaurants offer large portions of food that are meant to be shared by multiple people. Examples include The Old Spaghetti Factory and Golden Corral.
  5. Quick service: Quick service restaurants offer a limited menu of fast food items that are typically served quickly at a counter or drive-thru. Examples include McDonald’s and Subway.
  6. Buffet: Buffet restaurants offer a variety of dishes that customers can serve themselves from a buffet line. Examples include Golden Corral and Sizzler.
  7. Food trucks: Food trucks are mobile restaurants that typically serve street food and are parked in a specific location for a certain period of time. Examples include Kogi BBQ Truck and The Grilled Cheese Truck.

Once a format is decided on, often the next biggest decision involves whether to become a franchisee or go independent. A franchisee operates a business using the trademark, products, and business model of a larger company, known as the franchisor. An independent restaurant, on the other hand, is a business that is not part of a franchise and operates under its own name and management. Independent restaurants have more freedom in terms of menu, pricing, and overall concept, while franchisees must adhere to certain guidelines set by the franchisor.

In either case, an experienced lawyer is required to review and approve contracts as is an experienced accountant or tax pro. If considering going the franchised route it’s a good idea to hire a franchise consulting company. Finally, it’s important to go in with “eyes wide open” as operating any restaurant is hard work and fraught with challenges.