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How to Start a Fast Food Restaurant

We've collected some good advice that is perfect for those of you who want to open a fast food restaurant. Read this article before you open up shop.

Wondering how to start a fast food restaurant? We take you step-by-step from start to success.

Fast Food Restaurant

Benefits of an Independent Fast Food Startup

When most people think about starting a fast food restaurant, they naturally frame their plans around fast food franchising. In fairness, nationally recognized chains like McDonalds and Subway do dominate the industry -- but they aren't the only game in town.

Rather than pursuing a franchise, many startup entrepreneurs choose to launch an independent fast food operation. Although they don't benefit from the brand recognition of a franchise, independent fast food entrepreneurs have the advantage when it comes to operational control and their ability to differentiate themselves in the local community.

Essential Ingredients in a Non-Franchised Fast Food Startup

Starting a non-franchised fast food restaurant can be a challenging, especially if you aren't familiar with the unique demands of today's fast food service industry:

  • Flow of operations. As you can probably guess, fast food restaurants' primary value propositions are speed and convenience. But achieving operational efficiency isn't as simple as it sounds. To shorten the learning curve, study other fast food operations and incorporate their best practices into your restaurant's operational processes.
  • Proprietary recipes. Fast food restaurants intensely guard their recipes and menu items. To compete, you'll need to come up with your own recipes, branded menu offerings and theme -- taking steps to make sure you don't step on competitors' toes along the way.
  • Healthy alternatives. Modern fast food patrons are health-conscious consumers. They expect fast food establishments to provide nutritional information about their menu items and to offer healthy alternatives in the form of salads, yogurts and even fresh fruit.

Best Practices for Writing a Fast Food Restaurant Business Plan

You know that a business plan is important. The only problem is that you don't have any idea how to write one.

Fortunately, you don't have to tackle your fast food restaurant's business plan by yourself. These days, there are tons of great resources and solutions available to support the business plan writing process.

Our Business Plan Help section discusses some of the business plan resources other entrepreneurs have found useful.

Think Local

Most fast food restaurants market to local customers. Does localization mean that your business will sell exclusively to customers in the immediate vicinity? Not necessarily. However, it does mean that local customers will be your best bet for customer acquisition. As such, the focus of your outreach should cater to the surrounding area.

Don't Overlook the Competition

Prior to launching a fast food restaurant in your area, it's worthwhile to find out how many competitors you have. We've provided the link below to help you find competitors in your area. Complete the form by entering your city, state and zip code to get a list of fast food restaurants that are close by.

How are you going to successfully complete with existing firms? It's important that you never underestimate the competition.

Find Good Remote Business Advice

If you want to open a fast food restaurant it's essential that you talk to somebody who is already in the business. If you think your local competitors will give you advice, you're being overoptimistic. What's in it for them?

However, an entrepreneur who owns a fast food restaurant in a different city can be a great learning resource for you, 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 a fast food restaurant manager who is willing to talk to you but doesn't live nearby?

It's not that hard. Just use the handy link below and enter in a random city/state or zipcode.

Pros & Cons of Buying a Fast Food Restaurant

Although there are significant benefits to buying a fast food restaurant (rather than launching a startup), it's important to weigh the pros and cons before you commit to a purchase scenario.

BENEFITS: Existing companies have proven business models and a history of profitability. They should also have some degree of brand recognition and an established customer base.

CONs: However, purchased companies can also come with pre-existing challenges and/or liabilities. Ultimately, it may be more difficult to tailor a purchased business to your ownership style.

Consider Franchising

Franchising is a smart move for entrepreneurs just getting started in small business ownership. Franchises are popular because they are based on a business model that works. The nation's leading franchisors know their way around the industry and are now passing their learnings on to the next generation of business leaders. Today's franchises offer a range of opportunities for ambitious startups.

The link below will take you to Gaebler's fast food franchise directory where you can explore franchise opportunities and find the one that's right for your startup.

Other Useful Articles for Startup Entrepreneurs

These additional resources regarding starting a business may be of interest to you.

Recurring Revenue Business Models

LLC Advantages

Consideration Before Buying a Franchise

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Still have a question about opening a fast food restaurant? Sharing your thoughts will help the hundreds of thousands of small business owners who visit this site looking for advice.

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Already Own a Fast Food Restaurant?

If you currently own a fast food restaurant, try these useful resources:

Marketing a Fast Food Restaurant

Selling a Fast Food Restaurant

Are You Selling to Fast Food Restaurants?

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Selling to Fast Food Restaurants

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