10 things i learnt in the first year of owning a restaurant.

1) Protect the driver

This is a more recent realisation, but if you're stressed, tired, anxious or generally not in a good head space, you will not be an effective driver of your vehicle, no matter how good it is. Take time away to gain perspective, and practice good habits to maintain a positive mindset. Its really, really hard.

2) Communicate why

It can become very easy to focus on generating cash, and marketing how you're different from your competitors to gain traction. Effectively communicating why you exist will build authentic, loyal customers & staff, whilst allowing you to power through when its hard. (See Simon Sinek's book "Start with why.')

3) Taste, taste, taste

Try everything before it goes out, get the team to try it, and regularly check for consistency. Why you exist might get people there, but ultimately the product will determine whether people buy into your vision. In order for your team to be ambassadors of what you do, they must of tasted it.

4) Hire & outsource your weaknesses

The single most crucial appointment to be was an outsourced accounts department (Virgateaccounts.com.) I am self-aware enough to know numbers are not my strong point, nor did i feel it was the best use of my time, so having experts on hand to deal with that side of the business has given me space to be creative & manage the day to day.

5) Don't be afraid to pivot

Not everything you think will work does, and this is ok. I've found the first year to be very much an experiment, albeit a fluid one. We have changed direction a number of times in response to what works, and at what time of the year. Im perfectly comfortable admitting when my idea hasn't worked, and this is power.

6) Communication is everything

There will be times when things don't go to plan, and despite your best intentions you can't meet agreed timelines. People are much more understanding when you can communicate this effectively & swiftly, with a solution in place.

7) However much you think you'll need, double it

I grossly underestimated the start-up cost of opening my first restaurant. I don't not consider if something went wrong, nor did i set aside sufficient cash flow for a rainy day. This put myself and the business under significant pressure, and made life ore difficult than it may of needed to have been.

8) Meet you customers at the intersection of their interests & your offering

Understanding this has been revolutionary for our marketing, allowing us to be authentic & give value to our community. We've focused on content thats interesting to our customers, but that ties in with what we do & stand for.

9) Don't be afraid to ask

Include the team in your ideas, but equally ask your customers! We've made use of social media to ask for ideas on menu, decor & events. Its brought our customers closer to us & built them into our story.

10) Enjoy the process

Its going to be hard, its going to test you, but ultimately its happening. You can choose to enjoy the challenge, or be destroyed by it. Find joy in giving people hospitality and see every day as an opportunity to improve.

Erpingham House is the U.K's largest vegan restaurant, and located in Norwich. Visit Erpinghamhouse.com for info!