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How to open a successful new restaurant U.K.

6 min read
How to open a successful new restaurant U.K

In this article we’ll cover:

Oh hello there…

Restaurants are about hospitality, passion and dedication.

Below is the TableYETi guide to successfully establishing a new restaurant brand in the U.K. There is no silver bullet but following the steps below can improve your probability of success.

We’re in no doubt that people eat out more than ever, people even eat out, when they eat in (hello Deliveroo & Uber Eats).

It’s also a safe assumption that a successful restaurant can print considerable pound notes. Though as you may well know a great way to lose a pile of cash is to invest in a new restaurant, run by inexperienced restaurateurs.

At TableYETi we believe in the lean startup methodology, and strongly recommend that a budding restaurateur follow the steps below to bring their dreams of owning a restaurant to life.

p.s if you’ve already tested your concept and have an audience but want to learn more about finding a venue and launching, skip to step 6.

1 – Test your restaurant idea without breaking the bank!

Surely testing a restaurant idea is going to cost loads of money, nope, you’re wrong, two good friends of mine proved there whole smoked meat business idea while cooking on a ski season.

Total cost for them £0.00 because somebody else footed the bill.

Ok, I hear you, I can’t go and do a ski season and test my ideas on somebody else’s payroll. However, you can try some of the ideas below for very little money:

Host a dinner party for friends and cook the food you intend to serve in your restaurant. (though not the best way to get real feedback).

List a dinner on EatWith.com and see how many people are interested in your culinary experience.

Find a new event that is desperate for food traders. You should be able to pick up a spot for less than £300, and you’ll be able to sell some of your dishes to ‘real’ customers.

(don’t worry about a brand yet, this is all about the food for the moment)

Make sure you collect feedback on your dishes, set up an iPad on your counter and ask people to leave feedback on the individual meals. (plug number one, Yetipay.me can help with feedback collection).

note* you’ll need to register as a food business to list on EatWith.com and sell food at events.

2 – Choosing your brand

Naming a business can be hard, really hard. Below are some tips and tricks to get it right.

Bash some words together. Pizza + Express = PizzaExpress.

Ok, it’s not that easy, the way you do this is you take an object that is relevant to your product, say table (people pay at tables) and something that is relevant to your service aka yeti (we want to tame yetis in the restaurant around the world).

Eureka out pops the brand TableYETi.com

You could use something arbitrary, but memorable think Orange for mobile phones.

If you’re stuck, throw a company naming party and drink loads of wine with your friends until you come up with something (or pass out).

Maybe even go proper lean startup on this and run two facebook adverts with two different names (this is called A/B testing) and see which one gets more clicks. Then do the same again and again and again until you find the best name in the history of humanity. Most clicks win, simple.

Hopefully, that will get you started on naming your restaurant brand, but don’t forget to check you can get a suitable website domain too

3 – Get yourself a permanent residency

Whooo you’ve tested your concept using the advice in step one and come up with a meaningful brand utilising the information in step two.

It’s now time to find yourself a residence; we’re not talking about a restaurant here, we’re talking about a permanent food stand at a food market like the ones listed below. Click the locations to open a new window.

moreover, that’s just London (and I’ve probably missed some), there are similar opportunities all over the U.K.

Somethings to watch out for here are never to sign a lengthy contract. Always push for a profit share arrangement as they’re most definitely the best.

You’ll want to apply to lots of these venues as competition is fierce, that’s why it’s super important that you’ve come up with and tested an epic concept.

You’ll get there and once you do you’ll be well on the way to success.

4 – Refine your small menu over and over

Ok, so you’ve found yourself an epic permanent venue, and the dishes are beginning to roll off the production line to your customers.

We’d recommend a small menu, no more than 4/5 items (including those delicious double dipped sweet potato fries).

Now the trick here is to once per week swap the worst performing product for something new.

Uh oh, but how do you find out what the worst performing product is?

Simple, you ask your customers for feedback, and you record that feedback somewhere (small plug, yetipay.me can help with this, drop us a message anytime, and we’ll tell you how).

You continually develop the menu until every last item is scoring 5* after 5* after 5*.

We guarantee if that is happening, you’ll have the biggest queue in the venue.

5 – Build your audience

The famous saying goes, build it, and they will come. YEH RIGHT. This should be more like, make it and they won’t turn up unless you have their email address, they add you on Instagram and maybe just maybe they’ll give you the time of day.

However, how do I build the audience I hear you say, it’s pretty simple actually:

Please give them a reason to provide you with their email address.

Give them the way to give you their email address.

Make it f**king easy to add you on Instagram.

Guess what? yetipay.me can help you with all three, but you could always start with a clipboard and printed QR code.

Now each day you’re flipping burgers, you’re also building your audience with minimal effort. Booom, now that wasn’t hard, was it?

note* that we started building the audience after we’ve iterated on the menu, this may happen organically before, but once you’re 5*ing every day, it’s time to turbocharge collection.

6 – Find the perfect premises

Location, location, location, location, location, I’m sure you’ve heard that word repeated to you a multitude of times, so one more time LOCATION.

However, what makes a good location, well have you ever wondered why everytime you see a Pret, you also see a Costa, or every time you see a Pizza Express there is a Prezzo right around the corner!

That’s because there is product market fit for that type of restaurant in that particular area. The reason there is many factors determine product-market fit:

The population of the local area
Demographics of the local area
Transport to the district the restaurant is located in
Demographics of the metropolitan area
Local and metropolitan wealth (Michelin stars don’t mean much in Hull)
You have a big garden in central London (summer product-market fit)

Both the office for national statistics and the .gov website for statistics are a great place to start. If you can’t find what you need, remember Google is your friend.

The best way to thus find the perfect location is to pick an area that already has restaurants in it, and then research why those restaurants are thriving. You can survey customers exiting restaurants, ask them questions like, why did you dine here if they answer because I was passing by, likely means that restaurant has good footfall. They may respond, it’s in my local area, that says the district probably has restaurant loving local population.

You can also run location targeted Facebook adverts, with your value proposition in the headline (epic jerk chicken in Brixton). Then see how many people click to find out more. Lots of clicks, means lots of people are interested in epic jerk chicken in the target area. If you want to take things one step further, you can even collect emails. OMG.

You should see a pattern here, research + testing = increased probability of success.

7 – Get your licenses and insurances

Boring I grasp, but reasonably crucial if you don’t want to end up in JAIL.

Let us start with the most exciting, Pest Control, and yep you need adequate procedures in place to ensure that your pesky pests are controlled.

Moving on quickly, to the Alcohol License, let us be honest, you’re opening a restaurant in the UK, you’re not going to have many customers if you don’t have an alcohol license. You can apply for one from your local council’s website. Click here

Now being that you’re a restaurant, you’re probably intending on serving food, well to do that you need Food Premises Approval. Again your local council is where you can get one of these bad boys from? Click here

To make sure that your food hygiene processes are up to scratch you need a food hygiene certificate. The is the one that gives you a score out of 5, if you can’t get a 5, seriously, go home and try again. p.s the Environmental Health Officer can visit you at any time, and if you’re not following the rules, they can shut your dreams down. Click here

Everybody loves a bit of insurance, especially the insurance companies with his or her private jets and marble towers. Though putting the hatred to one side, you need protection; specifically, you need the following coverages: Public Liability and Employer Liability. They shouldn’t break the bank, so make sure you shop around.

Get down and boogie with the PRS music license. Yep, you need a permit to play music in your restaurant. The money is distributed to the relevant copyright holders, and it does, musicians get money in the post every three months. Click here

so that’s it for your licensing requirements, I guess it wasn’t that bad now, was it.

8 – Outfit your restaurant – Things

Card machines, tables, chairs, lighting, podiums, rustic pots, plants, cookers, extraction fans, fridges, taps, plugs, stools, sofas, toilets this list could go on and on.

Outfitting your restaurant can be an expensive endeavour, and my main piece of advice would be, in the early stages, don’t stretch your budget too far. It’s better to be functional than fancy unless your brand and customers demand fancy. Again all comes back to product market fit.

Don’t skimp on the outside, make sure you have a good sign that people can see from multiple angles, you want that passing traffic to frequent your establishment.

Secondhand is your friend, without being too morbid; there are hundreds of restaurants closing down all over the U.K. each month. These are a great place to pick up some bargains especially for more significant items like fridges and kitchen equipment. You can find some absolute second hands gems on Curlew. Though don’t forget all commercial equipment needs to be both PAC and Gas tested as required.

9 – Outfit your restaurant – Technology

What you shouldn’t skimp on are the technology platforms your restaurant runs on, having a reliable and robust insight into stock, sales, feedback and accounting is a must. Front of house you’re going to require two critical pieces of technology 1) being ePOS (electronic point of sale or till) and 2) being your payment system (sometimes called PDQs).

ePOS wise you have some outstanding options, we’d always suggest an off the shelf solution as you start as these won’t break the bank, and you can run them on an iPad or touchscreen computer. These systems will track stock and sales. Off the shelf and old-school systems below:

Off the shelf

ePOS now
iZettle Pro

Old school

ICR Touch

For payments, if you plan on doing table service, obviously we’d recommend the Yetipay payment | feedback | review system as you can kill many birds with one stone and your customers will love being able to pay/split bills and leave in double time.

However, if you’d sooner go down a more traditional payment route, then there are a plethora of alternative options where you print the bill, and the waiter takes the payment.

Ingenico card machine or similar

First Data

Card reader linked to a tablet or phone


Feedback collection and aggregation is a must for 21st-century restaurants. You have a multitude of ways to collect feedback, but really you have two logical routes.

Route one you can use something like Google Forms to collect feedback and then check out the results in a google spreadsheet.

Route two you can use an off the shelf system to collect feedback. Good systems need to be able to generate actionable feedback that is presented so that you can make decisions on menu items and staff performance. In the UK you currently have two options for this: Yumpingo.com (whom only work with huge brands) or Yetipay, we’ll work with anyone to help fulfil our goal of improving how the world creates incredible restaurant experiences.

As this is your first restaurant, I’m going to assume that you don’t have a full-time financial director for your business. What that means is you’re going to have to do some of the legwork yourself. As a business, you need to file the information underneath with companies house and HMRC:

The most cost-effective way to do this is to maintain your bookkeeping yourselves using software like Xero or Quickbooks. These two pieces of software can file Payroll and VAT and generate the records that a professional account needs to submit your confirmation statement, annual return and corporation tax return.

Some notes on running payroll, payroll can be complicated and though both Xero and Quickbooks can run the payroll for you, it may well make sense to outsource this function to a payroll management company that uses ether Xero or Quickbooks, which will keep you compliant plus will keep all the data in one piece of software.

The same can be said for accounts receivable and payable, this is a function that once up and running you may well want to outsource. What again is essential is that you keep all the data in one place.

10 – The launch

Here we go, congratulations you’ve come a long way! Remember that dinner party you hosted with your friends and family, serving them the worlds tastiest sweet potato fries.

However, this isn’t the time to rest on your laurels; this is the time to hustle harder than you’ve ever hustled before. Take all those lessons you’ve learnt to launch the worlds most kick-ass sweet potato fries restaurant and use them to take over the restaurant world.

Slow down though; it’s time for the soft launch. This is where you get the business processes under control before you open the doors to the general public. This also gives you an opportunity to do some final product iterations.

Firstly, have an evening for friends and family. Use Yetipay.me to collect feedback.

Secondly, have a week of evenings for your top 100 customers, the ones who love all your Instagram posts and respond to your email newsletters. During the week use Yetipay.me to collect feedback.

Thirdly, open the doors, but don’t promote the fact that you’re open. This is time to grab some of that foot traffic from your excellent location. Again you could use Yetipay.me to collect feedback.

Fourthly, once the feedback is beginning to improve, host an evening for friends, family, those top 100 customers and invite some of the top local influencers to come and have some free food.

Now it’s time to open the doors to the world. To keep up the momentum, we’d recommend promoting using the following channels:

Don’t forget, that your email list will keep growing if you use Yetipay.me

11 – Iterations upon iterations upon iterations

You’ve done it; again congratulations are in order your restaurant is off the ground and revenue is growing week to week. Now the next significant challenges are maintaining this growth.

Two factors will determine your long-term success; how the quality of service and quality of products align with your market. In the long term, this is where most restaurants fail, especially as they try to grow from one owner-operator restaurant to a multi-site operation. Forbes wrote a great article on restaurant failure.

To combat this, we recommend continual improvement based on customer feedback. Systems like Yetipay.me or Yumpingo can help as both can benchmark meals against previous performance. You want to know if your old burger performs better than your new burger recipe. In the early days, you also want to be able to see which quickly meals do and don’t resonate with your market. Data can help with this.

If you get the meals right, the next core part of the business is the quality of service. Again you want to be able to see which new waiters and waitresses are performing well and which ones are performing poorly. The only system that we know that currently can give you actionable insight into your waiting staff is Yetipay.me.

Iterate on your meals, and iterate on your staff until you get it right. however, how will you know that you got it right? Well, there is a score called NPS which stands for Net Promoter Score.

The basis of NPS is straightforward; it asks how likely on a scale of 1-10 would you be to recommend this restaurant to a friend. If you’re consistently getting 7’s and above you’re doing things correctly, until this point you need to keep iterating on your menu and staff.

Yetipay.me and other systems like Feed it Back can help you measure this. Once you’ve nailed the NPS move onto the final step.

12 – Once you’ve nailed it, start the review engine

and last, but by no means least, it’s time to engage your customers to leave reviews all over the internet.

Some customers may have already begun to do this, which is excellent, especially if they’re positive: but don’t worry if they’re not all five* because now that you have a well-oiled restaurant consistently getting 7+ NPS scores internally, you can drown out those average reviews with guaranteed incredible ones.

Shameless Yetipay.me plug, but no other system on planet earth can measure customer feedback internal, then once ready, push those customers to leave incredible feedback on the most popular channels. Some of the most popular review channels are below:

Though You don’t need Yetipay.me to do any of this, it can all be done using Google Forms and a spreadsheet it’s just that by using a system built specifically to handle feedback gives you time to focus on getting things right. Let us do the feedback grunt work, so you don’t have to.

Good Luck…