Almost everyone I know has at one point or another in their lives uttered the words, "I should start up a restaurant." Aside from the few "themed" establishments that are nowhere family friendly, most are in the line of family restaurants. In other words, a place where one could take their entire family, no matter what age, and have an enjoyable dining experience. The hitch is, though, that none of the people that I have heard utter such an idea has ever actually gone and done it. I have even had thoughts of opening something akin to all the other family restaurants currently out there, though I highly doubt that I ever will due to a lot of reasons.
Family restaurants owned and operated by an individuals have one of the highest failure rates in all of business. Franchised family restaurants, on the other hand, are a bit more stable due to the fact that their business is supported by a backing corporation that already knows how to conduct a restaurant's operations to maximize the chances of success. It is the brave individuals that decide to do their own thing that have a lot more to worry about.
Independent family restaurants don't have any street credibility when they first start out. They need to drum up interest within their community without brand name recognition. That is a pretty tall order considering at this point that there are many well known and established family restaurant brands already in existence and they've been around a long time. Because of this, many a person will opt to go to a well known, franchised establishment in lieu of that new place down the road because it is an unknown quantity. People like familiarity over change.
That presents the second challenge for new family restaurants. After hopefully drumming up some interest, their grand opening has to knock the socks off any customers that do show up. Amazing food and service is the name of the game on opening night. If done well, all the people that did take a chance on the new family friendly restaurant in town will talk about it and provide free press. Word of mouth is one of the best tools in the restaurant owner's arsenal. Enough bad experiences and that will eat into profits quickly considering this day and age where anyone with a computer or mobile phone has a widespread digital stage to voice their opinions. It doesn't matter if their opinions are vindicated or not, people have a strange tendency to believe perfect strangers on the internet without batting an eye or doing any kind of fact checking for themselves.
Independent family restaurants that make it this far and have a great grand opening are nowhere near being out of danger. Though if they get good word of mouth recommendations, their likelihood of success is much higher. And sometimes, by going to that franchised restaurant over the family-owned one, you're missing out on a hidden gem. Don't be afraid...give it a whirl!
Tim Hiller is a freelance writer because the fear of owning and operating a family restaurant is too great in him. http://www.osorioslatinfusion.com