How to launch an award-winning restaurant

Stem + Glory is a plant based restaurant chain on a mission to disrupt the restaurant industry by serving plant based food delicious enough to turn everyone vegan. Following their recent Crowdcube campaign where they raised over £620,000, nearly doubling their initial target, we spoke to founder Louise Palmer-Masterson to hear her top tips for setting up an award-winning business.

Lots of people dream of opening a restaurant, but many don’t survive. The news is full of ‘restaurant chains in trouble’ stories. Along with the demise of the chain, however, we are seeing the rise of the independent, and the success of Stem + Glory is certainly testament to that.

Having opened two successful, award winning and profitable restaurants, what do I see as the secret recipe? What have I learned along the way?

Here are my top 10 tips for success and survival.

  1. Find your passion. For me everything starts here. My current business, Stem + Glory, is a vegan restaurant brand, coming from my own 35 year personal story with plant based cuisine. So if you are thinking about starting your own business, the first rule is always follow your passion. That way it will be a love affair.
  2. Find your place in the market. With Stem + Glory I had spent 35 years trying to find a decent vegan restaurant, so it became increasingly obvious there was a huge gap in the market. As the movement grew the opportunity arose to test this out. But it was still the passion to share plant based eating with the rest of the world that compelled me to take my ideas to trial, I don’t believe a gap in the market is sufficient on its own.
  3. Identify your USP. Every business must have one. With Stem + Glory it is ‘delicious’: based on my 35 year experience trying to find decent vegan food, I knew that it was all too often rather bland and boring. Therefore by providing exciting and delicious plant based foods we kind of knew we would be on to a winner!
  4. Have outstanding customer service. In hospitality this is of primary importance. I am a firm believer that making other people feel good is pretty much the answer to everything. One kind word can change an entire day, this is a powerful customer service tool. Recruit on the basis of competence, confidence and kind disposition, the rest you can train. Your team are vitally important to you: nurture and care for them and they will care for your customers. Our USP is delicious food, but kindness and customer care are a very important part of our offering.
  5. Find a lifestyle trend to associate your brand with. Taking a product and turning it into a lifestyle trend is a powerful marketing tool when launching a new business. Of course it helps if your product is already a lifestyle trend, as it was in our case (health, environment, compassionate eating), but there will be a version of this in any project. Identify your typical customer, and explore a lifestyle trend around them, e.g. city folk on the go or people seeking fine dining.
  6. Find your crowd. Using your lifestyle trend and typical customer, identify your crowd. If you can garner support from a ‘Crowd’ and have them on your journey it becomes such an exciting and positive experience all round. Even if you don’t complete a Crowdfunding round (like we did), it’s still important to have a crowd. If you don’t have a pre existing Crowd, you can build one if you: identify your passion; find your USP; identify what you have that IS a lifestyle trend; and then do your marketing!
  7. Get down with marketing! This sounds like a no brainer, but in case you didn’t already know there is a direct relationship between marketing and success. At Stem + Glory we are fascinated by marketing, and we literally do not stop. With the new GDPR rules coming in this year, there will be a need for ever smarter marketing. If you can embrace new ways of marketing and new tools you’ll be on to a winner.
  8. Look after yourself. I honestly believe that we all have enormous capacity for achieving a great deal, and the secret lies in concentration. If you concentrate on the thing you are doing right now rather than frittering away your brain power, then it is easy. For example, when I am with my team so I give them my focus, when I am with a supplier I give them my full focus, and so on. It is basically a very simple day to day meditation technique. In this way you can also immediately tell if you are going too fast, or getting too stressed. With heightened awareness I can feel right away if my mind is all over the place, so I rein it back in using the same meditation technique. Just focus on what you are doing in any given moment. If you get distracted, just bring your attention back. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  9. Listen to your own instincts. Lots of people will give you LOTS of helpful advice. Smile, accept it, then do what you think best according to your own gut feeling. Surround yourself with advisors that you can consult when you need to, this is invaluable.
  10. Nurture business relationships. We live in a ‘switch supplier’ culture, but my advice is the opposite of this. Having long term relationships with suppliers based on trust and goodwill are absolutely priceless. These people will help you if you need help, and will also celebrate your successes.

I believe that being successful is as much about you as it is your product. If the going ever does get tough, approach things with curiosity to find solutions. Be authentic, and stay true to your own vision and passion and let this passion infect your team. Be ambitious, be bold, but above all, be kind.

To follow Stem + Glory’s progress or get in touch with the team to find out more, you can check out their website here.

Louise Palmer-Masterton

Guest author: Louise Palmer-Masterton

Louise has a wealth of experience in the leisure and hospitality sector and is the founder of CAMYOGA, a million pound yoga brand she has grown from one class to nearly 22,000 users. For the past 35 years, Louise has lived first-hand with the evolution of veganism in the UK and her skills as a plant-based chef combined with strong industry contacts and knowledge led her to start Stem + Glory in 2016.