Opening the doors of your restaurant is cause for a big celebration. That's where a grand opening comes in. Not only do you let everyone know you're open for business, you also get an opportunity to win customers by wowing them with your food and service.
Lay the Groundwork
Planning for your grand opening should start months ahead of time. This gives you time to interact with the community and business leaders to make them aware of the food you plan to offer. For example, use farmer’s markets or events in the community to give people free samples of your food so they will remember what you offer and want to come to the grand opening for more.
Plan the Event
Decide what date you want the grand opening to be, and for how long. The opening might last only a few hours, take place in one night or span an entire weekend. Choose the menu for the opening. You could go with your full menu or a partial one available for just one evening. Find ways to make the event exciting for your target market. For instance, if you are opening a family restaurant, offer activities for kids such as face painting or entertainment by a magician.
Send invitations via regular mail and email to everyone you know -- including friends, family and business associates -- and include a promotional offer such as 2-for-1 appetizers or "buy one meal, get one free" during the grand opening period. Ask people to RSVP so you can plan how much food to buy and prepare. Send a media kit and an invitation to local media as well as food writers and reviewers. Include a description in the kit about what makes your restaurant unique, information about the owner and a short bio of the chef.
Take several steps to announce the event, including placing an ad in the local newspaper that focuses both on the grand opening and the type of food your restaurant serves. Place banners above the doors of your restaurant and signs on the street announcing the date of the grand opening. QSR magazine recommends holding a free breakfast for leaders in the community to get them interested in your restaurant and to help spread the word. Find ways to encourage people to come back to eat after the grand opening. For instance, pass out discount coupons good on the next meal.
Don't wait until your grand opening to test your kitchen and wait staff performance. FoodServiceWarehouse.com, a company that sells food supplies and equipment, recommends holding a quiet opening for friends and family a few weeks prior to the big event. This allows you to work out the kinks in service and food preparation. After you make changes, hold a second soft opening to make sure things work smoothly. After that, you should be ready for the big grand opening event.
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.