We've gathered a few pragmatic ideas on what it takes to open an African restaurant.
Phasing Into an African Restaurant Opening
Americans are much more open to exotic cuisines than they were in previous decades. Food shows and other cultural influences have given the U.S. restaurant industry a much-needed shot in the arm, and created opportunities for restaurateurs to launch profitable, African-themed establishments.
Still, for many African food entrepreneurs, the road to a restaurant opening is long and winding. It's common for successful African restaurant owners to start on a smaller scale, selling fried plantains, samosas and other menu items from street side food trucks or low overhead food booths. Once they have gathered a loyal customer base, these entrepreneurs transition into a permanent restaurant setting.
Although a food truck may not be your ultimate vision, some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs can attest to the value of starting small and nailing the basics to set the stage for rapid growth and expansion.
Branding Essentials for New African Restaurants
The exotic nature of African restaurants is both a blessing and a curse. Diners want exotic food experiences, but they also value a sense of familiarity or at least an awareness of what they're getting themselves into. The challenge of branding a new African restaurant is that you'll need to find a way to communicate both the exotic and familiar in your logo, marketing materials and business name.
Specifically, you'll need to create a name for your restaurant that your customers can easily pronounce and repeat to their friends. Certain words in Swahili and other African language families present challenges for non-native speakers. Since word-of-mouth advertising will play an important role in your marketing efforts, it's best to settle on a simple, one word name that can be easily spoken by the average diner.
Tips for Building a Loyal Customer Base in an African Restaurant Startup
Getting customers in the door for the first time is only part of the battle new African restaurants face. The trick is to transition first-time customers into loyal patrons who visit your establishment on a regular basis, hopefully returning with friends and family members.
In today's marketplace, consumers are hungry for relationships with the businesses they patronize. As a rule, profitable restaurants make a habit of nurturing their relationships with their customers through social media, email campaigns and other channels that allow you to inform your customers about restaurant happenings and offer discounts or coupons to loyal patrons.
Tips for Creating a Great African Restaurant Business Plan
Your African restaurant's business plan is a blueprint that describes your company and the strategy you will execute to achieve specific goals.
In contemporary business culture, business plans are also litmus tests used by external interests to assess real world viability and marketability.
Early in the process, it's worth your time to learn how to write the market analysis section of a business plan. It includes the identification of your target market and in many cases, the inclusion of supporting research to back up your claims and sales forecasts.
Demographics of the Local Community
No African restaurant in the area? It could be because the local demographics are not right. Among other things, make sure you consider these factors: local population, population growth, income levels, employment (blue collar or white collar), and ethnicity (Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, White).
Review the Competition
Prior to launching an African restaurant in your town, it's worthwhile to see how you will fit in the competitive landscape. We've provided the link below to help you get a list of local competitors near you. Complete the form by entering your city, state and zip code to get a list of African restaurants that are close by.
Before you open up shop, make sure you know what you will offer to your customers that provides a significant advantage over your competition's offering.
Learning More About the Industry
After you've evaluated your local competitors, it's essential that you have a conversation with someone who is in the business. If you think owners of nearby African restaurants will give you advice, think again. It'd be crazy for them to teach you the business.
However, an entrepreneur who owns an African restaurant outside of your community may be more than happy to give you a few tips, once they realize that you are not going to directly compete with them in their community. In fact, they are often very willing to share startup advice with you. In my experience, you may have to call ten business owners in order to find one who is willing to share his wisdom with you.
The key question new becomes: how to find somebody who runs an African restaurant who is willing to advise you because you live in different cities?
Simple. Let your fingers do the walking by using the link below.
Getting Started in African Restaurant Ownership
There are two ways would-be entrepreneurs can gain entry to African restaurant ownership: A startup or a business purchase.
Startup African restaurants can be attractive because they allow the entrepreneur to have more control and greater influence. But financially, startups present significant challenges because lenders are typically hesitant to fund startup African restaurants.
Acquired African restaurants are known quantities - and are less risky for lenders. Buying a business means that you'll have access to a documented financial history, an established business model and other factors that are unknowns in a startup – and that makes the ownership opportunity less of a risk to both you and your African restaurant's key stakeholders.
Consider Buying a Franchise
The probabilities on your becoming a successful entrepreneur are greatly increased if you buy a franchise instead of doing it all on your own.
If you are thinking about opening an African restaurant, you should assess whether franchising might make sense for you.
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 starting a business may be of interest to you.
If you sell to African restaurants, you're in the wrong place. 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.