Wondering how to start a Korean restaurant? We take you step-by-step from start to success.
The Appetite for Korean Cuisine in the U.S.
Although it isn't as popular as Japanese, Chinese or Thai cuisine (at least not yet), Korean cuisine is steadily making progress as an Asian dine-out alternative in the U.S. Featuring dishes like kimchee, katsu and an assortment of banchan, the best Korean restaurants present traditional Korean fare in ways that appeal to both non-Korean and Korean-Americans.
Korean restaurateurs have a few different business models to choose from. While traditional Korean restaurants definitely have their place in most dining markets, Korean barbecue (gogi gui) is also a big hit with Korean food fans.
Although they represent similar cuisine, traditional Korean and Korean barbecue establishments have unique business requirements. It's important to perform a thorough market analysis to determine the best type of restaurant for your target market before you settle on a startup plan.
Marketing Tips for Emerging Korean Restaurants
Whether you're opening a traditional Korean or a Korean barbecue restaurant, an aggressive marketing campaign has to be part of your startup strategy. The best Korean restaurateurs intentionally nurture their marketing skills to achieve greater visibility and higher traffic levels.
Right away, you'll want to gain a following within the local Korean community. It's never a good thing when a non-Korean diner gets a less than glowing review from a Korean-American who has patronized your establishment. By securing positive reviews from Korean diners, you can establish credibility within your target market.
Next, you'll want to leverage social media marketing to your advantage. Traditional advertising strategies are still effective, just not as effective as personal reviews posted on sites like Facebook or Twitter.
Leasing Space for Your Korean Restaurant Startup
The vast majority of Korean restaurant startups lease space in busy metro areas. A commercial real estate purchase isn't out of the question, but given the high failure rates within the restaurant industry, it makes more sense to lease property until you have a solid customer base.
Negotiation skills are an important part of securing a favorable lease. If you haven't conducted commercial lease negotiations before, ask a friend or acquaintance with lease negotiation experience to walk you through the process.
Characteristics of a Good Korean Restaurant Business Plan
Every business plan is unique. However, the most effective business plans do address specific sound business plan elements:
- Mission Statement – A concise declaration of values, strategy and identity.
- Goals & Objectives – Goals are broad targets; objectives are the tactics you'll use to reach your goals.
- Financial, Marketing & Action Plans – Specific plans that describe your business environment, demographic targets and quantitative estimates.
Where to Set Up Shop
New business owners often consider customer density when deciding where to put their business, but there are many other important factors. Are there many viable employees nearby, for example? There's a lot to consider and you need to do a thorough analysis.
Check Out the Competition
Prior to opening a Korean restaurant within your community, it's a smart move to find out how many competitors you have. We've provided the link below to help you get a list of local competitors in your area. After following the link, enter your city, state and zip code to get a list of Korean restaurants in your area.
It's important to be aware of what the competition is doing. Take the time to visit the competition to properly assess their strengths and weaknesses.
A Good Source of Advice
Once you've finished assessing the competion, the next step is to learn as much as you can from somebody who is already in the business. If you think owners of nearby Korean restaurants will give you advice, think again. The last thing they want to do is help you to be a better competitor.
But, a person who owns a Korean restaurant in a different city may be more than happy to give you a few tips, as long as they don't view you as a competitive threat. In fact, they are often very willing to share startup advice with you. It can take a while to find an entrepreneur who is willing to talk, but it's well worth the effort.
What's the best way to find an entrepreneur who is running a Korean restaurant who is willing to talk to you but doesn't live nearby?
Here's one way to do it. Just use our link below, find somebody and call them.
Top Three Reasons to Buy an Established Korean Restaurant
It's almost always preferable to buy a Korean restaurant than to pursue a Korean restaurant startup.
You'll want to conduct a comprehensive due diligence process, but here are three arguments why you should think about buying instead of a startup.
- Initial Revenue. Startups struggle to bring in revenue right out of the gate while existing businesses usually have a steady stream of income.
- Operational Efficiency. A good Korean restaurant should already function like a well-oiled machine.
- Funding. With several years of operations under its belt, a purchased company is much more appealing to lenders and investors interested in avoiding the risk of an unproven startup.
Franchising May Be a Better Way to Go
Your odds of growing your business are greatly increased if you decide to franchise and leverage their successful brand and track record.
If you planning on starting a Korean restaurant, you would be wise to investigate whether franchise opportunities in your space might simplify your entering the business.
The link below gives you access to our franchise directory so you can see if there's a franchise opportunity for you. You might even find something that points you in a completely different direction.
These additional resources regarding getting started as an entrepreneur may be of interest to you.
If you came here to learn about selling to Korean restaurants, we've got better information for you elsewhere on our site. These resources are more appropriate for you:
If you are interested in starting a different kind of business, please browse our directory of guides below.