5 Tips for Opening Your Next Restaurant Location

As an LA-based restaurateur with a background in filmmaking, Mollie Engelhart knows how important it is to tell a good story. And she does just that through her Sage Vegan Bistro restaurants, using the farm to table concept to serve up organic, plant-based meals and desserts.

“Filmmaking or storytelling is all about creating an experience for the audience,” she says. “Being a restaurateur and chef is all about creating an experience for the guest. Think of all the pieces that go together to create that experience, and always look at your restaurant from the customer’s perspective.”

Engelhart’s customer-centric approach is working. She and her team recently opened Sage Vegan Bistro’s third location in the Los Angeles area, and they show no signs of slowing down.

Here, she shares 5 pieces of wisdom she’s gained from expanding her restaurant into new locations.


1. Solidify processes at your first restaurant before opening the second.

When Engelhart opened Sage Vegan Bistro’s second location, she realized she hadn’t solidified the operational processes of her first restaurant yet. “Looking back, I would tell my past self to wait to open a new location until all structures are fully in place at your first location so that it is easy to scale,” she says. “We worked hard to put these structures in place before opening our newest location in Pasadena.”


2. Be patient —the right location will emerge.

The ideal spot for your restaurant’s next location is out there — you just need to keep your eyes peeled. “I believe that the perfect location always just shows up. I always respond to inquiries because you never know if that email that says, ‘We have the perfect location for you,’ is right!”


3. Be realistic when budgeting your time and money for the new location.

“I learned that everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much money as you think it will,” Engelhart says.


4. Strike the right balance between consistency and variety.

Once you’ve committed to opening a new location, decide how the restaurant will coexist with the original concept. For Engelhart, the menu and service must be consistent across locations. However, decor and layout are flexible. “I think it’s fun to experiment with DIY decor. Every restaurant has design elements I created with my own two hands.” She also knows that any new location will develop a vibe that reflects its unique neighborhood, but will still remain true to the Sage Vegan Bistro brand.


5. Define success for the new restaurant.

While success is often defined by a new location’s profitability, Engelhart has other success criteria as well. She wants every location to be a beautiful place to gather while ensuring all employees are happy and customers keep coming back. In her experience, when these 3 things happen, the bottom line takes care of itself.

Since successfully expanding Sage Vegan Bistro into 2 additional locations, Engelhart is focusing on 2 new fast-casual concepts. Without a doubt, she’ll be putting the 5 lessons she’s learned into practice as her emerging restaurant brands continue to grow.


Ready to expand your restaurant’s footprint?

Grubhub’s resources help you grow your business and offer new services to your customers, such as online ordering and delivery. With Grubhub, you can focus more on getting your new location up and running, and less on managing delivery or pickup orders. From selecting the best location to consistently training staff, Grubhub’s best practices provide guidance on what to consider when opening your next restaurant location.

Other helpful resources:

Chicago Restaurant Finds Success through Grubhub

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3 Takeaways from the 2017 Restaurant Leadership Conference

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