Helpful Hints for Starting a Restaurant Abroad

There’s no shortage of individuals who want to start a restaurant – it’s a fairly popular aspiration. That being said, most people probably don’t appreciate how difficult the undertaking is. Perhaps it’s because dining at a restaurant is one of the most common experiences we share with others. Things don’t typically go wrong and much of the preparation is accomplished behind the scenes – completely out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. This snapshot is for those of you who are seriously considering getting into the restaurant  business.

One consistently underrated endeavor is opening a restaurant abroad. Far too many entrepreneurs fixate needlessly on domestic markets. Why limit yourself? There are plenty of opportunities elsewhere. Nancy Wolf at StartupNation shared five relevant tips for starting a business on foreign soils. According to her guidance, it is critical to (i) pick the destination wisely, (ii) investigate the relevant markets, (iii) internalize the local culture, (iv) understand how to operate overseas, and (v) create an informative website. In this particular case, the sequence of her recommendations really  matter.

Given Nancy’s first and third takeaways, one could argue that American entrepreneurs would likely encounter fewer barriers by selecting a similar country. In other words, Western developed nations whose residents primarily speak English are ideal targets. That could mean the UK, Australia, Canada, etc. We can use the last example as an illustrative case in point. Canada certainly has a lot to offer. Nova Scotia, for instance, is a prime tourist destination draws significant revenues from its visitors. Senior Analyst, Karen McNutt, at the Policy and Planning Division of the Nova Scotia Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department, published a report in 2013 indicating that $1.18 billion or 58 percent of revenues were generated by non-resident  visitors.

You could certainly say the market is ripe for the taking. The next step is understanding how to operate. Native Canadians clearly have the advantage but only temporarily. Government officials at Nova Scotia maintain a public resource devoted to helping people start a business there. The authors direct entrepreneurs to external sites where they can register a unique business name, apply for necessary permits or licenses, and collect mandated tax forms – all of which are essential to operating legally. Negligence typically results in fines and/or other serious penalties. Don’t fall prey to mistakes in these areas – be diligent and don’t underestimate the value of tapping into outside  experts.

Internalizing the local culture involves both advanced research and direct contact. You cannot simply rely on one or the other. Understanding Nova Scotia’s unique attributes should help you establish the restaurant itself. Susan Monroe at ThoughtCo published a short but highly informative piece highlighting fast facts about Nova Scotia. Most important to the restaurant business is the close proximity to abundant seafood as well as the local agriculture – the latter of which is famous for poultry and dairy  farms.

Why should you care? Because those factors could inform the food concept and the suppliers utilized within the overall business plan. Those variables and several more are emphasized by Entrepreneur in its comprehensive guide to starting a restaurant. Other core considerations include the target market(s), restaurant service styles, location, hiring staff, creating the menu, complying with health code regulations, etc. There are numerous moving parts but none of them ought to be taken for granted. Avoid cutting corners to save money–make the appropriate upfront and long-term investments. That means ingredients should be sourced locally and glassware and cutlery should come from a premium partner (e.g.,,  etc.).

Some readers have found the advice contained in the guide above too granular to digest as beginners. Fortunately, Lorri Mealey at The Balance put together a succinct overview that described what she deemed the five most essential considerations when starting a restaurant. The concept, location, and name of the establishment all constitute the first major consideration. The business plan was second and the design of the restaurant, third. Lorri categorized the menu, equipment, and staff together as the fourth key consideration. She then concluded by stressing the centrality of adequate advertising, which reinforces the final point made by Nancy – create an informative website. You really can’t trivialize the value of patrons visiting your  website.

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