Buying Guides

Advice For First Time Restaurant Owners

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As part of our series on buying a business, we’ve interviewed our resident restaurant expert Franco Pardini of Franco’s in Leeds about running a restaurant to help people looking at restaurants for sale.


Personally I know the industry inside out, I grew up in an Italian restaurant running round causing trouble from the age of 3 till I was 25, a good 10 of these years I spent working with my father learning the family business.

How did he get started in the restaurant trade? My father started out working in a pizzeria at age of 15, travelled around Europe learning how to cook properly the old fashioned way, with lots of varying experiences in a multitude of kitchens. He eventually ended up in London settling there for a while.

After opening, creating and selling a successful restaurant in London he then moved to Leeds to teach the people of Yorkshire what good Italian food is. In 1979 he opened his first restaurant in Leeds and several ventures later at the ripe old age of 72, he still loves the business and still runs one of the best restaurants around (well we think so anyway!). For him  it started out as a job away from working on the family farm, and turned into a passion, one which still motivates him to this day. If you have a passion for the business, enjoy it and are good at it, it is one of the most enjoyable, most rewarding things you will ever do.   

What are the most enjoyable aspects of running a restaurant?

First of all, there is always something to do, even if you think you have done everything, as soon as you sit down for that precious 5 minutes and a cup of tea you will remember something (or be reminded by one of your many staff). As much as this may be scaring you off it’s part of the charm of the industry.

The catering industry, be it a pub, restaurant or café based is very rewarding work. When you are making other people happy and they tell you this, it makes you want to get up in the morning. Combine this with making a profit, what’s not to like?

What are the challenges?

In the same breath of the customers being the best bit, there are always challenging people whatever you do. Again as with every business be it office based or catering, there always going to be problems with staff, equipment and deliveries, its how you deal with them that matters. Apart from this there is a lot of varied, exciting work to do, it’s not a full time job but a lifestyle choice.

How do you meet your customer needs?

First of all know you target audience. If your business is city centre based and people come for a quick bite, tailor the menu accordingly, where as if you’re a destination restaurant you can have more main courses and a more expensive menu and wine list.  

Next tip is not to have too much on the menu, a smaller menu with fresher food is the way to succeed. I don’t want to sound condescending but having a good website with a book online function is essential, try to update your specials on it too, keeping the menu and website updated is essential.

Last but most importantly, ensure that you train your staff properly, knowledgeable staff providing good consistent service with well-presented food and clean restaurant is over half the battle. If people are impressed on entrance and during their visit then they will be happier customers overall. Happy customers are repeat customers.

In terms of your bottom line, to sustain the business the profit margin is a key area which needs much thought and planning. Your prices need to be competitive for the quality of food and service you are providing, remember as an independent you are competing with all the chain establishments who can buy in bulk and advertise en mass. Depending on how much you spend on the décor and supplies, this will affect the prices you can charge. Trying to sell good food in bad surroundings is a hard task (and unadvisable).

Normally a margin of up to 10% is acceptable, this allows for profit on the supplies to cover other costs associated with running the business, and a small profit for you too.

What advice would I give to someone looking to buy their first catering establishment?

Do it. I love the business, as does my family. I’m not saying its easy, because its not. If it were easy everyone would do it. When you do it properly and enjoy it the rewards come back to you ten fold.

If you would like to ask any questions on buying your first restaurant or you would like to arrange your first viewing of our restaurants for sale, feel free to call our team on 0800 987 0813.