{5 things} grand opening lessons

homestead grand opening Grand opening a restaurant is never easy or straight forward. We have done six restaurant openings now. Our business is not formulaic, especially since we tend to gravitate towards historic buildings with historic complications. There are always speed bumps that will inevitably delay the initial timeline by two, four, even six months or more. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of schedules to coordinate, infinite minute details that need to be addressed, and the impenetrable government agencies that we have to work with.

Each time, there are crucial things to be learned so that the next goes hopefully smoother. By the "next", I mean in one month when we open Puckett's in Chattanooga. Yee haw!

Here are 5 important lessons that I have learned in the last few restaurant openings:

1. Be Calm and Carry On.

Yes, this is a cliche in today's zeitgeist. Yes, it is overused and misused, and on way too many t-shirts with too many gratuitous variations. But when opening a restaurant, it must be the mantra that you chant to yourself every morning when you wake up, every time you get bad news about existing plumbing that has to be torn out and redone, every time that you can't get ahold of the inspector that the entire project hinges on, and every night when you lay your head down only for your mind to race for hours. Yes indeed, be calm and carry on.

2. Make Friends, or at least Frenemies.

Have I ever lost my cool and blown up at say, a subcontractor or a certain government agency for making my life unnecessarily more complicated and difficult? Well, yes I'll admit that. Did it benefit me in any way? Absolutely not. These people unfortunately carry an inordinate amount of power over moving a project forward and will not hesitate to stonewall you when things get ugly. Grin and bear it, produce the extra ten {often unnecessary} documents that weren't on their initial list of requirements and which will each require notarization, say please and thank you, then invite them to the grand opening. You will need them again.

3. Hire amazing people off the bat.

This most recent project at Homestead Manor, we started with an incredible team. They, in turn, hired an incredible staff. This has made my life so much easier than in some projects in the past. From the project director, to the chefs, to the general manager and his team, to the events directors and the farmers, each person has taken ownership of this enormous project -- and I have never heard once "that's not my job." These are the people that make me passionate about my job. It is better to do it yourself than to do it with the wrong person. And... if you open a business with the wrong person, you'll end up doing it yourself anyways. Trust me, it is not fun to put in months of hard work opening a business only to have to let the general manager go within the first three weeks of opening. I've been there, and I promise you that I have been and will be very careful to never do that again.

4. Nobody is as passionate about your business as you.

You have to be the visionary, relentless driver towards the finish line, the motivator when everyone's energy starts running low, the cheerleader, the squeaky wheel, and the disciplinarian. It's hard and it's exhausting, and it's totally worth it. Remember what you are there for and what your goal is - to make people happy by serving them delicious food and beverages with gracious hospitality. You'll get there, just keep your eye on the prize.

5. Plan, plan, plan, and then be flexible when your plans get smashed to pieces.

It is so important to be organized when opening any business. You need to have a business plan before you start, a construction timeline, a schedule of items that need to be acquired and organized over the coming months, and then an operating system for when you actually open. If you don't plan ahead, you will forget that you need office supplies or a safe or you know, to go silverware, until the very last minute. The closer you get to grand opening, the less space there will be in your brain to remember those details, so plan ahead when you have a clearer mind. And use your industry resources like restaurantowner.com, which has an article or format for everything you will ever need to get organize and operate a restaurant. Finally, know ahead of time that you will have to change your plans on many occasions.

See y'all at the Homestead Open House this Sunday from 4-6pm! Hint: make reservations for dinner here before we book up!

xx Claire


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