Welcome to this series of how I set up my own pizzeria... on a shoestring! I will be taking you through my journey, sharing every step I took along the way.
This series was born when looking back on a conversation I had with a very polite, young pizza chef that works in Scotland. He was working in a pizzeria but dreamt of opening his own place. One day, I saw that he had posted about his dream onto a Facebook group, and I wanted to give him some advice, having been in his exact position a few years back. We spoke on Zoom and he was so grateful and appreciative of my help - I really had made a difference! And it is that feeling that motivated me to write my experience opening a pizzeria, in the form of this series.
We will be covering a variety of topics from legal requirements, to financing, to design choices for menus and so much more - writing on and explaining how I managed to open my own pizzeria in Bedfordshire, UK - 'Pecoro'.
I say this often, but I never tire of repeating it, opening a pizzeria is not for everyone.
Take it from someone who knows all too well - it is a high-pressure business. It's a service that requires delivery then and there, often within a limited time window. In the UK, everybody wants to eat between 6pm and 7:30pm. According to a study carried out by Just Eat, the busiest time for takeaways is 7:24pm (very precise, I know). If you consider the fact that money is at stake, it is easy to understand why some people are just not cut out for the lengthy working hours and the endless daily to-do list. If you want to witness how stressful this environment can be, you only have to turn on the TV and watch 'Kitchen Nightmares' with Gordon Ramsay, and you will see exactly what I mean. For your ease (and my sanity), I have divided the series into five parts.
Deciding to go ahead
Before making the leap, there are a few things that you need to consider:
Running a business is very time consuming and stressful, but it is also exciting and rewarding. The first thing you need to consider is your family, as you know, they come first. The question I am asking you here however, is that of support and this works both ways: Can you support them financially with this new venture? and, Are they going to be there to support you through the process?
It's one thing to say: "Honey, it will be a success" and for them to respond and say, "I do believe in you", but it's another to put up with someone who:
a) Leaves early in the morning, and comes back late at night
b) Comes back stinking of onions and gorgonzola!
It's no real surprise that a lot of chefs end up divorced, is it?
So, you need to have a long and honest chat with your partner/family to prepare them for the reality of running your own restaurant. Consider all aspects of your relationship: Who will be there to take the kids to school? Who will walk the dogs? Who will clean the house?
Time off is no longer paid for
Paid holiday will no longer be a reality unfortunately. If you do want to take some time away from the restaurant, you will either have to put your business in the hands of somebody you trust, or you will have to close during this time (and this is not ideal as you will still be paying for fixed costs and will not be earning!). You could end up losing £4,000 a week and take it from someone who knows - that is a scary thought!
This is exactly why I didn’t take any time off for a holiday within the first five years of opening my pizzeria - this is the harsh reality of being a restaurant owner.
You may of course decide to have a designated closing day every week and I highly recommend doing this to avoid burnout - when I first opened Pecoro, we closed on a Monday. But keep in mind that there is a fine line between work and play (time off) in the mind of a successful entrepreneur. You need to be there for your business 24/7 as you may need to dash to the wholesaler, place orders, reply to messages, emails, enquiries - your new baby will be just as demanding as a real one!
If the above hasn't scared you off, let's talk money!
You are investing a LOT of money into this new project. Does this worry you? Are you able to cope with the stress? Do you have a Plan B if things go wrong? Will you be able to pay your mortgage? Do you honestly believe that you could easily find another job and get back on your feet quickly if something did go wrong?
Having a safety net and something to fall back on is vital just in case your business takes a knock. Start small and once you are secure, successful, and self-confident, splash out.
Don't take advice from friends and family
It sounds harsh, I know, but do you remember when you were a kid and you showed your mum a drawing and without even looking, she would say: "Wow, it's beautiful!", or something along those lines?
Do you remember watching the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent and thinking, why didn't his friends and family warn him and tell him how terrible he was before they let him come on here and embarrass himself?!
This is the exact reason you should be very careful and select whom you do and do not listen to in terms of seeking advice. Ask those outside of your family as there are a lot of reputable and respected resources out there, with many experienced people in the community (both local restaurant owners and those with an online presence), that are willing to help and cast an impartial eye on your plans. Remember, we have all been in your position and have had the same anxieties and worries as you so, we can best direct you to success!
Do I need a business partner?
Before actually taking the plunge, you may be asking yourself: Should I do this alone, or should I find a business partner?
I was puzzled when I was scrolling through Pizzaioli's Facebook page and I saw that a pizza chef was searching for a business partner to open a pizza takeaway with... on Facebook. I commented on the post and said that starting a company with someone you don't know is like, jumping off a plane without double-checking that the parachute works.
In light of this, here are a few important things to consider before making a decision:
- Who is going to be responsible for what?
- How much are you going to pay your business partner? Dividends? Expenses?
- How much time, effort and money are they willing to invest into the business?
- What is the exit strategy? Are you both going to retire here? Are you going to sell the restaurant when the lease expires?
And most importantly, always have a Lease Breakout Clause. However, much you may get on now, you never truly know how you are both going to cope when working together so closely - especially if you find them on Facebook! To read my experience opening my pizzeria with a business partner, take a look here: 'Doing it alone or with a business partner?'
To summarise, here are the Pro's and Cons of making the leap and opening your own pizzeria:
- It can be very exciting and rewarding
- After a few years of full commitment and hard work, you can watch your successful business thrive and treat yourself to everything you have sacrificed in the past few years
- You will be creating something that you love and will mutually be loved by all of those who visit. Opening your own restaurant will allow you to meet thousands of new people and even make some great friends along the way!
- You will be working in a very high-pressure environment
- The process is very time consuming so, it's vital that you ensure that you can fully commit and decide whether or not this is a viable option for you and your family
- Your family may not fully support the idea so, prepare to justify and explain why you know you can do it!
- You are going to have to accept the fact that a holiday may not be on the cards for a few years - opening a restaurant requires full commitment
- Money is always going to be at the front of your mind so ensure that you have a legitimate plan B, ready for the worst-case scenario
Check out previous articles from the same author: