From spaghetti to fettuccine and ravioli, pasta, in all of its wonderful forms, forms the bedrock of daily lunches and dinners across the UK - with the average Brit consuming around 90-100 grams of pasta per week.
If you're passionate about pasta, then you might have your sights set on starting your very own pasta bar.
If this is the case, then you're in the right place. From carrying out market research to deciding your concept, and writing that all-important business plan, in the guide below we'll tell you everything you need to know about how to start a pasta bar.
Carrying out market research on the pasta bar market
Why is market research essential?
The first step in launching any business is to carry out market research. This enables you to gather the information needed to set up the framework for your pasta bar and assess whether your business idea is feasible. In fact, conducting an in-depth analysis of the pasta bar sector is an excellent way to come to grips with consumer expectations and eye up the competition.
Doing so will enable you to check whether there's enough demand for you to successfully start your pasta bar in your area of choice, but also to identify a marketing strategy that'll set you apart from your competitors. The market research, most specifically the analysis of your competition, will also give you an idea as to the potential turnover of your pasta bar.
Factors to consider when conducting pasta bar market research
To conduct thorough market research, you'll need data on the UK population's eating habits, as well as information on the fast-food sector as a whole and, finally, the pasta bar industry specifically.
With as many as 53,495 fast food outlets in the UK, fast food is firmly rooted in the daily lives of Brits, as their fast-paced lifestyles demand grab-and-go meals they can eat as they race between the office, meeting friends and heading home.
Entrepreneurs entering the fast-food sector could also consider the possibility of joining a franchise, with Italian chain restaurants such as Carluccios continuing to disrupt the pasta market.
You might also decide to take the rapid rise of health-conscious consumers into account, by offering an array of gluten-free, vegan and low-fat recipes alongside classic Italian dishes.
Since foodporn is all the rage (with a 2016 Waitrose study finding that a third of Brits aged 18 to 34 regularly post pictures of their food on social media), we also recommend giving careful consideration to serving up aesthetically pleasing dishes that will gain traction on powerful platforms such as Instagram when you start your pasta bar.
After researching the industry's major trends, you'll have to get to know your clientele. This includes establishing a profile of a typical customer, from his or her gender and age to their income and eating habits. Do they eat pasta most frequently during their lunch break or do they order it in for dinner? And do they just order pasta, or do they get dessert or drinks to accompany it?
Next, think carefully about who your indirect competitors will be (basically any nearby outlet serving food and fast-food apps such as Deliveroo and Uber Eat) as well as your direct competitors (healthy fast food places and pasta bars located close by).
Try and find out the turnover of each competitor, as well as the number of people employed and their concept - looking in particular at the type of food offered and their menu prices.
You can then use this info to estimate which concepts tend to be the most profitable and try to identify what they have in common (so you can mould your own business model into a similar (but not copycat!) structure). You may also want to carry out the same process with the concepts that aren't doing so well when starting your pasta bar. Taking the time to identify where they've gone wrong might help you avoid making the same mistakes in the long run.
The rules and regulations of operating a pasta bar
Starting a pasta bar requires a good knowledge of the legislation in force for establishments open to the public (like any business, you will have to offer access for people with reduced mobility, for example) as well as the health and safety standards to be respected.
Before starting your pasta bar, you'll have to register the premises with your local authority's environmental health service at least 28 days before you start trading.
It's important to note that this process doesn't cost any money. It simply involves allowing a local official to visit your premises to check out the space you'll be using to prepare food and ensure it's safe and hygienic. Click here to register for a visit from your local authority.
To legally sell alcohol, you'll need to apply for a premises license. This will also enable you to play live and recorded music and serve hot food and drinks after 11 pm. For more information on how to obtain the licenses above, you can visit the Gov.uk license finder.
In the US, you will be required to register for a business license when starting up your pasta bar. You can visit the SBA website for more details on how to obtain this.
You will also need a food service license, a food handler’s permit and a liquor license for serving alcohol. Each state has its own Alcohol Beverage Control Board that regulates the serving of alcohol. To obtain a liquor license, you must contact your state's ABC board. You can find a national directory of ABC boards here.
The equipment and staffing requirements to start a pasta bar
The first big investment you'll make in starting a pasta bar is your premises. Whatever space you decide to go for, you need to make sure it's big enough to accommodate your kitchen, stock room, and dining room.
Decorating your dining room may also involve relatively large expenses. This will, of course, depend on the concept of your pasta bar. Opting for a takeaway only service, for example, will require less money than launching a high-end pasta bar, where aesthetically pleasing furniture, candles, flowers and eye-catching crockery will be of particular importance.
You'll also have to invest in a couple of cars or motorcycles if you plan on offering a delivery service - and don't forget about the administrative costs of setting up your restaurant either, such as staff hygiene training and paying for a premises license.
For your pasta bar to really take off, you'll need staff you can rely on. You can't run the whole show solo, so depending on your skills and personal preferences, you might choose to developing and preparing dishes from the menu, or devoting your time to managing the pasta bar.
Depending on your seating capacity and opening hours, you may need to hire several bar staff, waiters and kitchen staff to start your pasta bar.
In any case, carefully set out job descriptions for the positions you'd like to hire. Within each one, list the skills and attributes you're looking for in an ideal candidate (such as an interest in Italian cuisine, for example), as well as the working hours and wage you'll be offering.
The restaurant business has a very high turnover, so bear this in mind when advertising the salary for each position.
Extra administrative costs
Starting a pasta bar also implies having recourse to additional services, such as insurance, water, electricity, and maintenance.
You may choose to delegate the accounting and administrative management of the restaurant to specialised management or accounting firm.
Cleanliness and hygiene are of particular importance in the restaurant business. You may, therefore, think it appropriate to outsource restaurant maintenance to a cleaning company - but bear in mind that this doesn't exempt you from your personal obligation to ensure that the health and safety regulations in force are respected.
To ensure you estimate these expenses as accurately as possible, get in touch with several professionals and ask them for quotes - using this information as leverage so you can negotiate the best price possible with different suppliers.
Writing the business plan to start a pasta bar
Once the above steps have been completed, you can start writing the business plan for your pasta bar.
The business plan is made up of two major components:
- A financial forecast that aims to highlight the expected profitability of the business and the initial financing requirement.
- A written part that presents, in detail, your project, the team, your business strategy, and your medium-term objectives.
The business plan is the document with which you will try to secure financing from your bank or potential investors, so you need to make it impeccable.
If you are not used to writing business plans, a good solution would be to use online business plan software.
There are several advantages to using specialized software:
- You are guided through the writing process by detailed instructions and examples for each part of the plan.
- You can be inspired by already written business plan templates
- You can easily make your financial forecast by letting the software take care of the financial aspects for you.
- You get a professional document, formatted and ready to be sent to your bank.
If you are interested in this type of solution, you can try our software for free by signing up here.
Securing funding to start a pasta bar
As we've seen, starting a pasta bar requires significant investment. You won't, however, have to bear the burden of funding the entire amount on your own - as there are many ways to raise the money need to launch your dream restaurant.
First, you'll have to dip into your own savings. Even if this amount represents only a modest part of your initial financing requirements, don't go without - as it'll go a long way in convincing potential investors of your dedication to the business.
Your next step to start a pasta bar is to apply for loans from several banks. Make sure you send out a number of applications to different banks, so you can compare their offers and pick the one most advantageous to your business.
There's also crowdfunding. This involves setting up a campaign on a crowdfunding platform, telling your story, and collecting donations from kind-hearted individuals who wish to financially support your venture. Being (most likely) pasta lovers, contributors may expect a small reward linked to your business in exchange for their generosity, such as a free meal or VIP invite to the restaurant launch. It's up to you to quantify the size of the gesture according to the generosity of the donation.
State aid for entrepreneurs can also provide a considerable boost. This can consist of government grants which are available in many kinds of forms - from cash awards to free equipment to help your restaurant flourish.
To find out more about the support available in the UK, visit the Business Finance Support Finder. Another option is to apply for the Start-Up Loans Scheme. Supported by the government, this scheme offers personal loans of up to £25,000. The interest rate on such loans is just 6% and entrepreneurs also receive access to free mentoring and business support.
In the US, the SBA works with various organisations to provide small businesses with grants. Check out their website to see if you meet the criteria to apply.
Useful links to help you start a pasta bar
- PAPA (The Pizza, Pasta & Italian Food Association)
- UKHospitality - the UK's leading hospitality trade association
- National Pasta Association - trade association of professionals in the US pasta industry
- Hospitality Net - offers the latest news on the US hospitality industry
Now that we've come to the end of our guide, we hope it's given you a clearer idea of how to start a pasta bar. If you have any questions or queries at all please do not hesitate to contact our team
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