Comment: Successfully launching a restaurant

Duncan Fraser-Smith discusses what is needed to debut a concept

We are hearing a lot about restaurant closings. Let’s talk about restaurant openings for a change.

I love the start of a new year here, cooler weather, people having returned from vacation with a spring in their step and a flurry of new restaurant openings that just didn’t quite make it by the end of last year to capture the best of the festive season.

I have attended quite a few of these over the last two months and it started me thinking about all the things that need to go into a successful ‘launch’ of an outlet these days. Believe me, I have been witness to some amazing openings and some fundamental disasters since the beginning of the year, so here are a few things to keep in mind when launching your outlet.

Tone of voice — Make sure that the message you convey with your opening is the same message you want to convey once the outlet is up and trading, i.e. don’t throw a 70’s themed opening party for a contemporary modern Asian fusion restaurant.

Give people enough time — far too many times I have received an invitation to a launch event with just 24 hours notice. This is a recipe for failure, please ensure that you issue a save the date at least three weeks in advance so that people can organise themselves.

F&B offering — make sure that what you are offering is in line with your concept. If it is a cocktail party then do miniature versions or representations of the food you have on your menu. Deep fried chicken nuggets at the launch of a Mexican outlet…I don’t think so.

Budget appropriately — By this time, pre-opening budgets are getting a little thin and the owner is desperate to open the doors and start making money. Be strategic when planning your launch and allocate the appropriate amount of funds to see you through. Alternatively, if you have a fantastically clean database, and are supremely confident in your outlet, just open the doors and let people come in.

Support staff — Depending on the size of your venue and the number of people coming to your launch event you may decide to augment you existing trained staff with support staff, i.e. hostesses, food runner etc. Two things that are most critical here, please brief all of them on what your outlet is about, its purpose, story and type of cuisine. More importantly make sure they know the trading hours of the outlet from the next day onwards. These are all questions curious invitees will ask when coming to a launch and the last thing people want to be told is ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I am only here for the event’. On-board them properly and this will not be an issue.

Last but not least, you have put all the planning and preparation into this, this is the time for your new ‘baby’ to launch and be received by your potential clientele so enjoy the moment because the real hard work starts the next day.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the director – global food & beverage for The First Group who is developing, creating and executing more than 30 new concepts to site within the company’s hotel portfolio. Email him at

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