I'm almost ready to open.....and I'm terrified!

Some of you may remember me. I’ve posted several questions this year about opening my own place. Well…I’m 2 months behind schedule but I’m almost there! All that is really left to do is hire workers, order food and unlock the door. The place looks great, all my food is awesome and the community can’t wait for me to open. WHY am I terrified? One reason is I’m actually afraid of being too busy and it being a total disaster. Another reason is because I have no idea how to prepare the people I hire. Do I hire them and have a couple “trial runs” before I open? Invite friends and family only? Advice please!

One option would be to hire your staff, go through a day or two of “on the cook line” training (I hope you prepared a procedures manual for every menu item, for them to study), and then have a “soft opening”. Only those invited (friends and family are best) will be allowed inside … let them order off the full menu, and ask them to give you 100% honest feedback on everything from the menu, to the HVAC system, to the rest rooms, to newly hired employee preparedness and socialness, to lighting, etc. etc. I know it could be expensive to foot the bill for this entire evening (limit it to 2-3 hours), so you could consider cutting every customer check in half, although it would be better to do the whole thing gratis. Even if you pay for everything, still ring every order up on your POS system to make sure that it’s working right when you will have to rely on it. Then go through your “closing checklist” with everyone before turning off the lights. If your fear of being too busy is realized, my suggestion would be to let folks know that you’re still working through your systems and that you’re sorry for the wait, but you think they will be pleased with the final product. Good luck, and give us some feedback on what you did and how the first few opening days went.

I’m in total agreement with “Piedad” I like to spend the better part of a week prior to a QUIET (soft) opening where the staff gets to practice making pizzas (gratis) for neighboring businesses, banks, etc. This will provide them with some practice time and allow you to study the work flow, then proceed to the invitation night. The last store that I opened we discovered a flaw in the way the work area was set-up so we made the necessary changes (just moving things around) and the work flow improved dramatically. For a QUIET opening, no fanfare, no signs, just a simple printed sign on the door that reads “OPEN”, trust me, they’ll know you’re open. After a week or so, (you’ll know when you’re comfortable) turn the big lighted “OPEN” sign on. Of the last four stores that I opened, none of them ever did any type of “grand opening”, no need to. Remember the costs associated with that week or so of practicing, take the cost out of your advertising budget. If done properly, you’ll have all the business you can handle without the big bucks advertising.
One last thing: Repeat after me “I will not micro-manage my staff”. Just make sure they have the training needed to accomplish their tasks, provide guidance when needed, help bail when the ship starts taking on water, but otherwise, learn to stay out of their way, and don’t forget that ever important pat on the back (not yours, theirs), yours will come later when you decide to take your first vacation a year after opening.
Tom Lehmann/The Dough Doctor

Fear is a good thing, it means you understand the weight of what you’re undertaking. It’s the guys that come on here and refuse to consider the possibility of failure or problems that worry me.

Yeah, trial runs like Piedad and a soft opening before any grand like Tom suggested are great advice. +1!

Oh yeah, almost forgot … a few days before you will be open to the public, give a “head’s up” to your lenders, investors, family benefactors, folks who participated in the buildout (HVAC guys like pizza too), the sign guy, the printer, painters … anyone who contributed to your effort. They will want to show off their talents to others. And the money folks will get an inkling of why it is that they believe in you. Make the excitement work for you … you’ve done a great job of coordinating this many-faceted organism to fruition, so now’s the time to share that excitement. Good luck, and go get em.