Steak Buffet Business Plan
Sagebrush Sam’s – “a steak buffet,” unlike a typical restaurant, will provide a unique combination of excellent food at value pricing with a fun and entertaining atmosphere. Sagebrush Sam’s is the answer to an increasing demand. The public (1) wants value for everything that it purchases, (2) is not willing to accept anything that does not meet its expectations, and (3) wants entertainment with its dining experience.
In today’s highly competitive environment, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate one restaurant concept from another. Sagebrush Sam’s does this by being the only buffet concept that features mesquite-grilled, USDA-choice sirloin steaks, cooked on our display grill, for one low price. We will be serving top quality, 21-day aged steaks that are hand-cut daily on the premises and seasoned to perfection. Our grill will be out in the open and loaded with steaks cooked to the proper degree of doneness that our guests request. With our high dinner volume, there will be no waiting for a steak since we will have the grill stocked with every degree of doneness. No other national chain has tapped this market. With red meat (in particular, steaks) increasing in demand today, we believe that this feature will ensure our success.
This restaurant business plan is prepared to obtain financing for the initial launch of this concept. The financing is required to begin work on kitchen design, architectural plans, manuals and recipe books, site selection, equipment purchases, and to cover expenses in the first year of business. Additional financing will need to be secured for the two subsequent units anticipated in July, Year 2 and January, Year 3. Our positive cash flow will help to offset some of this burden.
The financing, in addition to the capital contributions from the owners, will allow Sagebrush Sam’s to successfully open and maintain operations through year one. The initial capital investment will allow Sagebrush Sam’s to provide its customers with a value driven, entertaining dining experience. A unique, mid-scale, innovative environment is required to provide the customers with an atmosphere that will induce middle America to bring family and friends to dine and socialize. Successful operation through year three will provide adequate cash flow to be self-sufficient in year four.
Sagebrush Sam’s objectives for the first three years of operation include:
- Growing one unit per year for the first three years of operation.
- Keeping food cost under 35% of revenue.
- Keeping employee labor cost between 16-18% of revenue.
- Averaging sales in each location between 3-4 million dollars per year.
- Maintaining tight controls on costs and operations by hiring a managing partner/proprietor for each location and utilizing automated computer/Internet control.
Sagebrush Sam’s will strive to be the premier buffet restaurant in the local marketplace. We want our guests to have the total experience when visiting Sagebrush Sam’s. Not only will our guests receive a great meal, they will also be provided with a fun atmosphere. We will be doing unique things (such as serving all-you-can-eat USDA-choice sirloin steaks on a display mesquite grill) that will set us apart from the competition. We will want the dining experience to be as pleasing to the senses as it is to the palate.
Our main focus will be serving quality food at a great value. We will feature a large selection of freshly-prepared food, most in full view of our guests. We will feature 100 items daily that are full of flavor and zest at an unbelievable price!
Customer satisfaction is paramount. When approached by a customer with a request, our motto will be, “Yes is the answer; what is the question?” We will strive for broad appeal. We want to be the restaurant of choice for everyone: families and singles, young and old, male or female. Employee welfare will be equally important to our success. All will be treated fairly with the utmost respect. We want our employees to feel a part of the success of Sagebrush Sam’s. Happy employees make happy guests. We will combine menu variety, atmosphere, ambiance, and friendly staff to create a sense of “place” in order to reach our goal of over-all value in the dining/entertainment experience.
Keys to Success
The keys to the success of Sagebrush Sam’s are:
- The creation of a unique, innovative, entertaining, mid-scale atmosphere that will differentiate us from the competition.
- Execution of our primary goal to serve nothing but the highest quality food at unbelievably low prices in a clean, fun environment. We must deliver on this pledge 100% of the time, without exception.
- Controlling costs at all times, in all areas.
- Hiring the best people available, training, motivating and encouraging them, and thereby retaining the friendliest, most efficient staff possible.
- Entertaining surroundings — All stores will feature display cooking of our featured USDA-choice sirloin steaks cooked over a mesquite grill. Our guests will also be able to view our meat-cutting cooler where steaks are hand-cut daily and aged for 21 days to ensure that they are so very tender. The bakery, salad, and hot food stations will also be visible to our guests while they pick out their favorites from over 100 deliciously-prepared items daily. Our walls will be decorated with Western antiques by (confidential or proprietary information deleted).
- Quality food — Each Sagebrush Sam’s will serve nothing but fresh meats, crisp salads, delectable side dishes and scrumptious desserts, all served with old-fashioned, home-style care!
- 1/3 lb. Sam’s Specialty Beefburger lunch — A special treat will greet our weekday lunch guests from 11:00 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. We will be serving 1/3 lb. Sam’s Specialty Beefburgers off our display grill. The Sam’s Specialty Beefburgers will be ground fresh daily and seasoned with our custom blend of spices designed to enhance their taste. To complement our sandwiches, we will convert one of our hot bars to a cold “sandwich fixin’s” bar, with sliced tomatoes, onions, chopped lettuce, pickles, relish and everything necessary to complement our sandwiches.
- Variety, variety, variety — A different menu for every day of the week will feature…(confidential or proprietary information deleted)…to name a few of our special theme dinners. We will also change the menu items quarterly on these nights to spice things up. Open only for peak business periods — Buffet food does not keep well during slow time periods because all hot food must be held above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, we will close our doors weekdays between 2:30 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. and at 8:30 p.m. nightly except on Friday and Saturday when we will close at 9:30 p.m. Breakfast buffet — Depending upon location, Sagebrush Sam’s will serve a buffet breakfast, offering fresh fruits in-season, cold juices, hot breakfast items, and cook-to-order omelets from our display grill. Some locations may offer breakfast daily while others may only feature it on weekends.
- Self-service — Every new guest will receive a guided tour explaining our concept and the self-serve system. We have found that by doing this we can exceed our guest perception of service 96.5% of the time. For example, if a guest is expecting to get his own drinks but a manager is walking around pouring coffee refills, we will have exceeded their expectations.
- Friendly employees — Our employees will be ringing dinner bells when fresh-baked rolls come out of the oven or our signature steaks are ready. Our managers will make table visits a priority, and who knows? Our guests may even see our staff perform a line dance or two! We will dress casually in tailored jeans and ironed logo T-shirts that our customers may purchase for a nominal price.
- Dinner all day on Sat./Sun. — We will feature our dinner menu all day on Saturday and Sunday. Since both days are busy all day long, we will not shut down at midday.
- Reduced dinner pricing — On Monday-Thursday the dinner price will be slightly lower than on Fri./Sat./Sun. since we will add fried shrimp and ribs to the weekend selection.
Sagebrush Sam’s – “a steak buffet” is a sole proprietor business. Samuel Brooks is the principal owner. It is Mr. Brooks’ intention to offer outside ownership in Sagebrush Sam’s on an equity, debt, or combination basis in order to facilitate the start-up and growth of Sagebrush Sam’s.
Mr. Brooks holds a BS degree in management from the University of Alberta. He has held executive level positions in management with several successful national restaurant chains.
Company Locations and Facilities
Sagebrush Sam’s will range in size from 7,000-10,000 square feet and will seat from 300-400 guests. Each location will feature authentic western antiques such as Native American blankets, cowboy gear, and horse tack. We will equip the restaurant with a state-of-the-art sound system connected to an old-time juke box where our customers will be able to select their favorite country and western songs for free. Every restaurant will be built to our prototype specifications: clean lines, open, and pleasing to the customer.
The site/building selection will be chosen based upon the following list of criteria:
- Community size minimum of 40,000 people within five miles.
- High visibility.
- Easy access to parking lot with a minimum of 120 parking spaces.
- Mid- to low-cost land not to exceed $600,000.
- Heavy blue-collar worker makeup in the community.
- No overabundance of competition in the trade area.
All of these qualities are consistent with Sagebrush Sam’s goal of providing a top quality, entertaining dining experience at an unbelievably low price. We want “word of mouth” to be our best form of marketing, where our guests cannot believe the value of their dining experience and can’t wait to tell their friends and neighbors.
Sagebrush Sam’s will provide quality dining seven days per week. We will only close our locations on Christmas and Thanksgiving. All locations will be open for lunch and dinner. Selected locations will serve breakfast either daily or only on weekends. All meals will be self-serve buffet style offerings for a fixed price.
Sagebrush Sam’s will have broad customer appeal due to our casual family atmosphere, wide variety of food offerings, and low price points. We will not only compete with the casual segment restaurants, but also with the family value steak restaurants.
In competing against the casual theme restaurants, we will have the following advantages:
- Lower price point for a complete meal. If our consumer is a steak lover, his Sagebrush Sam’s meal is almost half what he would pay at a theme restaurant.
- There will be no tipping at Sagebrush Sam’s, since we are self-service. This will reduce the actual customer cost of our dining experience by 10-15%.
- Speed of service will be instant: no waiting for a steak, salad, beverage, or dessert. Everything will be readily available: hot, juicy, fresh, and cooked as requested.
- Our portions will be “just right.” Since we are “all-you-can-eat” the portion size meets the need, rather than a pre-determined amount meant to suit the “average” person.
- Variety is the name of our game. Guests will choose from over 100 different items prepared fresh daily. It is often difficult to meet the dining requests of each family member due to individual tastes. However, at Sagebrush Sam’s, there will be something for everyone, every day of the week.
- We will provide more entertainment than our competition. Our guests will view our meat-cutting cooler as they walk in; they will watch us cooking 70-80 steaks at a time on our mesquite grill; and they will see us preparing and cooking their hot entrees, desserts, and salads. We want our guests to feel a part of the “Sagebrush Sam’s” dining experience!
In competing against the family value steak restaurants, we will have the following advantages:
- We will serve better quality food than our competitors. Nightly, we will offer USDA-choice sirloin steaks that are hand-cut daily and aged for 21 days. With our higher dinner price points, we will feature better quality items on the buffet. Not only can we afford to do this, but it will also limit the amount of steaks that our guests will consume per visit. Even though some guests will eat 4-5 steaks, the average still remains at 1.2 steaks per guest.
- We will offer a lower price point at lunch than our competition and feature a fresh Sam’s Specialty Beefburger, hot and juicy off our display grill, plus the buffet! Our guest could pay the same price at a quick service restaurant, QSR, but only receive a burger, fries, and a drink.
- Our surroundings will be more entertaining than our competitors’.
- Our food will be fresher since we will close weekdays between 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and shorter evening hours.
- Our guests will not encounter service problems. Our competitors still feature servers who bring beverages, extra plates, and dinners if ordered. Their servers, which traditionally handle as many as 10 tables at a time, frequently have trouble being everywhere at the same time. With Sagebrush Sam’s, everything is out front and ready for our guests. We will explain our service policy up front and, therefore, never let them down.
- There will be no confusing menu board when guests arrive at our restaurant. One price will be stated, with everything included. Some of our competitors have 10-foot-long menu boards which are overwhelming to customers and difficult to read. Others try to up-sell and ask too many questions while reeling off specials of the day. After all is said and done, they sell 90% buffets and 10% dinners. We’ve made it simple: one price, everything included. And we’ve put steak back on the menu where it belongs — right on top!
- We will not need trays for guests carrying drinks, plates, silverware and napkins from the cash register at Sagebrush Sam’s, everything is conveniently placed in the dining room near the food stations.
- We will be able to staff our restaurant with 25% fewer employees than our competition. With no need for servers, only one cashier, shorter operating hours, and out-front servicing of our food bars, we can efficiently run with a reduced staff.
- There is no tipping at Sagebrush Sam’s, since we are self-service. This will reduce the actual customer cost of our dining experience by 10-15%.
Currently, there is not any sales literature produced for Sagebrush Sam’s. However there are plans to produce three different pieces once we open. All should be relatively inexpensive to produce and most will be accomplished in-house by using desk top publishing. Below are the pieces that we are planning to produce.
Table Toppers — will explain concept and differences between lunch/dinner, “Theme Nights,” selling gift certificates, announcing job opportunities, and possibly mentioning franchise possibilities.
Brochures/Handouts — will explain that we can handle large parties, banquets, or buses; another will list our daily featured entrees.
Direct Mail Piece — will explain our concept, list prices, and show inside photographs of our restaurant. We will produce and mail this after our first quarter of operation.
Each Sagebrush Sam’s will invest in a single high-speed computer to provide a fast and efficient connection to the Internet and also be a link to our cash registers. We will then be able to poll each restaurant nightly to our Corporate Support Center and be able to daily digest key financial information. We will also order online, email, and have a Web page.
Sagebrush Sam’s plans for slow and cautious growth during its initial start-up phase. We foresee no more than three units within the first three years of operation. Thereafter, we will never develop more units than we have adequate manpower to operate. A second principle in our growth will be to cluster our development. Our first three units will be within a short distance of each other (a three-hour drive). Afterwards, we will work with neighboring geographical areas for development. Thirdly, we will develop one ground-up unit and one conversion with the first three restaurants. This will then allow us to test which model will work best for future, long-term development.
Market Analysis Summary
Sagebrush Sam’s is faced with the exciting opportunity of being the first mover in the “all-you-can-eat steak buffet” concept to become a national player. The consistent popularity of steak, combined with a value price point in a buffet concept, has proven to be a winning concept in other markets and will produce the same results nationally.
In looking at our market analysis, we have defined the following groups as targeted segments. The only exception comes when we define our targeted segment for lunch. We firmly believe, and have witnessed, that a much broader appeal exists for this midday time slot because we have priced it so low and feature our Sam’s Specialty Beefburger. Below are our targeted market segments.
- Age — Seniors, Baby-Boomers, young married couples with children, and blue-collar workers of all ages.
- Family Unit — We will appeal to young families with new babies or mature families with children under the driving age. Most of our family units will have two wage earners.
- Gender — We will equally target both sexes with a slight skew for males due to their heavy consumption of red meat.
- Income — We will appeal to the high side of low income individuals and to all in the middle income bracket.
- Occupation — We will target the blue-collar worker, young professionals with a family, and most of mid-America.
- Education — High school graduates, or individuals with some college.
By our definition, we will have very broad appeal for our concept. It is our goal to be the restaurant of choice for the largest dining audience in America.
Target Market Segment Strategy
Sagebrush Sam’s intends to cater to the bulk of mid-America. We have chosen this group for several important reasons. First and foremost is the sheer size. With our restaurants seating almost 400 people, we will need a broad base and mass appeal to fill them. It is our goal to have “something for everyone” every day on our menu.
Secondly, it is a very heavy restaurant user group. Last year, Americans dined out an average of 3.7 times per week (that’s once every other night). They are on limited or fixed incomes and seek a value/price relationship that will not stretch their budgets.
Lastly, this group will see a large growth in their numbers over the next decade. If we can continue to meet and exceed their expectations, we should witness same store sales growth over this time period. We will, however have to stay focused on their changing needs and menu choices to maintain their loyalty. For the most part, this group is in a hurry, due to heavy time demands at work and home, so our buffet style of service suits them to a “T.”
Our lunch strategy is dual purposed. First, we are featuring fresh ground Sam’s Specialty Beefburgers with all the fixin’s to fill America’s craving for hamburgers. Most folks’ idea of lunch is a quick sandwich, not a heavy meal. Half of our hot food selection will be replaced with sliced tomatoes and onions, pickles and relish, and chopped or leaf lettuce. Our guests will pick up their Sam’s Specialty Beefburger at our display grill, add melted cheese or hot BBQ sauce, and help themselves to the hottest french fries in town seasoned with our special blend of spices. What’s not to like about a hot, juicy Sam’s Specialty Beefburger served right off the grill!!!
Second, we want to keep the price point at lunch as low as possible to keep us in competition with fast-food restaurants. At $…(confidential or proprietary information deleted)…we are only slightly above the QSR segment and we offer much, much more. Not only do our guests get a sandwich, drink, and fries but also a salad, dessert and a selection of hot food items. By reducing the hot food assortment from dinner, we will be able to keep our food cost in line with the reduced price. All in all, this is a win-win strategy that will broaden our customer base at lunch to include singles, teens, and professionals while still maintaining our core market segment.
Sagebrush Sam’s sees our targeted market group as having many dining dollar needs. Taken from a recent Consumer Reports on Eating Share Trends (CREST) survey, below are the needs we will focus on in Sagebrush Sam’s. Our core group:
- Seeks strong value.
- Wants variety and flavor in its food.
- Looks for speed of service.
- Wants an entertaining dining experience.
- Insists upon a clean, friendly, and attractive dining environment.
A market survey was conducted in February, 2000 (seven months after the opening of the second …(confidential or proprietary information deleted)…steak buffet restaurant by Sam Brooks. Key questions were asked of 505 customers called at random in the surrounding area to determine how they rated their dining experience at the steak buffet concept. Some key findings include: (confidential or proprietary information deleted).
Service Business Analysis
The restaurant industry in the U.S. has experienced rapid growth in the last 20 years and is now moving into the mature stage of its life cycle. Many factors contributed to the large demand for good restaurants in the U.S. today. People want more leisure time. There are more two-wage earner families today, and more discretionary income. The competition is strong, with many formidable chains competing for the consumer dollar. It is almost impossible today to strike off into a new, unique, untried venue. Only the strong will survive and prosper.
Due to intense competition, restauranteurs must look for ways to differentiate their place of business in order to achieve and maintain a competitive advantage. The founder of Sagebrush Sam’s realizes the need for differentiation and strongly believes that combining the popularity of steak with the buffet concept is the key to success. The fact that no other national chain has entered this arena as yet presents us with a window of opportunity and an entrance into a profitable niche in the market.
Competition and Buying Patterns
1999 was a prosperous year for the restaurant industry. While not every chain was as successful as it could be, consumers stepped up and continued to increase their use of restaurants. They appeared to have happily paid a bit more for a meal. They don’t seem to need promotions to be inspired to buy. At the same time, operators, particularly chains, appeared fairly cautious. No incremental units were built for the first time since the early 1990’s. Though there were some rocky points in the American economy over the course of the year, things finished up on a high note, and prospects bode well for 2000.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) percolated along at a growth rate of roughly 4%. The remarkable thing about the GDP is how strongly it finished the year. Disposable personal income grew a little under the pace it set the past two years. The unemployment rate continued to decline throughout the year, and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) popped above 2% but stayed remarkably low.
Concerns about the sustainability of the current economic boom appear to have had a strong impact on the restaurant industry within the operator community. In 1998, after three years of strong increases, the rate of growth for restaurant units dropped to zero! This is the first time since the recession at the start of the 1990’s that the number of restaurants did not grow.
Among chains as a whole, however, smaller chains (under 99 units) were the ones that saw unit counts decline. The most aggressive growth group remains the chains that number between 100 and 500 units.
The conservative behavior of the operator community might have led to a lackluster year for the industry if it weren’t for the fact that consumers kept right on buying more restaurant prepared foods. In 1999, the number of meals and snacks purchased from a restaurant per person grew to 158 occasions per year (nearly half the days in a year), another all-time high! The combined boosts in traffic counts and guest check averages resulted in a 6.5% increase in consumer spending at restaurants. The industry has achieved the longest and strongest expenditures growth ever recorded in the 25-year history of CREST.
All in all, 1999 has been a great year for the restaurant industry. Sales are increasing, consumers continue to use restaurants more often and in more situations, and the restaurant companies have managed themselves so that, on balance, they are in a fairly healthy condition. Every segment and every category grew.
Industry Marketing Overview: 1999
In 1999, campaigns focused on the classic themes of value and quality. As a result of the thriving economy, however, chains added additional elements to their campaigns. For instance, chains approached advertising with greater creativity to differentiate themselves within the marketplace. Chains also focused more on customer service.
(Confidential or proprietary information deleted.)
Regardless of the message, consumers perceived operators to be dealing less this year. For the third year in a row, the rate of dealing did not increase. The trend that had never been seen before continues to stretch! This is not all a case of operators offering fewer deals, however. Many of the deals that are offered have been in place for many years. Consumers may no longer perceive combination meals and $0.99 premium sandwiches as deals. The upside of this is that consumers may be sensitive to special deals when they are introduced. The downside is that it’s tough to come up with a price with more magic appeal than $0.99.
Restaurant Industry Long-Term Future
In the near term, it looks as though two things are likely to happen: restaurants may not have the resources to expand as fast as they did in the early 1990’s, and consumers are likely to continue to increase their demand for prepared meals and snacks. Well-thought-out and well-managed restaurant companies have not enjoyed the market valuations that the dot-coms have in the past year. It seems that nothing the industry can do will attract capital the way it did earlier in the 1990’s. In spite of continued same store sales increases, the lack of interest that the industry generates in the financial markets could keep restaurant operators in a conservative frame of mind in the near term. That lack of financial resources combined with the restrictions faced in the labor market should hold unit development back.
These operators will be wondering how to get more out of the real estate they already have. One of the ways to do this is to raise prices. They have been doing this with fair success for the past couple of years and are likely to continue to push the envelope in this respect. In addition, they are likely to want to get into new business segments: expand into breakfast, offer takeout or delivery service, experiment with snacks. Those ideas will require partnership with manufacturers to develop and design those new concepts within the existing chains.
Fortunately, consumers are likely to continue to do their part in the market. Over the long term, consumers have spent about 5% of their disposable personal income on food away from home. That number has stayed almost flat since 1930. Given the stability of this number, you can expect that total spending in the industry will grow no more than a shade faster than income. All prospects look good for income growth so we are likely to see continued 3%-5% growth. That should be plenty of room for everyone, provided people/money are available.
Everyone that sells prepared meals is our competition because we all compete for the same home meal replacement dollar. However, there are two segments of the restaurant industry that are our main competition: the casual dining steakhouse concept and the family value steak restaurant.
In the United States today, there are 3,349 chain restaurants that compete for the U.S. restaurant dollar. This number does not take into account the thousands of sole proprietor restaurants that dot the American landscape. These chain restaurants accounted for $108,238,150,121 dollars of business in 1999. In the segments that competed against us there were:
40 chains in the cafeteria segment
1,421 chains in the casual dining segment
274 chains in the family dining segment
1,676 chains in the quick service segment
Among our closest competitors, six are listed in the largest 200 restaurant chains, ranked by sales volume. All have a large national or strong regional presence.
(Confidential or proprietary information deleted.)