Many restaurant brands dream of expanding overseas. The global game is no longer just for large franchises and in recent years, several restaurant groups have very successfully launched overseas, with a particular focus on the UK.
The repute of being a global hospitality operation, not to mention the financial rewards are very alluring. However, if the venture is poorly researched, planned and executed, the end result can be crippling in resource and financial terms.
This article is intended to steer you towards success. Being aware of key challenges and having a plan to overcome these, can pay dividends for those who play their cards right.
Understand The Gap In The Local Market
The first thing to do before creating or adapting a restaurant concept is to study local trends and tastes and gain a deep understanding of the competitive space in your target market. Browse restaurant review sites like Trip Advisor and other eating out blogs – to see who’s winning and who isn’t – and most importantly look at WHY they are winning.
You will start to build an in-depth picture of the kind of locations, cuisine types, service styles and concepts that are being favoured. Then think about what you can bring to the country or city in question, not just in terms of cuisine but also in terms of an experience. Your concept has to fill a distinctive market gap but also be really well adapted to the tastes and lifestyle of the local clientele.
One way to ensure you establish a path to success is to partner with a local restaurant consultant who understands restaurant business models in your target market and who has a reputable network of contacts that can save you valuable time and money.
A local partner is essential for tapping into talent pools and sourcing the best products and services, as well as being able to shape your vision. Look for someone who is more than an operations consultant, who is truly entrepreneurial and can challenge your ideas and who can combine commercial acumen with creativity to be a value-add to your team.
Localise Your Operations
This tip is particularly applicable if you are taking a restaurant concept that has been well established in your home country, overseas, rather than starting a new one afresh. There are very few food concepts that can succeed in overseas markets without an understanding of local preferences and localisation of every aspect of your operations, from the cuisine to the decor, the service style and the target audience.
Finances, Legislation, Taxation & Banking
Every country is governed by different taxation, financing, legislation and banking rules. Finding an accountant and lawyer who have worked with other restaurants will help you immensely when it comes to preparing a strategic plan, but will also save you invaluable time and money in terms of watertight contracts that protect you and ensuring you operate in the most efficient way possible, taking advantage of tax breaks, rent-free periods etc.
Building A Team
Using a local recruitment consultant is invaluable to tap into local talent pools. You need to stay very much hands-on with the whole recruitment process and physically meet each shortlisted candidate. I suggest taking them out for dinner to see whether you can connect with them outside of a formal interview space and whether they can truly buy into your vision.
Finding the right location is critical. In an ideal world you need to have the time to visit your choice of location in all seasons, look at the footfall in the area, the kind of customers you would ideally like to target and the catchment areas around your chosen location that you can market to. The site in question also needs to match your restaurant concept and be geared towards your revenue model.
However, if you don’t know the country well and spending a significant amount of time there is not a possibility, I strongly suggest using the services of a local consultant to validate your decisions.
Branding & Marketing
The success of restaurants in overseas markets almost entirely hinges on the effectiveness of their branding and marketing.
Your restaurant needs to have a compelling brand woos potential diners. Your branding needs to be localised so that the design, photography and slogans that connect with your local customers and convince them to dine with you. A good brand should be able to influence your customers on a conscious and subconscious level so that they are not just eating your food, they are benefiting from a unique dining experience.
You need to work with a local restaurant marketing agency so that they can cost-effectively and intelligently reach out to your ideal target market. This needs to be budgeted for in your business plan. If you allow for expenditure on PR, blogger outreach, digital marketing, social media promotion and local partnerships that commence three months pre-launch and continue up to 6 months post-launch, you will create an upwards revenue ramp that will fuel future growth.
Establishing a restaurant overseas can be an exciting and highly fulfilling in profit terms, as long as you are prepared to reinvent the wheel and not think that you can duplicate the success you have had in your home country, with the very same blueprint. The key elements for success are strategic planning, tactical research and preparation. Add professional advice to that mix and you might be on to a winner.