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Old 3rd November 2010, 05:48 PM   #1
Tritavius
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Default Food Service Idea

Hi everyone,

This is my second post on the forum and I hope you can give me some insight and ideas on what I can do to get this idea running, or if its even worth investing in at all.

So, to start, I'm about to be a 22 year old college graduate with a bachelors degree in psychology from an excellent state school. I did a 2 year liberal arts degree at a community college to get my prerequisite classes taken care of on the cheap. I then transferred to my instate college to finish my 4 year degree. Therefore, I should be walking away with a bachelors degree and little to no debt.

However, after spending time at my college I have noticed that we have little to no late night dining for the college students in the area. A local fraternity graduate opened a late night food delivery service to the area recently, and he appears to be doing well. But when I went to their venue the other night, they were extremely busy and appeared to have a long list of customers who were waiting for food. Other friends of mine corroborated this fact by telling me they had 2 hour waiting times on food orders from this same business.

I want to open this food service to drunk students at parties who are hungry and who want a good deal on some good food: simple. I am willing to put in the long hours and late nights to make a profit, as this is the time I think I will be making the most money.

I'm very skilled with technology, organization, and I can be strict and disciplined if it is an important issue. I maintain a strong GPA, work hard, do well in my classes, and have generally achieved my main goals in life thus far. I take the idea of making money seriously, but I don't see it as "making money" so much as "providing an excellent service" and letting the money take care of itself. I've worked at restaurants for many years, and it seems to be an industry that runs on the simple rules of keeping your money/prices in line, keeping your employees happy, and making great food consistently.

I also consider myself fiscally frugal and conservative and I am aware of my financial status as having relatively few burdens. In addition, my father used to own a shoe store, but his business did not take off into high profits, although he sustained us with it for a long time. Thus, entrepreneurship is in the family and I could see him supporting me as well.

So let me ask a few questions now that you know my background.

1. With the extreme lack of late night food service in the area, and considering that this is a college town with plenty of drunk/high students, is this a profitable and sensible investment to be getting involved with?

2. Should I be worrying about stepping on the fraternities business? Will we choke each other's business?

2. Do I sound like I have the personality to make a small business work? Am I mentally ready for this?

3. Is my age a negative factor? Am I going to have a hard time finding financial backing considering my age?

4. Putting aside the effort of hours and time, how hard is it to run a small business in terms of paperwork? Can some of these hardships be handled with some good software and computer knowhow?

5. What do you guys think? Is this how good businesses are born? Seeing a need and filling it with a good service/product?

6. What else do you see that could be a problem or should I consider? Do you have any specific considerations for someone working in food?


Last edited by Tritavius; 3rd November 2010 at 05:56 PM. Reason: Typos, style errors.
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Old 4th November 2010, 12:57 AM   #2
Green Tech Guy
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1. With the extreme lack of late night food service in the area, and considering that this is a college town with plenty of drunk/high students, is this a profitable and sensible investment to be getting involved with?

Sounds profitable in this situation. i would keep initial cost very low, don't get fancy provide the service or product with bare minimum amenities. If it takes off then spend some money.

2. Should I be worrying about stepping on the fraternities business? Will we choke each other's business?

Competition is just the nature of the beast, i would take notes on what they do and address what they are doing wrong. Also take into consideration that people WILL spend a few bucks extra for quick service rather than wait 2 hours.

2. Do I sound like I have the personality to make a small business work? Am I mentally ready for this?

No idea

3. Is my age a negative factor? Am I going to have a hard time finding financial backing considering my age?

Yes, Yes. But it should not take very much money to get this going. from what i read you are considering starting up a late night cafe. stick to foods that can be made in a fryer or on a grill. This will keep your start-up cost low and lets face it kids at 3 in the morning that are stoned don't really care what you serve.

4. Putting aside the effort of hours and time, how hard is it to run a small business in terms of paperwork? Can some of these hardships be handled with some good software and computer know how?

i would think what you are talking about would be extremely easy to manage. your going to need to get a merchant account so you can take credit cards. a very simple excel sheet should be able to manage the funds. i would assume that for quite some time this is a business that could be run outside of taxes until you see what is going to happen with the business. So you pay employees cash. Once you officially become a tax paying business you are going to need to bring a CPA into the mix which can get complicated.

5. What do you guys think? Is this how good businesses are born? Seeing a need and filling it with a good service/product?

Absolutely. Go for it, if you were local to me i would back it with startup, killer idea IMO....Good luck

6. What else do you see that could be a problem or should I consider? Do you have any specific considerations for someone working in food?

possible problems are endless. But just take things one step at a time and cover all your bases the first time

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Old 4th November 2010, 12:49 PM   #3
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Thanks Green Tech Guy!

I have a few points I'd hoped you could elaborate on.
Quote:
2. Should I be worrying about stepping on the fraternities business? Will we choke each other's business?

Competition is just the nature of the beast, i would take notes on what they do and address what they are doing wrong. Also take into consideration that people WILL spend a few bucks extra for quick service rather than wait 2 hours.
What do you think are some good ways to out-do these guys in terms of fast food? I don't want time to be my only niche, and I'd like to offer a better or at least more interesting product. They do custom sandwiches with mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, french fries, and other non-traditional sandwich items right on the bun and people seem to like it. I've just gotta come up with a way to out-do them in that sense.

Quote:
4. Putting aside the effort of hours and time, how hard is it to run a small business in terms of paperwork? Can some of these hardships be handled with some good software and computer know how?

...i would assume that for quite some time this is a business that could be run outside of taxes until you see what is going to happen with the business. So you pay employees cash. Once you officially become a tax paying business you are going to need to bring a CPA into the mix which can get complicated.
Can a business really exist outside of taxes? Aren't there all kinds of local, state, and federal procedures I have to go through to get on paper and actually start serving? Especially since this is a food service. I'd rather do it straight and legal.

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Old 4th November 2010, 02:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
What do you think are some good ways to out-do these guys in terms of fast food?
Look at restaurants like hooters for examples of differentiating yourself

Quote:
Can a business really exist outside of taxes? Aren't there all kinds of local, state, and federal procedures I have to go through to get on paper and actually start serving? Especially since this is a food service. I'd rather do it straight and legal.
Good choice. You have to research requirements at each level of government. Local city/county, state, federal. Make sure you are complying with all, and if you are weak in this area get the advice of an accountant. For a few hundred bucks, you can get things started in the right direction and do much of the work yourself.

Check into the differences between catering/delivery vs having an onsite location with seating. There are typically differences, maybe you could start with the catering/delivery approach

start small, is good advice

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Old 4th November 2010, 03:57 PM   #5
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Logan, thanks for the help! Any other suggestions would be helpful!

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Old 4th November 2010, 04:16 PM   #6
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One of the best/easiest ways to get your thoughts in place is to write a business plan. Have you started that process? If not, I would start there. It should become a living document updated frequently/quarterly of your business operations and planning.

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Old 4th November 2010, 04:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Logan View Post
Look at restaurants like hooters for examples of differentiating yourself



Good choice. You have to research requirements at each level of government. Local city/county, state, federal. Make sure you are complying with all, and if you are weak in this area get the advice of an accountant. For a few hundred bucks, you can get things started in the right direction and do much of the work yourself.

Check into the differences between catering/delivery vs having an onsite location with seating. There are typically differences, maybe you could start with the catering/delivery approach

start small, is good advice
No not any business can really operate without taxes, but to get started to keep your cost at a minimum you can. This will allow you to "test the Waters" if it turns out to be successful i would legitimize the business as quickly as possible otherwise you can have real problems.

Differentiating yourself: i would stay away from gimmicky items and stick to Great food at a good price and delivered in a timely manner. I would look at what the other guys are doing especially in the respect of what they are doing wrong so you do not make the same mistakes.

you may want to take a look at mexican food, excellent munchability rating for the stoners, very good profit margin, fairly simple to do it could be that niche you are looking for. I know that if i had mexican place the delivered i would have it at least a few times a week.

that reminds me, a few months ago i was on a business trip in a small town in texas i went into a gas station to get some red bulls for the drive and the place was packed it was half gas station half cafe/deli and everyone was eating these tin foil wrapped burritos, thats it nothing more. I figured what the **** and i got one. It was like 3 bucks for this huge burrito, not bad. I was a few miles down the road and began to attempt to eat it while driving (not wise) and it was AWESOME i literally turned around went back and bought 5 more to take with me. They were the best burritos ever, dont know what was so special about them but that place was making a killing off of them. that may be a model you could follow, just simple burritos rolled in tin foil. of course you need a killer recipe as well....

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Old 5th November 2010, 12:50 AM   #8
Tritavius
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Logan----
Again, all your suggestions are greatly appreciated. Is there a common format to business plans that I should follow? Any really great templates that you would recommend?

Green Tech Guy----
I was seriously considering some kind of Mexican food because it is so easy to make (wrapping stuff in a tortilla) and seems to be on the cheap end of the spectrum (rice, beans,cheese, chicken). How far do you think I should stretch this menu in terms of variety? I was thinking something like sandwiches/subs (hot/cold), basic apps (french fries, chicken fingers), burritos/tacos/nachos, drinks and maybe a few other items. Any ideas?

You guys have been GREAT! Very encouraging! Keep the comments coming!

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Old 5th November 2010, 12:55 AM   #9
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i would keep things simple to start such as
with beans without beans
chicken or beef
mild hot and hotter

The simplicity seems to work for that couple in texas, i feel confident it would work elsewhere

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Old 5th November 2010, 04:05 AM   #10
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Arrow Be careful what you wish for...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tritavius View Post
I want to open this food service to drunk students at parties who are hungry and who want a good deal on some good food: simple. I am willing to put in the long hours and late nights to make a profit, as this is the time I think I will be making the most money.
I love the concept! Here's my three points in reply...

1. Have a strict timeline from start-up to sale. I see many start ups make a tidy profit to move forward when they have a clear exit strategy. Conversely, slaving away at a crap business can give you a heart attack or worse. In short, set it, make it work, then be actively selling it to the new buyer. Simple.

2. Go easy on your staff, hire a few elite employees and don't scrimp on pay. You will be rewarded for their experience and time saving tips.

3. Go easy on debt, and credit - keep your cash flow trickling along as it is the biggest killer of all.

Good Luck. You'll find a business the most challenging and thrilling thing you could do.


Last edited by Hampers; 5th November 2010 at 04:06 AM. Reason: sp
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