Expansion is a happy problem for most restaurateurs. You opened up shop and business is booming to the point where your four walls can no longer contain your success. Now comes an entirely new decision process that goes beyond your current spectrum. Managing staff, inventory, execution, and of course customer satisfaction is not twice as hard with two restaurants—it is exponentially harder. A happy problem, nevertheless.
If you are set on expansion, take the following factors into account. Critical thought up front goes a very long way in the end.
Location, location, location
Your first restaurant likely owes a good deal of its success to its real estate, and your second will be much the same. You should ask yourself a myriad of questions to determine location viability, of which there will be some overlap from your first establishment:
Of course there are many more factors to consider, but the overall themes are whether this location caters to your restaurant’s identity, how competition will challenge and help you, and how easily you will be able to manage this location from a logistical standpoint.
"Big chains are a big exception...focus on getting it right one step at a time."
Some establishments choose to own their locations outright, which turns the restaurant investment into a real estate investment. If you have long-term plans, are looking at a high-growth area and are in the financial situation to do so, owning your location outright can ease pressure early on and provide an even greater payoff in the long-term.
Take it one at a time
No matter how much success you see in your first location, limit your openings to one restaurant at a time. You hit it out of the park at your first location, now do it again before even thinking about expanding further. Il Fornaio, a wildly successful Italian fine dining chain, which has expanded one location at a time since 1972, attributes its success to growing slowly, but perfectly.
Big chains are a big exception; they expand rapidly because they have massive management teams and a corporate headquarters to provide large-scale direction. The vast majority of restaurateurs should focus on getting it right one step at a time.
In order to get it right every step of the way, it is imperative to set up clear infrastructure and communication channels to maintain consistency between locations. At the ground level, many restaurants will bring veterans from the first location to open the second location, so that they can train new staff to mirror best practices. Note that training should allow each restaurant to create the same feel and experience, and not necessarily make each restaurant a carbon copy of one another. Plan Check, a burger powerhouse with locations across Los Angeles, adapts its menu to each neighborhood it serves.
At the management level, the owner should establish set points of contact and a routine check-in schedule that keeps all parties aligned. Understanding differences in inventory and item demand, peak hours, staff needs and other factors on a regular basis will allow owners to make informed decisions that do not always treat each restaurant the same. Different locations have different needs, and arranging meetings with each restaurant’s management is crucial to understand those needs.
Eye on the prize
A restaurant’s success, at least at the granular level, is ultimately determined by its profitability. Before you expand, set an ROI goal and quarterly benchmarks. Make these benchmarks realistic, based on your first location’s performance in its opening quarters, and monitor them closely.
If you’re not seeing the results you want, and you’re following all the same practices at your first location, it may be due to the new surrounding area. Observe what the restaurants nearby are doing to attract customers, as well as their menu mix, pricing and other factors. If that’s been taken care of and you’re still not in winning territory, it may be best to close up shop and move to another place. You may not strike gold every time, but the most important thing is that your restaurant is successful at heart.
The Stand, a fast-casual American eatery with just enough upscale twist, soft opens at the Oak Creek Shopping Center in Irvine, California on November 10. This new addition joins locations in Northridge, Encino, Century City and Woodland Hills.
The Stand delivers a diverse menu made with quality ingredients—from burgers and ‘gourmet’ hot dogs to salads, sandwiches and an array of draft beers. The new 90-seat indoor restaurant with outdoor common dining patio accommodating 200, has an upscale vibe that still speaks to the casual diner, much like its food.
Expect many of The Stand’s longtime favorites to highlight the Irvine location as well, such as the El Capitan burger, business burger and the ‘three pigs’ hot dog. And in addition to the restaurant’s notable “Stand Dogs” and “Standwiches”, with innovative spins and unique ingredients, new to Irvine is breakfast, launching Monday, November 21. Menu items will include a Short Rib Hash Stack and French Toast.
The Stand Irvine is located at 5633 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618 and will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday – Thursday, and 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday, with breakfast served 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. daily. For more information call (949) 262 – 9090 or visit The Stand online.
CEO Jed Sanford and Chef/COO Tin Vuong of Blackhouse Hospitality debut their flagship O.C.-based dining destination, Bluegold, in addition to their first restaurant-within-a-restaurant concept, LSXO, both situated at Pacific City in Huntington Beach, CA.
As the group’s ninth project in less than five years, the 8,800 square foot space is Blackhouse’s largest multi-dimensional dining concept to date. A modern interpretation of the classic California coastal eatery, Bluegold invites guests to relax and take in the sunset from one of 235 seats offering unobstructed views of the Pacific.
Bluegold’s ‘New American’ menu incorporates European/Mediterranean roots and integrates new and old world cooking elements and techniques—think raw bar, steam kettle counter, and brick oven. Lunch/dinner highlights include lamb rack frites, sea urchin risotto and A5 Miyazaki Striploin. Brunch/breakfast items include shakshouka and granola French toast among others.
Behind an unmarked door adjacent to the wine room, guests are transported to the 28-seat restaurant-within-a-restaurant, LSXO. LSXO is pays homage to the culture, heritage, and lineage of Vietnam with a refined expat feel. Menu highlights include Foie gras and pho spiced oxtail torchon, octopus terrine and bo ne’ Saigon steak & eggs.
Bluegold and LXSO are located on the top level of Pacific City at 21010 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92648. Bluegold is open Monday-Sunday for breakfast, lunch, “in between,” and dinner from 9 a.m. – close. LSXO is open Friday – Sunday for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner 9 a.m. – close. For more information please call (714) 374-0038 or visit dinebluegold.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.