A little advice can be the magic ingredient that helps your business, new or old, grow and succeed. Like the old proverb goes, advice after injury is like medicine after death. Don’t wait. Build your network of advisors now to help you avoid or get through your troubles tomorrow. For smaller restaurants that may not have the budget to hire full-time advisors, try to find resources that will allow for a more creative arrangement that could include discounts for referrals and advice-for-trade. Here are the top ten must have advisors every restaurateur should have in their inner circle.
1. Finance Pro. One of the first experts should be a finance pro, someone who can help manage your cash flow, investing, accounting process, tax filing and more. The one thing you don’t want to mess with is your cash situation. Wonky accounting and planning can land even the most successful restaurateur in a heap of trouble.
2. Restaurateur Mentor. Like a good steak, having someone aged and seasoned is what you should be looking for in a restaurateur mentor. Making the same mistakes as someone else is just bad business and a huge waste of time. Get the inside scoop on what not to do by having a mentor who’s been doing it longer than you.
3. Experienced Chef. The quality of your food will make or break your restaurant. Period. Product is king. If you are not a chef-driven restaurant, knowing an experienced chef who’s been around the block more than a few times will help you keep your menu fresh and on trend. Plus, he or she can help make sure your kitchen is managing costs and complying with all health department regulations.
4. HR Consultant. Getting sued is probably one of the most time-consuming and painful experiences. Don’t risk going through the hassle. Get an HR consultant that can help manage all the laws and paperwork for employing your staff. From best practices in hiring and firing to how to motivate and retain, a knowledgeable HR professional should be on every restaurateur’s payroll.
5. Cocktail Expert. Everyone knows you make the real bucks off the booze, so having your beverage program on point should be among your top priorities. You’re go-to cocktail expert can help you not only decide what drinks and mixes make sense for your location and brand, but they can help you refine, cut costs, and turn your location into a hot spot for libations.
6. Real Estate Broker. The old saying is true: it’s all about location, location, location. Having someone who is up to date on all the spaces and lease opportunities is a must if you are looking to expand your footprint and business. More than just the street knowledge, brokers are also a must for negotiations and contract review. Having more power on your side may be just the leverage you need to close the deal.
7. Marketing and PR Guru. What good is a great burger if no one knows about it? Social media and building relationships in the press are must-know tools for savvy restaurateurs. Having someone available at the drop of a dime to give you the tips and tricks needed to constantly communicate your brand and promote your products is priceless.
8. IT Master. When the POS fails, you can risk losing mega bucks, especially if it happens during rush hour. The IT person really is the “it” person on your team. Get someone to be in charge of all your IT issues, from POS and phone service to website and emails.
9. Lawyer. When something goes wrong (and it will) it’s always best to get some legal advice before taking any action. Knowing your rights and how to handle situations can be a piece of cake if you have a lawyer on speed dial. Make friends with one fast and feed them constantly to keep the fees down and the response time short.
10. Trade Association. Unless politics are a personal interest, staying up to date on the ever-changing political and regulatory landscape is a full-time job. Why not join a group like the state restaurant association (hint hint) who will keep track of it all and keep you updated? Not to mention being part of a “club” can get you discounts and deals only available to organizations with buying power.
Now that you have the categories, it’s time to put your plan into action. Trade Associations or other professional organizations can give referrals on where to find advisors for your restaurant. Also consider using social networks like LinkedIn, reaching out to the local Chamber of Commerce, and asking your personal network of friends and family to get recommendations.
About the New York State Restaurant Association: The New York State Restaurant Association’s mission is to help restaurateurs succeed. The Association is the first place owners and managers turn to gain a competitive edge, by taking advantage of: cost saving benefits, education, and advocacy. From hosting networking and educational events to actively participating in the state and local government, the Association is the ‘go-to’ for all restaurant related information and needs.