Top ten tips to a successful restaurant business and fit-out

Top ten tips to a successful restaurant business and fit-out

Starting a restaurant, café or take-away business can be both exciting and rewarding, however there are many challenges that you will encounter along the way, and that’s before you’ve even opened your doors!

Following our recent fit out of Gambas, one of the latest additions to Bristol’s Cargo development at Wapping Wharf, we caught up with Kieran and Imogen Waite founders of Season & Taste, an independent Bristol based hospitality group.  We were keen to find out how things were going with the new venture and to understand what advice they would offer to others about to embark on a similar journey. 

Here’s what they had to say:

When did you start your business?

We (myself and Imogen) started the business in 2011 after working many years in the hospitality industry as having in-depth knowledge in what you’re going to sell is vital. We began by trialling our business concept with a series of supper clubs from our home (at the time) in centre of Bristol. It was a tall, colourful house with a large open plan cellar offering the ideal space to host our supper clubs.

This early stage of our journey was priceless, allowing us to test dishes and dynamics with family, friends and eventually, paying customers. At the end of the meal we’d hand out questionnaires with the option to pay what you think it’s worth and as we had hoped, people were paying what we thought it was worth. When thinking about starting a new business it’s paramount that you do your market research, as having a good idea doesn’t guarantee a good business.

So, after the rapid success of our supper clubs, we opened Bravas, an authentic tapas bar on Cotham Hill in 2012.


    Why did you start your own business?

    Both of us grew up in family businesses where work wasn’t a job, it was a lifestyle choice. The whole family would work all the time but ultimately, we had autonomy. As a couple, we wanted to continue this way of life and this desire is what drove us to set up our own business.

    Also, we passionately believed that we could offer something different to Bristol. Hospitality has improved a lot in recent times, but turn back a decade and good restaurants and opportunities for talented food enthusiasts to break through were few and far between. Our mission has always been to serve simple, freshly prepared, high quality food and drinks in an atmosphere that is both welcoming and fun for customers and employees. 

      When did you open your first restaurant?

      The story behind us finding our first premises is quite an interesting one. 

      In our spare time during evenings and weekends, we would jog around Bristol to try and find the right location… A great way to research the area and also stay in shape! The famous adage quotes “location, location, location” but in our experience it’s more about context and doing the right thing in the right place. Cotham and the wider demographic of Bristol is open-minded and although a sharing menu (with table sharing) was quite a new concept 6 years ago we felt that we could attract regular and local customers. Bristol embraces independence and community, key ingredients that are deep within the soul of our business, so we knew that the fit would be right.

      What are your top ten tips to a successful restaurant business and fit-out?

      As mentioned earlier, we opened Bravas in April 2012 after spending the first 3 months fitting out the premises, achieved with the help and support of family and friends. It was a heart-warming experience but not something we’d be willing to go through again. We learnt the hard way that it really does pay to leave the fit out to the experts.

      Season & Taste have since launched and fitted out a further 4 restaurants, starting with Bakers & Co in 2014, Cargo Cantina in 2017, Gambas last year and soon to open Masa Mezcal. This time, with the help and expertise of Mobius Works! 

      Here’s the dynamic duo’s top ten tips to a successful restaurant business and fit-out:

      1. Stick to the plan

      Always stick to your business plan. It should be a living document that you continually refer back to. Whatever your set up cost is; double it.  And, whatever your predicted turnover is; half it. Could your business survive?! 

      1. Hit the spot

      With a comprehensive understanding of your customer and local knowledge, pick the right location for your business. If you’re not confident about finding premises yourself consider appointing a local property agent to help. Finding an agent who is proactive and up-to-date with local market intelligence could prove invaluable. Investing in proper business relationships will really pay dividends. This is something a lot of business owners learn the hard way.

      1. Get inspired but keep things simple

      Every business needs a story and with the commercial world being so competitive, the strongest stories will be the most compelling. Incorporate and convey the story in your design scheme but keep things simple. This approach will keep things affordable, maintain continuity and help make things easier to control in the long term. Put as much thought into your design scheme as possible as it’s widely agreed that customer experience will soon overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

      1. Appoint your fit out contractor

      Do your research, get recommendations and choose your fit out contractor wisely as you’ll be entering into a long-term relationship. The right fit out partner will hold the project together and guide you through the technicalities, legalities and help inspire you creatively. Work with a contractor that finds solutions, not problems.

      1. Set a budget

      Working closely with your appointed fit out contractor you’ll need to develop a budget that fits within your business plan as closely as possible. Be prepared to negotiate but remember that it’s often a false economy to buy cheap. If you do, you’ll almost certainly end up buying twice! A good fit out contractor will always listen and find a way to make it work and achieve a fantastic end result.

      1. Plan, plan and plan again

      Timescales can be one of the hardest things to keep on track but make sure the deadlines you set are realistic. Refer to your business plan and ascertain when your business needs to be operational to maximise your revenue streams. Your fit out partner will help manage the timescales and critical path (such as key items of furniture and equipment) for you but once you get to the stage of employing staff, you have to open so keep pushing!

      1. Shout about it

      You’re about to open the doors to your business so start creating hype as soon as possible. There are so many social media platforms to choose from now there is no reason why you can’t build an online following and loyal customer base before you’ve even opened! If online isn’t your thing, bring the focus back to the shop with window graphics promoting the business and even create a gorilla marketing campaign in the area. There are many options to build intrigue ready for the big reveal.

      1. Recruit well

      Customer service is invaluable, so recruit early and well. Find a balance between emotional skill and technical skill (51% personality against 49% technical ability). A quick fix sometimes has massive long-term issues so hold your nerve and wait for the right people.

      1. Soft launch

      Before you open to the public, trial run your offering to a restricted audience to test how your business operates. Don’t just invite family and friends, invite a cross section of people you don’t know so that you get honest feedback about what’s working and what needs improving. 

      1. Eat, sleep, repeat

      So, now the doors to your business are open… The hard work begins! Once open it is critical that you maintain consistency and quality. By all means listen to customers and employees via comment cards but keep it simple with a couple of questions such as “What did you enjoy?” and “What could we do better?”.

      How has the experience been working with Mobius?

      Our experience of working with Mobius has been very positive. Part of growing up as a business is to work with professionals and that’s what we’ve done. They’re a reliable, young and dynamic construction company providing good quality workmanship by local tradesman and we’re keen to work together to build a relationship for the long term.

      Looking to start a new project?

      Get in touch with us today and see how we can help!