It's a Plan!
Got a business plan? Whether you’ve been serving folks for decades or are just starting out in the food biz, “putting things in writing makes them real.” That’s one great incentive to create a document that outlines your goals.
Need another reason—or two or three? You want to 1 : apply for a loan; 2: expand in any way; or, 3: explore adding new technology.
Document the Dream
This is your opportunity to step back from the day-to-day and consider the overall landscape. Where do want your business to be—what do you yourself want to be doing—1 year from now? 5 years? Choose a time frame and write down the steps you feel are most important. For example, if you’re thinking of moving to a new location, or opening a second venue, what will it take to make that happen? Creating a plan is also a chance to revisit your enthusiasm for your business, and get excited about the future!
If a sample plan or fill-in-the-blank template would be useful to you, you’re in luck. Go to canadabusiness.ca and look for those that best apply to your situation. There’s also a link on the site for the Canada Business Network, which runs regional centres that offer advice and assistance. What’s more, several businessdevelopment organizations and banks offer templates, writing guides, sample plans, and interactive tools online. Many of these are free of charge. Or, you may choose to purchase software that’s helpful in preparing the exact forecasts and operational summaries you need.
Managers and even key employees could be motivated to up their game— or stay with your business—by viewing your plan. These people could also contribute valuable insight about details that may be missing or inaccurate. A well-thought-out business plan can also help secure a leased space, or could even be used in negotiating a break on rent. Of course, it’s a critical document if you’ll be seeking funds from a bank or other entity. That said, include a confidentiality statement right on the front page, even at the internal review stage.
If submitting your business plan for anything official, make sure it’s designed well (attractive and easy to read) and get it proofread.
Paint a Picture
Do your best to describe the total guest experience—include the “theme” you use to approach food and beverage offerings, for example. How do you develop, test and introduce the recipes and dishes you present to customers? And remember to talk about décor, music, lighting, indoor/ outdoor spaces, plus the design highlights of menus, signage, website, advertising, etc. Then there’s the people piece of the
puzzle. Describe your customers in as much detail as possible. For example, try pinpointing an age range, possible careers and interests, whether couples or families, price sensitivity, etc. On the internal side, outline management strengths along with the staff “philosophy” and training successes (or strategies to fix shortcomings, if this is for internal eyes only).
Another good idea: Look at your systems. All of them! The training just mentioned above—are you using hands-on, computer testing, refresher sessions, or a combination? How are you helping to ensure knowledge of and comfort with any position in your business? Plus, consider the ways you recruit the aforementioned staffers. Food strategies to evaluate include portioning, inventory, and tracking waste. Also, analyze your methods for getting product to customers, looking closely at: ordering, takeaway, catering and delivery.
Go to Town
It could be time to take an objective look at foodservice industry trends, as well as the specific competition in your area. We all know the only constant in life is change. And we also
know how incredibly busy people running their own businesses can be. The landscape may have changed— iterally—since you opened your doors, however long ago that may be. Can you convey the things that make your establishment unique? (Note: “great food and service” is not unique.) What is your focus? Answering these questions in light of current trends, local demographics and other, nearby eateries could be crucial.
Consider upgrading ordering and payment systems, digital signage–and easy-tooverlook items like training methods, cooking equipment and water-saving faucets.
How long has it been since you looked at the legalities of running your business? From the regulations for providing uniforms (dictated by each province) to the type of insurance you carry, you’ll want to be sure you’re up to date. Remember to review written policies for staff, plus safety procedures and security measures. Finally, your approach to scheduling, time tracking and tip sharing could also land you in hot water if you’re not aware of current rules. Spending time on these topics could definitely save you headaches and lawsuits. Of course, no one can predict what tomorrow will bring, not to mention the years ahead. But if you make little to no effort to think about the future, then you’re “planning to fail rather than planning to succeed.”
Here’s a rough outline of what you’ll want to cover:
• Business Description
• Management Overview
• Business Environment
• Marketing Strategies
For a loan request, include one to three pages of summary up front.