When Dina Berta made the jump from writing about restaurants to running a restaurant, she had one insight that helped prepare her for the road ahead: "I knew a little about the industry, and I knew it was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun," she says. "And having been a writer all of my career just sitting at a computer, I was ready for that."
Dina spent seventeen years writing about the restaurant industry for the Rocky Mountain News and Nation's Restaurant News. But this May, she and her husband, Frank, opened Frank's Kitchen, which I review this week. And in the process, Dina's perspective on restaurant operations evolved. "Nothing truly prepares you to step out and do something you've never done before," she admits. "And after a dozen years of interviewing restaurant operators and writing about them, you would think I would have all this down, but looking back on it, when I talked to owners and restaurant executives, I was listening from a journalist's perspective: 'How can I tell your story in an interesting way for my readers?' rather than, 'How can I take the information you are giving me to improve my own business?'"
Here, in her words, are five things that Dina wishes she had known before she made the transition from restaurant journalist to restaurant owner:
5. Do your own shopping until you become comfortable and more knowledgeable about what works best with your menu. Don't immediately lock yourself in with a supplier who will send you what they think you need.
4. Immediately claim your brand on social media. Be the first to post your profile and pictures on sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon. I didn't do that and there's a photo of Frank's on Yelp that I hate, and I can't remove it. And I've posted more photos, but that one always comes up first. Don't waste any time, just do it.
3. Budget the money for a web developer and put up a decent website even before you open. We've got one up there that I made, and I hate it. Customers look at your menu online before they ever come in your doors.
2. Never, ever keep the same phone number as the restaurant that was there before you. The landlady said "You should keep it." I thought, "Sure, people will call looking for food." No. New restaurant, new menu, new phone number. Sever yourself from the predecessor.
1. You get into this because you think you have good food, service and hospitality, but ultimately, you're in the sales and marketing business. You need to be in a promoting frame of mind all the time. It's good to have good food, but you have to tell people you have good food -- or they'll never find you.