Finance & Operations

Restaurant Grand Opening: How to Open Your Restaurant

By Andrea Victory

Open sign hanging at the door of a busy restaurant

It’s your restaurant grand opening, and the doors are wide open and the sidewalk sign is out. Staff are in uniform poised above the POS, and the kitchen crew is hovering over the printer anticipating the first order. You’re waiting to get your first customer and crossing your fingers that your grand opening will be a business success.

But in order to capitalize on the buzz and traffic from your opening day, you need to make sure you cover some very important basics so that all of your new business customers become regular patrons.

Check out these opening day ideas to garner success and show your customer appreciation from day one.

A restaurant employee sticking an opening soon sign on restaurant door
Pre-Opening Checklist

Starting a new restaurant? Make sure you’ve checked of all these items before opening your doors.

Access List Now

Do a Soft Open Before Your Grand Opening

Practice makes perfect to ensure you can pull off a killer grand opening, even if you’re opening a second restaurant location and it’s not your first rodeo. A dress rehearsal opening with your family and friends to warm up your operations and staff is a good way to get people into the swing of things. Once you have some constructive feedback to work with, then have your grand opening and show your business off to the local people in your area.

Don’t Ignore the Customer Experience

Today isn’t about you. Though it may feel like it is: it’s your business, your concept, your recipes, and your money on the line after all. But don’t forget the most important aspect of running a successful restaurant grand opening – your customers. Get ready to wow people who walk into your restaurant.

Ensure your grand opening is seamless

How your customers are treated, how their food tastes, and how they feel on their first visit is imperative. You want them to come back after your opening. Make sure that from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave, the experience has been thought through and is seamless.

Do Schedule Enough Staff at Your Restaurant Grand Opening

While long lines on your opening day might seem like a good thing for your business, that’s not always the case. There’s a difference between eager patrons lined up to get a taste of your food or a fully seated restaurant, and a group of people staring down inefficiency and getting peeved because their lunch break is being hijacked. To get ready, you’ll need more employees during your first opening, and then you can streamline over time.

Don’t Forget to Train, Train, Train

Slow service on your restaurant’s grand opening shows that your business is not prepared, and that’s not a great impression to leave on brand new customers. Customers don’t want to be the guinea pigs for you to work out your processes on. Here are two ways to train your staff well, and get them prepared to handle potential complications that could arise with serving food:

Make sure they are comfortable with your technology

Train your staff well and empower them to handle potential complications that could arise. Check that they are comfortable with your restaurant POS system, as well as other technology for restaurants that your venue is equipped with. Have them do a number of different mock orders before opening, so they become used to everything from complex modifiers to taking different payment types.

Make sure your staff knows your menu

For your grand opening, be sure all staff has studied up on the food items on your menu. This will ensure they are confident in answering questions about food, such as ingredients, dietary restrictions, and allergies on opening day. After all, guests who get the food they want are more likely to be satisfied with their orders and provide positive feedback.

Promote Your Grand Opening Online

Celebrate your grand opening party with people on social media

Please don’t break the bank when it comes to your grand opening budget. Get the word out on your site and social media is free and it works, so don’t delay in spreading the word about what’s going on at your new business. Here are a few ways to create a buzz about your first day on social media:

Document your grand opening on your social media channels

Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are great ways to document the day for restaurants and convert new customers into followers. While it’s not required, giving away free samples on your opening day is a great way to promote your restaurant on social media. If you’re doing this, consider snapping a picture at your retail location to share with your community.

Encourage people to share their experience

Ensure your customers know what social channels your business is on and encourage them to tweet, post, and share their experience of your service at your grand opening with their community of followers. You could even get an Instagram booth or a custom hashtag for the event.

Run a social media contest

You can give prizes, like restaurant meal discounts, to guests who come to your grand opening and then spread the word to their friends and community afterward if they use your restaurant’s hashtag in their social media posts. Remember to put together a unique hashtag like #sallysdinergrandopening and ask people to share photos that will extend the hype beyond your grand opening.

Encourage people to take photos

Another way to promote your restaurant to your community is by creating Instagrammable photo opportunities at your restaurant. Consider having a vibrant backdrop, neon signs, plants, or fun furniture, where people can take unique photos that they will want to share with their networks.

Don’t Invite Reviewers to Your Killer Restaurant Grand Opening – Until Later

Wait until the dust settles after your restaurant’s grand opening, and when you’re confident in your service, and the food is consistent. Then send grand opening invitations to each of your critics and reviewers you want to attend your grand opening event. Granted, you can’t control individual Yelpers, but, by sending a grand opening invite, you should have your ducks in a row enough so that the feedback and press on your restaurant service and food you’re getting is mostly positive.

Send media invites when you’re ready

When you’re ready, send invites out to local media and bloggers, so they can see your service shine and spread the word about the food your business is offering. Consider providing the people who cover your grand opening day with free samples they can write about or promote on their channels.

Focus on your grand opening ideas and not profits

The day of your restaurant’s grand opening isn’t the day to focus on how much money you’re making. As a restaurateur, it’s important to keep a close eye on your business margins and always know where the bottom line is, but for grand openings, this isn’t your first business priority. Instead, you want to focus on your service. Engage with customers, step in to help your staff when necessary, and remember – enjoy your opening day!

The cornerstone of your restaurant is creating a customer base through building a business reputation of standout service. Your great grand opening is all about creating an atmosphere and experience that will delight your local patrons and have them coming back for more – with their friends in tow.

A restaurant employee sticking an opening soon sign on restaurant door
Pre-Opening Checklist

Starting a new restaurant? Make sure you’ve checked of all these items before opening your doors.

Access List Now

Photo of Andrea Victory
by Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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