Food delivery service is an amazing business idea. It is trending across the world and…
Fast Food Restaurant Business Plan
The fast food industry is booming, generating over 191 billion dollars in annual revenue and employing more than 10 percent of the U.S. workforce. The fast dining operations make up a segment of the dining industry called Quick Service Restaurants (QSR). Despite the fact the industry has already grown quite large, it continues to expand as enterprising entrepreneurs develop new concepts and menus that are presented in the fast food restaurant business plan.
Quick Service with a Smile
Say “fast food” and most people think of hamburger eating establishments with drive-through windows. Yet, the QSR industry is much broader today, offering a variety of concepts and styles, and methods for the ordering and delivery of menu items. The legacy dining companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s continue to thrive, but new eateries are appearing that expand the quick meal concept.
Eating Place Styles
Originally, quick service places were walk-in establishments where customers went to the counter and ordered mostly pre-prepared items off a menu posted on the wall or at the drive-through. This basic style has bloomed into a variety of arrangements that include:
- Drive through window ordering only
- Order by phone or online and have the order ready for pick-up or request delivery
- Walk along a buffet style ingredient bar and request specific items
- Street vendors
- Food trucks and carts
- Fast casual (aka limited service or quick casual)
- Mall locations and kiosks
In every case, it is convenience and speed of service that places a dining establishment into the quick service eatery category. Price used to be one of the factors, but that is not necessarily true anymore. There are upscale QSRs today where the price of meals compete with regular dining places.
The QSR will have certain other characteristics:
- Limited menu with quick-fix selection
- No or minimal table service
- Counter service
- Fast service
- Almost identical menus within a chain
Fast casual adds a bit of a twist to the quick meal concept. The limited service dining places are included in the QSR industry, but they are really positioned in between the traditional sit-down and true fast food eateries. Quick causal has a menu that is more customized with a greater item selection of non-processed items, and they offer minimal table service. For example, patrons may order a grilled chicken salad at the counter, and it is delivered to the table. If customers want something else, they must go to the counter and ask for it.
Entrepreneurs interested in starting a new operating concern will need to consider all of the current styles and determine which will work best for the type of menu that will be offered at startup. On the other hand, there may be a brand new concept just waiting for development in the marketing plan for fast food restaurant.
Technology is having an impact on the QSR industry. For example, there are already dining places where customers can walk into the faster service eatery, order items on a digital screen at a kiosk, and then pick up the completed order at the counter. As technology advances, the QSR industry is eagerly adopting new technologies, and that could lead to new concepts.
Creative entrepreneurs seem to have no limit to their imagination. Subway serves a sandwich selection and provides a small dining section. McDonald’s is family-friendly with many of the locations offering a playground. California Pizza Kitchen serves a lot more than pizza. The Cheesecake Factory offers over 250 menu items every day that are made fresh daily. Chipotle offers a trendy version of Mexican-inspired menu items.
There seems to be an endless variety of concepts – Indian themed foods, protein smoothies, chicken or chicken salad only, hot dogs, multi-course meals to go, Chinese food, ice cream, fish only, roast beef only, tacos, sandwiches only, salads, yogurt, trendy coffee concoction, and on and on it goes. Some eateries specialize based on their preparation methods, like The Cheesecake Factory.
The concept and the menu are naturally closely tied together. A gourmet hot dog diner would probably not choose a Chinese décor, for example. Everything must blend together which is one reason it is so important to complete one of the fast food restaurants business plans. This is a document that takes the entrepreneur step-by-step through the process from concept to financials. If certain elements do not mesh well, it will become apparent during the development process.
Staying Ahead of the Trends
One of the challenges of being a restaurant owner is staying ahead of market trends. Consumer tastes and preferences change, and the eatery that does not stay on top of those trends could find itself losing customers to the next new concept. Trends come and go, but the following offers an idea of the kind of features modern and informed consumers are looking for on the menu or in food preparation.
- Only Fair Trade drinks served
- Only locally produced ingredients purchased
- Healthy salad options
- Organic food
- Low calorie options for favorite foods or low calorie options added to the higher calorie menu
- Only grilled and never fried menu items
- No processed foods
- Changing menus to reflect current health research
- Special diet menu items like gluten free foods, ingredients safe for diabetics, or heart healthy foods
Dining establishments must be much more transparent today as to what they serve, how it is prepared, the calorie count, the food content, and how ingredients are sourced. Price counts too, but not as much as it used to, depending on the type of dining establishment started. A dollar menu is popular at some establishments, but would not be popular at others because the concept does not support such inexpensive foods. The dollar menu is also quite impractical for most eateries because such a low-priced menu would not cover expenses.
Another trend is enabling customers to order via their smartphones and tablet computers, or via a website. Will the new enterprise be technology enabled? It is one way to differentiate the startup and especially appeal to the digital natives – the Millennials and Gen Z – who expect to use their technology for almost everything.
Elements of Success
Every successful operation has to consider certain critical factors directly related to success. Some are more important than others. One such factor is the location. Putting a hot dog stand next door to the country club that has a dining room may not generate enough revenue. Put that same hot dog stand on a downtown corner, near buildings where thousands of busy people are working in offices, or in a local mall, and lunch and/or dinner sales are going to be high.
On the other hand, a place with a drive-through window that serves biscuits for breakfast and hamburgers for lunch and dinner will want a location that has high traffic flow, especially at mealtimes. The location is also influenced by available lease space, required building modifications, and the monthly lease rate. Of course, the entrepreneur can also build a place from the ground up with the understanding that it will take a lot more startup capital.
Setting the Menu and Prices
Another important and related element is hours of operation which influences the meals that will be served. Will the fast service menu cover breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, or all three meals? The menu must be more varied the more meals that are served. The hours of operation also impacts the required staffing level which in turn impacts operational expenses.
Franchise or Not?
Some entrepreneurs choose to buy a franchise. They do so because of the advantages a franchise offers, but never make the mistake of thinking a franchise guarantees success. That is not true. Establishing and growing a franchise takes a significant financial investment and real effort. Advantages include:
- The right to use the brand name which already has market familiarity
- Startup that is turnkey ready
- Access to in-depth training
- Availability of a well-developed operational model
- Access to tested marketing strategies
- Ability to access the knowledge of the corporate personnel
- Sometimes, easier access to capital through the franchising company
Instant brand recognition is a real asset to a fledgling enterprise. Consumers are already familiar with the menu, services, quality, and even the physical layout. People who search out chains appreciate the level of familiarity they have with the operation.
However, the chain operation is also subject to getting its reputation damaged when other franchisees perform poorly. There are millions of people who have had one bad dining experience and refuse to ever try any other restaurant in the same chain. Some go online and post comments like, “Don’t ever try any XYZ restaurant.” It is guilt by association.
All the advantages come with a price in the form of franchise fees which can be quite hefty. The ongoing support is the ROI for paying the fees in a timely manner. The franchise is not a good choice for an entrepreneur that wants to be in total control of things like hours of operation, menu, vendors, service level, marketing, and so on. Franchisors have a lot of restrictions, and the owner must be willing to play by corporate rules.
Getting Ready for Startup
One of the best ways to understand how to write a high quality roadmap for success is to look at a fast food restaurant business plan sample. Most examples are written to an audience that includes investors and the owner, but always the owner. This is a document that addresses every critical element of the concern, creating a steady path of sustainability. Thousands of people start successful fast food operations every month, but it is not successful by accident.
When the final fast food restaurant marketing plan pdf is published, it contains all the elements of success. It proves the entrepreneur has carefully worked through the details, thought through what is needed to run a smooth enterprise, and identified what it will take to achieve sustainability. A successful startup is no small feat and never happens by accident. All the reasons a food operation is likely to fail are considered and addressed. The reasons include:
- Lack of adequate information about the competition
- Selecting a poor location
- Poorly designed fast food restaurant marketing strategies
- Lack of skilled staff or inadequate staffing
- Inadequate cash flow
- Difficulties obtaining the correct ingredients
- Poorly prepared food
With so many reasons contributing to potential failure, it is easy to start thinking this type of fast service enterprise is too risky. Yet, new operating enterprises are opened all the time, and many become the new fast service chains using the popular franchise model.
This is why it is important to write a document that does not skip steps. For example, the fast food restaurants marketing strategies can play a big role in driving customers to the restaurant. However, the marketing section of the planning document is just one section of several. A high quality document is thorough and attractive to readers, including potential investors.
Writing for Long-Term Results
Ready to write a planning document? The standard sections include the following information:
- Executive Summary – The short summary gets right to the point as to what the fast service company will involve and what makes it unique. This is like a snapshot that captures the essence of the new company, providing a profile and stating the goals. It may also name the amount sought from investors or the amount of the bank loan requested.
- Company Description – This section summarizes the basics about the company. What is the concept? What can customers expect to find when they walk in the door? What is the décor or theme? What type of food will be served and during what hours? Who will own the startup? Are their partners? Where will the operation be located and in what kind of facilities?
- Management – This section offers a profile of the management. Small food establishments are often initially managed and operated by the owner. Larger ones with extended hours will need more than one manager to oversee staff. Who will manage the ongoing concern, and what are their qualifications, including education and experience? What is the management structure? How much will managers be paid?
This section also discusses the personnel plan. One of the many challenges the owner faces is keeping the operation adequately staffed. High turnover can quickly cause customer service problems. How will the management ensure it can keep positions filled and employees trained? Is there a need for a cook, cashier, counter staff, and maintenance or cleaning staff? How many shifts must be covered?
- Products and Services – This is the section where all the research effort into the menu and the sources of ingredients comes together. Provide a description of the products, giving details about the menu, ingredients, customer services, strategies for keeping the menu relevant and updated, and other information as necessary. Services can include things like delivery services or catering packages. Also, how will the ingredients be sourced, and what are the strategies for ensuring an uninterrupted flow? Are there reliable vendors lined up with contracts ready to be put in place?
- Industry, Competitor, and Market Analysis – Remember that one of the reasons for operational failure is due to lack of information about the competition. Every entrepreneur should do in-depth research on the local industry and competition. If unfamiliar with how to do this kind of research, have an experienced consultant conduct the research.
This section describes the industry, narrows the market, names the targeted market, presents the market characteristics, and defines a competitive pricing structure. Specifically, what is the target market, and what are the market needs? The competitive analysis is quite detailed. It addresses market share, barriers to market entry, market needs, and the potential for future competitors to enter the scene. One way to present the information is to do a table layout comparing various characteristics between competitors, on elements like theme, pricing, food quality, hours of operation, etc.
This is also a good place to describe the trends that impact the fast service industry and the market. That description is followed by a description of the specific trends the startup will encompass in its growth strategies.
- Marketing Strategies – The fast food restaurant marketing strategies sample demonstrates the overall path forward to get brand recognition and to grow the startup. The fast food operation needs a steady flow of customers – new and returning. In this section the owner discusses the strategy for penetrating the market and communicating with the market. What kind of promotions and advertising will be conducted? Is there a website that can be turned into a marketing tool? If the operation will sell catering packages or deliver lunches, for example, there is a need for a sales strategy to reach potential customers.
Marketing encompasses price, product, place, and promotion – the 4 Ps. Address each of the Ps, and the startup will be on its way to success.
- Financial Projections – Many entrepreneurs need help preparing this section. It is based on the market analysis and the operational setup. Developing prospective financial data is challenging because there is no historical data to rely on. The statements to include are the profit/loss statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and capital expenditure plans. The SBA recommends doing monthly or quarterly financial projections for the first year as a minimum. Another four years of projections are usually included also, but the numbers can be on a quarterly or annual basis.
Also included in this section of the business plan for fast food restaurant is any other useful financial information, like ratios, breakeven analysis, and trend analysis. Graphs are beneficial to readers. Also, what startup funding is needed, and what are the targeted sources? Is the owner investing personal funds?
Quality really does count when preparing the document. It counts for the startup owner and for potential investors. This is a living, breathing document too. Once the fast food restaurant business plan pdf is completed, it should not be banished to a drawer or left to linger in old work processing files. The document needs regular updating to keep the business on track.
If unfamiliar with how to prepare such a beneficial document, the most important step you can take is getting professional consulting help. There is too much at risk to take any chances with potential success.
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