Thinking about a new concept for my area...any thoughts?

Okay, I am a total newbie to this post, so go easy on me if I seem a little long winded, but I want to give as much info as I can so that I can get the best info back from you guys. The wife and I are thinking of combining our two passions (hers: cooking, mine: making beer) into an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet restaurant with a small brewery/bar on-site, much like a brewpub. After all, everyone loves pizza and beer! We live in a booming resort area on the East Coast that attracts 13.8 million visitors per year to the area, which is made up of a number of smaller municipalities (the regional chamber of commerce pools all visitor data for a fairly large area). The particular area we plan to serve has about 5 million of those visitors per year during the summer months, and our tourist season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Many restaurants are so profitable during this season that they are closed the rest of the year! All of our area’s visitors are primarily families (which would be our target market), 66% of which are mid- to high-level income earners ($45k-100k+) Our particular business model will be unique for the whole area, as there are no other pizza pubs to be found in this state. In fact, the only other pizza buffet restaurant is a locally owned/operated one in the next city (~10 miles), which has been in business for 30 years. We ate there last nite and the food is always good, and they do an excellent business. Their average price point for pizza buffet + drink is ~$8, and when we were there, they had about 60 patrons. As we were leaving, some moms were coming in with balloons and boxes of trophies, so they were getting ready to get a lot busier, and this was only 5:30pm. I’m sure they had a good night. There are of course a number of independent eat-in and delivery pizza restaurants as well as the Big 3. There are two other restaurants with breweries nearby (one a steakhouse and one with sandwich/steak/seafood menu), both chains and both in the next city. They both stay packed.
We have about 150k of our own money to invest, but I don’t think we can set the place up for that, and will have to seek outside funding. My main concern is that banks will reject us for lack of recent food service industry experience (we both have some restaurant/bar experience, but none in the last 10 years). I do have business management experience as I ran my own business for 10 years, then decided to go to Pharmacy school. Being a pharmacist is ok, I make good money, but my heart is not really into it. Just not passionate about it (who could be passionate about pharmacy?). I have a great business plan I am working on, laying out various revenue streams besides the pizza (I can brew beer for 0.30/pint and draft sells around here for $4/pint), but really don’t know if this is a worthwhile pursuit. It seems like a good idea in theory, but I guess I am worried about the financing, and after that, the execution of the business plan, setting up a whole new restaurant from scratch, dealing with licenses/permits, contractors, the city/state bureaucracy, etc. Any thoughts/opinions on how to proceed (or if I should proceed) will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

I work for a brewpub/theatrepub, we dont do buffet, but can tell you, good beer, and good pizza are a winning combination. how many beers do you plan on brewing? what styles of beer? i know here in Alaska the laws on brewing beer are VERY strict, they limit the amount of beer per year(there has been years where by december we only had 1/2 of the beers we normally have due to restrictions on gallons of beer per year.

also what style of pizza do you plan on doing? what kind of ovens you going to run? does your wife have a good dough recipe??

i know we have regulars that come in for our pizza, nachos and beer 3 to 4 times a week. so if you can get it right there is money to be made hand over fi$t.
i know the cooking side of things, and i know my beers, but as far as brewing i wish i could point you in a good direction, ill hit up my brewers and see if they have any advice.


I assume there are extra restrictions on brewing your own beer for sale than just tapping into the kegs from suppliers. I’d check into those requirements.

Also, “hand crafted beer” may bring $4 a pint in your area, but that’s a premium price for a premium beverage. Pizza buffets are not premium food. I don’t think the two concepts mix well. If you want to be a brew-pub, that’s great and there are many that make it work. However, the concept of mixing cheap and expensive seems at odds.

To prove my point, I’d suggest googling for “bj’s restaurant”. They offer a very good pizza (and full menu) AND have their own beers as well as some micro brewery stuff as well as the big guys. Their food isn’t “inexpensive” but it’s very decent food.

Your concept reminds me of ordering chicken fried steak and Perrier water. It just doesn’t seem right. Besides, tourists come there on vacation. They don’t want to eat “basic” grub. If they do, they’ll go to McDonalds and get it cheaper.

The one concern I have of even the brewpub on a non-buffet basis is the beer. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that it’s only available away from home. It might be a good thing, it might be a bad thing. I’d hate to think it’s the best beer in the world but only get to have it for a week. However, this could tie into the locals having a reason to come there year-round.

At most pubs featuring “craft” beer they have little or no need to sell low price food of any sort…I think pizza and beer go well together but you have the opportunity to get premium prices for both…

I agree… I think the buffet is a bad idea, but pizza and good beer is a great idea :slight_smile:

Thanks for all the input, guys. I had never really thought about the concept that way, and you all make a very valid point. Do you think it would be a better idea to have a higher-end pizza menu since we will be doing the craft beer? I want to be able to do it without pricing myself out of a clientele, but I do agree now that I have read your posts that the high-end beer with the lower-end pizza probably would not work well together. I really appreciate all your opinions!

Forgot to add in my last post: Assuming we do decide to go ahead with the higher-end food/beer business model, what does everyone think about the lack of recent experience in the bar/restaurant industry as far as how the banks will view my loan apps? Am I just wasting my time?

Contact SCORE and see what they can tell you. You might want to hit up the bank pre-maturely and get a gut feeling from them.

You don’t have to do gourmet pizza. Even a decent pizza will work, just not discount pizza. Buffet pizza is typically low-cost for a reason – skimping on toppings.