Your flagship restaurant is packed every night. Patrons post glowing reviews. Diners book reservations well in advance to score a Friday night table. Social media pages are brimming with gorgeous photos of food and ambience, drawing a lively crowd to dinner service.
It feels like the perfect time to open another location, and you know just the place. Now, all you have to do is duplicate your existing restaurant, right?
If only it were that easy.
Hospitality expansion is anything but a cookie-cutter process, and there is no magic wand. The road to expanding a restaurant brand is fraught with stumbling blocks, nightmarish tales of building code violations, restoration woes, and equipment and staffing challenges.
There is good news. Follow a few cues from the experts, and your expansion can be something to celebrate. We asked an architect, builder, chief operating officer, and trailblazing chef for their insight into expansion success. Here’s what they had to say.
Ask the Architect: Jeffrey Beers
Restaurants by Jeffrey Beers International share an instantly recognizable “it” factor. At heart, Beers is a true artist who grew up in a traveling family that exposed him to global flavors. He spent almost ten years with master architect I.M. Pei and a lifetime in the kitchens of the world’s best chefs. From Seoul to Dubai to Manhattan and everywhere in between, Beers’ passion for detail is legendary.
A few of Beers’ high-profile clients include the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort, Masaharu Morimoto, Gordon Ramsay (including Hell’s Kitchen in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas), Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Disney Hotels & Resorts, Dinex Group, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club. Beers is also a restaurant owner in his own right, and when it comes to expanding restaurant brands, he has seen it all.
“It raises the bar the moment you get into multiple locations, but if someone is wired for that and ready for the challenges, it is a great thing,” said Beers.
The architecture is a huge part of the equation, but restaurateurs and chefs might be surprised to learn that Beers believes the process should begin with considering the guest experience.
“In the culinary world, especially from chefs who have reputations that made a mark, they never forget that this is a consumer-based business,” said Beers.
It’s important to assess if an established brand in one location will fit into a different neighborhood and meet the consistent needs of diners. Beers says successful brands must include two critical business components and without one or the other, the risk of failure is high.
“I’ve seen many chefs go through this, and I strongly believe in apprenticing for someone who has developed a strong reputation, work ethic, and understands the business, and that means both food and service,” said Beers.
The other component that cannot be overstated is not to go it alone. “It’s remarkable what can come out of collaboration, especially in opening a second location and beyond because the restaurant brand is important, but each restaurant is a different space,” said Beers.
Measuring the popularity of the first location is not an accurate indicator for expansion where location is concerned. Beers says that’s because customer demographics at any new location will inherently be different than the first one. Again, it’s all about knowing your diner beyond what you put on the menu.
“Study your customers and cater the design accordingly — does the space need to be a little lighter or darker? Does it need to be more open? Should there be seating other than table seating? Should the bar be larger or smaller this time around? Pay strong attention to answering those types of questions and take cues from the architect,” said Beers. “Plan from how you enter to where your seating is and take into account the flow of the space all the way to the server and point-of-sale stations.”
Location has become as much about culture as brick and mortar. Chefs often wonder: is it smarter to try and duplicate a second location or to start anew with a fresh concept?
“Stylistically and design-wise, it has been helpful to me to understand the culture of the guests in that part of the world as well as what isn’t in that city — what works in Columbus may not work in Dallas,” said Beers. “You can invent something new, something innovative, but one has to be cognizant of what a customer in a given location wants in order to provide that experience.” [Read more…]