They’re challenging, they’re stressful, they’re fun and they are an incredible bonding experience for all who traverse them together! And then we say we’ll never do another one, then someone calls us out of the blue a year later and it’s back to choosing water glasses. You never forget the team you opened with. Over the years we’ve done plenty and through trial and error, these are the top 5 things we wish we’d known or had in the beginning…
1. You will not open on time…
Ever. There will be a burst pipe or the tables will be wider than the door frame or they’ll be a strike at the factory (probably in Italy) or something else. We know this. As long as when we all say April we’re all thinking May then that’s ok. No one needs investors thinking April means March.
And then there are builders. For those without a bilingual dictionary when talking to builders: 2 weeks means 3 weeks. £4K equals £6k. A good Project Manager knows this and builds some slack into the timeline.
2. Go heavy on the infantry
Hire two more bodies than you think you need. Go light on the chiefs, heavy on the Indians. If you’ve got 4 staff closing the restaurant at 3 am this week, we can safely assume next week it’ll be two staff closing at 5 am.
Yes, your managers can share duties when needed be but don’t let it become the norm. Have them polishing plates into the early hours and pretty soon Esther is going to start questioning why she shelled out for a 2:1 in Hospitality Management… which means it’s you there until 5 am next week. Things are going to be hard enough as it is and don’t worry about Paolo and George biting into your labour percentage because you always lose a few along the opening road anyway. We’re talking £18 odd per hour each for both. Deal with it.
3. Practice dry runs and crisis drills
If you’ve got the luxury of a few days in a finished room before you open, get stuck into some dry runs. But don’t just roleplay a service that’s going smoothly, practice steadying the bumpy flights too. What’s the protocol if you suspect the two gents on table 5 work for a particular tyre company? Your head chef and GM should decide on this and then dry run it with the team. Without prior warning. What do we do if someone goes into anaphylaxis on table 2? Or the group of loud businessmen are disturbing other guests. Knowing your team can deal with situations like this means you can take a night off without feeling like you have to check your phone every 10 minutes.
Dry runs are also where you realise whoever set up your POS thought you’d have 10 minutes spare every time you have to order a Martini… On the rocks… Dry… Dirty… Rush order! They’re great for highlighting the things you think are natural but don’t make sense to your team. Why do the runners always put table 8’s drinks orders on table 9? Because logically they should be numbered the other way round, Boss.
4. Get your documentation done
It’s easy for you; you’ve been doing it for ten years. Everyone else needs it writing down. So that’s Orders of Service, menu descriptions, SOPs, PDR confirmation procedures and checklists. You don’t want to have to explain the intricacies of how to book a holiday to every team member one by one, probably not when they deem it appropriate to ask you at 9 pm Thursday night. So get that stuff down in an employee handbook and sign it away. Think you’ll get it finished once you open? Never in a million years. You’re never going to have as much office time after launch without raising some eyebrows, and you’ll probably still be home by 8 pm. A half-day!
5. Find someone else who ‘just knows’
Having someone else who knows what you’re talking about is invaluable. You don’t want to have to come in on your first day off in 3 weeks because no one else knows how to process a credit note. Or how to order bin bags. Training people is nice. It’s not nice to have to train everyone at the same time while simultaneously opening a restaurant. It’s a business, not a catering college, grow up and leave the martyr complex at the door. Get some grey hair on your team.
If you could do with some veteran experience on your opening line up, talk to Pineapple. We can provide a helping hand to your permanent team, or manage the whole endeavour in its entirety… just like we have done, many times before.