New entrepreneurs usually dream of starting their own restaurant business, some of them without any previous experience at all. Read this collective input from different present and past owners and other relevant information from NewCoHelsinki and Uusyrityskeskus about what to consider when opening a restaurant in Finland.
Decide on the theme
There are plenty of themes to choose from, but it's essential to have a clear concept of what kind of restaurant you would like to establish. The theme will help identify the personality, identity, and mission of your restaurant. Do you fancy fine dining that's exclusive to high-end clients, or perhaps just a place that exudes a casual atmosphere with table service or maybe the fast-food kind where customers order from the counter?
Secure restaurant premises
The Local Building Control Services ( Rakennusvalvonta) must approve the permit that states that the premises suit the purpose of operating a restaurant or a cafeteria. Restaurants and cafeterias have different requirements. To make it easier, search for a facility that already has the permit for establishing a restaurant or a cafeteria business because changing an office space to a restaurant does not only need permission, but can be quite challenging and proves more difficult.
Decide on the leadership you want to execute
While building a theme, you must also consider what kind of leader you'll be as the manager of your restaurant. Do you think you can run your restaurant in the same concept in 5-10 years or maybe even longer? If you're a morning person, then perhaps a bar or a fine-dining restaurant might not not be suitable.
Are you a people person? Managing restaurant workers and leading them to do service excellence must be done daily with a stable and customer-oriented mindset. Many laws protect the employees from employers who discriminate. At the same time, employee associations are quite active in Finland. As a restaurant employer, you need to read the collective guide from Pam- Service Professional Alliance: Hotel, restaurant, and leisure industry - key provisions of the collective agreement.
Get the capital ready
If you're establishing a restaurant alone with minimum capital, then it's wiser to start small, perhaps a food truck, grill, or a takeaway with a couple of seats. If the restaurant fails, then you do not have significant debt on your shoulders. Even though you will open a smaller joint, the expenses will still be easily over 10 000€ and sky's the limit. It's crucial to budget ahead and forecast your finances before opening the restaurant, and then manage it after the opening. You can always ask your accountant for advice.
Take care of your employees
The highest expense goes to the restaurant staff, which is why most restaurant owners work Sundays and evening shifts. According to the Tourism, Restaurant, and Leisure Service Collective Agreement, the minimum hourly pay is €10,06 or €1599 monthly excluding evenings, Sundays, and other holidays. For entrepreneurs, you have to double the salary cost because you have to add the social and insurance charges. If unsure, read our previous article '4 vital BF's for your business'.
Harness your skills and practice more
If your knowledge in the kitchen is limited, then prepare a general theme that's easy to learn. If you don't know anything about Indonesian food, don't even attempt to open a restaurant that serves that cuisine. Imagine the stress you will have when your Indonesian chef quits.
You have to practice and educate your staff about the process of your service. It's easier to have ready-made instructions than explaining the same thing multiple times everyday.
Most customers do not like to wait for their food, especially at lunchtime. Lunch breaks usually take about 30 minutes and they might have 15 minutes of coffee time. If the food will take more than 30 minutes to prepare, it's polite to inform the customers and offer them some small bites or appetizers. More than just eating, people go to restaurants for an overall experience. They go there for a full-blown good customer experience so if a customer leaves with a bad one, chances are, you'll never see them again, and worst, a bad feedback which leads to a bad reputation, especially with the power of social media.
The quality of food must be competent
A growing number of people who eat in restaurants have impacted the sales in restaurants, according to Mara. The average Finn eats 6-7 meals in a monthly period, of which 56% of the meals were lunches. The most critical factor in choosing the restaurant is the location, and the 2nd factor is the quality of the food. Don't get it wrong, the quality of the food must be still competent in condition because Finland has strict policies about food safety.
Get the Hygiene Passport, which is governed by the Finnish Food Authority. You can make a test trial online to see if your knowledge about hygiene is up to date. Make sure the staff also knows about food hygiene.
It's also compulsory to get an Alcohol Pass if the restaurant is serving alcoholic beverages. There are marketing and serving elements that should be taken into account when luring clients to come to your restaurant and you have the responsibility as the restaurant owner to abide by the law. For example, you cannot market free alcoholic beverages to lure customers to the restaurant.
All in all, from the customer's perspective, fast service, versatile, and affordable menu has grown to be one of the popular options in choosing a restaurant.
Get the special equipment ready
Foreign restaurants usually make food that from their home country, and sometimes these need particular equipment to make. An Indian restaurant might need a special oven called tandoori oven where the nan bread is baked. Chinese restaurants might need a particular hotpot stove. Be sure that special types of equipment that are bought elsewhere comply to the rules and have been approved by the right authority.
Have a business plan
The most important part of the business plan is the calculation of the finances because the entrepreneur will need a large amount of starting capital and adequate funding. The entrepreneur needs to count the initial operating cost, which means that the entrepreneur might need to renovate the restaurant, acquire necessary permits, pay running costs such as rent, electricity, water, phone, and internet bills, before opening the restaurant or cafeteria. After that, the entrepreneur should forecast the length of the breakeven period.
If you've ever dreamt of opening your own restaurant, just go for it. Chase your dreams, but make sure you're ready and well-equipped. And while you're still contemplating on that, just enjoy and explore the various ethnic restaurants available in Finland and learn from them.
Think about why you want to do it. If you’re in it simply because you want to be “the boss” or because you think you can make passive money, you’re already derailed before you even started.- Arzel Henson