Opening a Family Restaurant

So you have the passion for catering home cooked meals, sharing your scrumptious family recipes and a desire to make people happy through good food and atmosphere.

The dream is there, and now you need the know-how on opening a popular family restaurant.  There are many factors to consider to start your venture.

First, let’s look at what makes a family style restaurant.

Typical trademarks of family-style dining include:

  • Wholesome food (treasured family recipes)
  • Moderately priced menu
  • Table service
  • Shared meal concepts
  • Cosy atmosphere
  • Catered to children ( menus, kids corners, high chairs, change tables)


My personal romantic perception of traditional family-style dining is a place where the food is served by the owner or family members. Where the food comes with a story… about the product itself or their family food culture…  I anticipate the food to be “melt in your mouth”, wholesome home-style, seasonal meals.

A family restaurant to me should evoke the warm feeling of the fresh home cooked meals from grandma’s cookbook in a cosy atmosphere.

So, back to business. there are many pros and cons to having a family business, and being aware of both is important to be successful.

The business side…

Some key questions to ask yourself and seek advice on:

Niche – is there a gap in the market?  Will your family style restaurant offer something unique?

Legalities – ensure you meet local small business requirements and registrations.  Contact your community for guidance.

Finance – consult a financial advisor to discuss the business plan and start-up costs.

Location – consider the walk-in opportunities and car traffic in the area. How much space will you need (how much seating?)

Management – delegate tasks that match the skills and qualifications (if the family doesn’t have them, consider outsourcing certain responsibilities such as accounting, HR, marketing).

The people side …

When working with family members it is important to practice a professional working relationship (and less of a personal one).  You can do this by trying separating personal feelings as much as possible – positive or negative to create a more formal working relationship.

Build trust with family members – be clear and meet expectations promised.

Competency – ensure those who are put in charge, are confident and capable of their role.  For example, the charismatic well-presented family member is perfect to meet and greet the customers.

Skills – Design tasks and responsibilities that match the skill set and capabilities.

Equality – demonstrate fairness for all employees ( not just family members).  Favouritism can only create resentment amongst staff.

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