Starting a Restaurant in Chicago: 4 Tips For Taking Off

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been kind to Chicago’s restaurant business. It’s estimated that about 20% of Chicago’s 7,500 restaurants will never reopen because of the financial hit they took.

Needless to say, if you’re an aspiring Chicago restaurant owner looking to open a new establishment at this time, you’re facing a lot of challenges. However, launching a new restaurant is risky whether there’s a pandemic or not. Knowing how to make your business stand out from the competition is key.

Here are four tips for starting a restaurant that can increase your chance of success.

1. Know Your Concept

Every restaurant has a concept, whether it’s a family-friendly place to grab fast Mexican food or a formal dining experience that focuses on innovative cuisine and exceptional service. Understanding your own restaurant’s concept will dictate everything from your menu to your branding.

Take the time to determine how your brand is different from your competitors and how you wish to convey yourself to customers. Even your restaurant’s interior decor and wall colors should reflect your concept. The best restaurant furniture will not only make patrons feel comfortable but fit in with your theme. 

2. Choose the Right Location

Location really is everything, especially in the restaurant business. You have to know that your target clientele lives and works in close proximity to where your restaurant resides.

Check out your competition in the neighborhood you’re considering to make sure their concept and offerings are different than yours. Consider as well how convenient the location will be for your patrons; is there parking or public transportation nearby? You want to make it easy for people to find you.

3. Create a Winning Menu and Service

The prettiest interior and best location won’t make a difference if your restaurant can’t deliver what your customers want, which is great food and service. Make sure everything on the menu is inspired and on-point. Your staff should be allowed to taste-test the menu and give feedback.

Likewise, you should have a good training system in place so your staff knows what’s expected of them. But it runs both ways—management needs to ensure that their employees can communicate any concerns or room for improvement to them.

Consistency is also a problem with many restaurants. It’s not uncommon for customers to have a great experience on one visit, only to experience delays and sub-par food on their return. Make sure your business is always able to deliver a high standard of service.

4. Promote Away

You’ll need to develop a marketing plan to get the word out about your restaurant. Every restaurant needs a website for a start—it’s your digital storefront that visitors can go to to check out your menu, have their questions answered, and get a feel for your establishment’s concept. Reach out to the local media to learn if anyone wants to write an article about your restaurant’s launch.

Your social media posts should include photos of your dishes and restaurant and promote any special deals. You may want to consider launching a loyalty program where regular patrons can receive perks. Marketing and communicating with customers is an on-going process and you may need to hire someone or train your staff to manage it for you.

Starting a Restaurant is Tough But Not Impossible

Starting a restaurant in the highly competitive Chicago area is tough but it can be done with a plan in place. Follow the four tips above to ensure your new eatery is a success.

If you’re an aspiring small business owner, check out our latest Business posts for more advice.