Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should I hire a restaurant consultant?

    If you have little or no experience in the restaurant business, the answer is a resounding yes. There are a multitude of decisions needed early in the creation of a restaurant brand that can't be undone once those decisions are in play. At Gilkey Restaurant Consulting, we understand that the personality and voice of the brand, and how it communicates to the community -once established - can’t easily be undone. Once you select a name, design a logo, and put up the signage, that brand is established.

    One area we spend a great deal of time on with our clients at Gilkey Restaurant Consulting firms is determining the concept’s unique point of differentiation. For example, there's countless burger concepts in every city. To rise above the myriad of offerings it’s critical the brand have a unique point of differentiation. Wild Pastures Burger Company is a great example. Working with the owners, we learned they wanted to lean in on paleo dietary preferences and the benefits from adhering to that diet. They were also passionate about regenerative farming practices and the benefits to our planet and climate change, wanting these to become cornerstones for the concept. And as we began to create the brand identity, we all agreed those were great points of differentiation, and were going to weave that messaging throughout the creation of the concept.

    Another decision that is not easily reversed is design. It is critical to the success of a restaurant the dining room has an entertaining vibe, positive feng shui and the kitchen and bar can produce food and beverage in a timely fashion. If both areas don’t accomplish those goals, guests are going to be unhappy with the experience and not likely to return.

    The kitchen, bar, and dining room design greatly influence the flow and function of the restaurant. If new restaurant owners don’t arrange the floor plan or purchase the wrong equipment, that can’t be easily fixed. We can't easily reverse those decisions once they’ve been implemented.

    From feasibility studies, to menu development, to financial assessments and operations consulting, to the look and feel of your restaurant - this is specifically true with regards to branding and design.

  • How much are restaurant consultants?

    It really depends on the services our clients need. The range of services the Gilkey Restaurant Consulting Group provides is a extensive. Some clients are requesting specialized services and others need completely new concept development, what we call a turnkey solution.

    Specialized services tend to be lower priced given the selective nature of the request. Services such as ramping up sales, increased profitability, lowering food cost, lowering labor cost, are very affordable. Gilkey Restaurant Consulting receives a variety of requests, and we're more than happy to provide a solution for any and all of them.

    Turkey solutions vary in pricing given the concept the owner is interested in creating. For example, the time and effort involved in creating a fast casual concept versus a semi upscale, full-service concept is quite different. As you might imagine the time investment on a fast casual concept is far less than what is required for a semi upscale restaurant.

    At fast casual restaurants, the guest typically walks up to a counter, places their order, and the order is produced for pick up at a counter or it's taken out into the dining room and served. Versus semi upscale restaurant, where you're greeted by a hostess you're ushered to your table. The server orders and delivers your food, bartenders make your drinks, cooks prepare elevated food on china. So, there's many more flow and function decisions to be made for a semi upscale, full-service concept than a fast casual concept.

    And then there’s the space itself. If the owner envisions a 2,000 square foot restaurant versus a 5,000 square foot restaurant, the amount of effort required to design those two different spaces varies quite a bit. So, our pricing is customized based on the variety of options available to the client.

    Gilkey Restaurant Consulting gets questions about turnkey solutions and how much does it cost. On the low side Gilkey Restaurant Consulting charges $35,000 and on the high side Gilkey Restaurant Consulting charges $60,000.

    Gilkey Restaurant Consulting has been in business for 17 years, and during that time we take pride in the fact that our clients consider us to be a great value. Gilkey Restaurant Consulting is not the cheapest option available but Gilkey Restaurant Consulting provides the best results, and we don’t consider the job done until the clients are thrilled with the outcome.

  • How do you know if my restaurant is feasible?

    There are multiple variables The Gilkey Restaurant Consulting Group considers when assessing the feasibility of a concept. First and foremost is the demographic makeup within the trade area. Typically, demographics include economic status, average age, societal makeup, and size of the target audience.

    Second is to consider who the competitors are. If the client wants to open a fresh cooked, fast casual burger concept, we need to evaluate if any others operate within the immediate trade area. If there isn't a direct competitor, that's good news, the new concept can be the one option and therefore own the market.

    If there are competitors, you need to evaluate a couple of things. First is what's their unique point of differentiation? Another consideration is how does the competitor operate? Are they sloppy? Is the food delicious? How busy are the competitors, is there room for another offering?

    Next step is to evaluate the financial influencers for the business, most specifically, the cost of labor, cost of real estate, cost of construction, and supplies. All these variables and others need consideration in developing a sound feasibility study.

    Gilkey Restaurant Consultants believe feasibility studies and business plans are critical to the success of any business venture. They're not perfect. We've never developed a feasibility study and seen the restaurant execute at the exact same sales and profit performance we predicted, but it does give the client a high level of confidence for the probability of success. Without it, you're just rolling the dice.

  • How can Restaurant Consultants help scale my restaurant operations?

    The best way is to develop standardized operating systems that allows the business to deliver consistency with their products and service. We're always surprised how few restaurant owners have standardized operating systems (SOPs). And when they call us, they’ll say, our food is inconsistent, our service is inconsistent, our financial results are inconsistent. To address these concerns, we always lean in on what systems they’re using to provide consistency and help develop ones that will solve inconsistencies.

    If an owner decides to scale their business and doesn’t have solid operating systems in place, they will repeat the same problems they currently have in the first restaurant and/or unique or different problems will pop up because there’s no standard level of performance defined. Scaling gracefully is all about having an S.O.P. or a standard operating procedure that will allow you to consistently deliver the products and services your guests desire.

  • What are some of the best tools to have when starting a successful restaurant?

    First and foremost are real time accounting systems. What we mean by real time is the owner knows within two to three days after the end of the financial cycle how the business is performing financially. Financial reporting needs to be timely or it's not useful.

    Standardized recipes are vitally important as well. Consistency from the kitchen is critically important. Once a guest samples a dish, it needs to be the same when they come back and order it again. If the dish is prepared differently, they will begin questioning if they can rely on the experience the next time. When the food or beverage change, that can lead to disappointment. So, recipes are vitally important both for food and beverage consistency.

    Standardized service systems are important. Establishing how long it should take for the server to greet the table? How long should it take for the drinks to arrive at the table? How long should it take for the food to be delivered? What should the server say when they're interacting with the guests are all important to the satisfaction of the guest.

    Another key SOP are the purchasing systems. We find a lot of restaurants are not very good at this. If you buy too much perishable food, it spoils, gets thrown away, and negatively affects food cost which leads to lower profitability.

    There are 10-12 SOPs we at Gilkey Restaurant Consulting provide for our clients to assist them in maximizing their performance.

  • How does one price their menu for their restaurant?

    For a newly opened restaurant we like to do a menu development process, where we price our menus based on the local competition. As a first impression it's more important that the value orientation is similar to their competitors.

    Then 60 days after opening we cost all food and beverage recipes to determine the actual food and labor cost. For costing we like to use one of the many recipe costing programs available for purchase.

    But it's more important to back into that menu price after assessing local competition. We want to be approachable to any guests that live in that area and frequent those restaurants. And then we engineer the menu to make sure that the menu is cost efficient. We prefer to do that after opening.

  • How much does it cost to start a restaurant business?

    It’s dependent upon the category the restaurant is going to compete in. And there's seven categories that restaurant analysts group restaurants in. Those are fast food, fast casual, family dining, casual dining, midscale dining, semi upscale dining, and fine dining.

    So, depending upon the category there's cost ranges we have found to be predictable in building out a concept. Fast casual concepts usually range $250 to $350 a foot to build out. Location plays a big role in the cost of building a restaurant. Location could reduce the cost by as much as $100 a foot or increase the cost by $100 a foot. As you might expect suburban communities cost less than densely populated downtown urban areas.

    Semi upscale restaurants, which is another category, is popular right now. There are multiple decisions that influence the final cost of the business. Finishes and fixtures are the reason for the wide swings in build out cost.

    But after we've interviewed our clients, we at Gilkey Restaurant Consulting can pretty much give them a range of where we feel the cost of the restaurant is going to fall. Most can expect spending between $250 to $700 a foot to build depending upon the quality of the finishes and fixtures.

  • How much capital would you say one would need to be even considered in opening a brand-new restaurant?

    As Restaurant Consultants we’ve found second-generation restaurant spaces can substantially reduce the capital investment required. However, for new builds using our standardized cost per foot ranges will allow our clients to evaluate approximately what they need as a capital investment.

    Generally fast casual concepts cost between $600,000 to $1,000,000. Semi upscale restaurants cost between $1,500,000 to $3,000,000 depending upon the design vibe, finishes and fixtures intended.

  • If somebody doesn't have that capital, would you suggest the food truck option?

    We don't love the food truck business because of the limitations of space, clientele, and flexibility with your product. We’ve found most food truck owners buy themselves a low paying job for $50,000 to $70,000.

    With a brick-and-mortar business, you have more flexibility to grow your business. It allows you to alter the business as market trends develop, increase your reach with clientele, and provides the storage space to sell more products.

    For those needing capital, our business plans and pitch decks have proven effective in generating funding options with local banks. We have helped many clients receive the funding they need to start the business that they envisioned.