How to Start a Restaurant or Catering Business in Canada

How to Start a Restaurant or Catering Business in Canada

The Canadian restaurant industry is a major player in the country’s economy. It generates a whopping $85 billion in sales annually, per numbers from Restaurant Canada, a non-profit trade group based in Canada. That accounts for four percent of the country’s economic activity. The industry also employs more than 1 million people in a country of 36 million. Many of them are first jobs – we’ve all either known or been that teenager who collects their first pay stub as a server, cook, or host.

There are loads of Canadians who do more than just work in a restaurant. Many decide to make the leap and start their own restaurant or catering business. Here’s a few things to do when you’re starting out.

Get Familiar With the Industry

Why do restaurants fail? There’s a host of reasons, including obvious ones like bad management and failing to pay all the proper taxes. Another big reason for failure? It’s people who run the place thinking they know it all, when in reality they could use a course or two. That overconfidence can even happen to people who have been working in the industry for a decade or more.

Owning and running a successful restaurant means keeping a lot of balls in the air. You might be an expert chef who knows how to sear a salmon filet perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you have enough knowledge about the marketing side of things. You’ll either need to take a crash course in marketing or, better yet, hire a marketing whiz who can talk to you for an hour and know exactly how to promote your business.

We all have blind spots, and you have to know what they are before you can account for them.

As the owner of the restaurant, you’re going to have a lot on your proverbial plate. Delegate where you can, but know that you still might be working 100 hours per week, especially in those frantic first few months. And don’t be too stubborn to admit when you’re wrong – no one wants to work for a boss who always finds a way to blame someone else.

Figure Out Your Supply Chain

Figuring out where you’ll get the ingredients for those delicious dishes on the menu is arguably the most important supply chain challenge you’ll face, but don’t let it occupy so much of your mental real estate that you forget to find a source for things like tablecloths, napkins, plates, and even those fancy chef’s hats. Talk to your friends who run restaurants and ask for the names of the best Canadian restaurant supply companies.

It may not seem like a crisis if a shipment of forks and spoons doesn’t arrive when it’s supposed to, but remember the importance of first impressions. Someone who goes to your restaurant on opening night is going to tell their friends how it went, and you don’t want them to say something like “The food was good, but no one could find a butter knife for my bread.”

Visitors at a busy restaurant

Remember to Network

What if you don’t have many friends in the restaurant industry? Then that suggests you haven’t done enough networking.

You should start networking the day you think about seriously opening your own dining establishment. Yes, you have to work hard, but you also have to be friendly with other people who can vouch for you. Put yourself out there at business luncheons and ask questions like “I’m wanting to open an Italian restaurant on the edge of downtown. How realistic is that?”

Networking can also save you from a fatal screw-up. For instance, let’s say you’re thinking of renting a building that seems to be going for below market value despite its seemingly prime location. If you have friends in the business, they can tell you, “Actually, that building is haunted. No restaurant has lasted more than a year there.” People who have been around a good while can prevent you from making the same mistakes as everyone else.

Good luck with your restaurant business!

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