How Much Does It Cost To Build And Open A Pho Restaurant?

How much does it cost to open a pho restaurant?

How much cost to open a pho restaurant?It's a question hopeful pho restaurateurs and pho customers alike often ask me.

If you just want a quick and "ballpark" number, then I can tell you right now and you can skip the rest of this post: It will cost in the neighborhood of $50K to more than $500K.

But it's just like asking: "How much does it cost to build a car?"

Without sufficient detail, all you'll get is a generic ballpark number that's not very useful.

What's The Cost? Simple Question With No Simple Answer

Fact is, the question is simple, but the answer is not.

If someone gives you a number as soon as you finish your question (which is exactly what you're looking for by asking such question), then you should turn around and run the other way. Because that person is lying to you.

At a minimum, the cost to open a pho restaurant depends on a number of factors:

  • The location of your market (the neighborhood, demographics, age of the building, what's already built in the space versus what you need to install, etc.)
  • The concept of your restaurant (how you brand yourself, how you serve your customers: fast food style, full table service/fine dining style, or somewhere in between, etc.)
  • How much you will depend on modern kitchen equipment (time-saving modern equipment and tools, automated dishwashing machines, prep tools and cooking equipment for large volume production, cooling equipment and tools, etc.) to offset kitchen labor costs
  • How much you focus on providing memorable and unique experience for your customers (bare-bone dining room vs. full ambiance, character, sights and sounds)

Think About What You Want To do: Some Important Considerations

In order to get a better and more accurate cost-to-open figure, you will want to think a little more about what you want to do. Here are some important considerations to help you develop a better estimate for your new pho restaurant.

  • A new pho restaurant can be built in two ways. One, you find an existing restaurant, acquire it, modify/improve on it, then open for business. Two, you build from scratch, putting in everything needed to open for business.
  • At the lower end of the spectrum, it can be less than $100K if you can find an existing space that has been previously used as a restaurant, preferably Asian and sometime more specifically, Chinese restaurant. This means the space has proper hoods and grease traps in place, plus possibly usable equipment already installed. The good thing about this option is lower initial cash outlay, but you'll be limited by what's already there, and you may run into the exact problem why the previous business failed in the same spot.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, the sky is really the limit, but a typical range of $250K to more than $300K is the norm depending on location. In this scenario, most everything has to be installed during the buildout to get the restaurant to a functional state, even with used instead of shiny new equipment. This option is obviously more expensive, but you get the exact pho restaurant needed to achieve your process, procedures and goals.

Pho chef with pho bowlSo what's the answer? Well, nobody says restaurant business is easy. An aspiring pho restaurateur should spend the proper time developing as clearly as possible what her concept should be, then learn how to pull everything together to make it happen. Cost estimate, recipe development, cooking procedures and operational concept are all important first steps as you ask the question "How much does it cost to open a pho restaurant?"

The Two Key Factors: Planning and Execution

Accurate cost estimate to open a pho restaurant rests on the following factors:

  1. Planning: Create a pro forma and update as you go. At the very least, a pro forma should be developed and updated regularly throughout the development of your brand and buildout cycle. If you're not willing to spend the time to do a pro forma for your business, I'm not sure you're really cut out for this business later on, because it will get harder and you'll need numbers to help you make good decisions. A pro forma is the exact tool to help you with numbers, among other things that it can do for you. A pro forma will tell you how much your pho restaurant will cost to open, and how much it will cost to operate after opening.
  2. Execution: Minimize the cost of making mistakes as you build and run the pho restaurant. Many pho restaurant owners, and of restaurants in general, fail because they fly by the seat of their pants as they make amateurish mistakes. A few get lucky, but many don't. The vast majority of pho restaurant operators are self-taught and make costly mistakes as they learn to do things. The cost of making mistakes should be included in answering the question "how much does it cost", but sadly nobody ever think of it, so any "estimate" used was way off from the beginning. By my own estimate, this number can range from 10% to 30% of your pro forma estimate, sometime higher.

There are only two types of restaurateurs who don't need to worry about both items 1. and 2. above.

The first are those who are experienced at what they do or know what they don't know, and spend the time to search for answers to guide their decision and action. Whether they self teach themselves or receive guidance from a pho restaurant consultant, the net result is they learn to work the numbers like the back of their hands, and they learn how to avoid making costly mistakes. To the untrained eyes, if these "lucky" people can do it, others can too.

But that's a dangerous assumption, which leads to the second type of restaurateurs, those who count on their pure luck to succeed, skipping one or both of 1. and 2. And when they don't succeed, they chalk it up as another "bad luck" or "market not right" excuse. They may as well play roulette with their money in Vegas where they will do much less work and have much more fun losing their money.

Getting to the Real Cost to Build and Open a Pho Restaurant

In all seriousness, in order to determine the cost of open your pho restaurant, you should do both 1. and 2. above. It's like this:

  • Planning = Defining and developing your concept, and creating and maintaining an accurate pro forma to guide you.
  • Execution = Follow your plan and be nimble to adjust and improve in order to minimize costly mistakes throughout the construction and operation phases.

By working out your costs systematically with a pro forma and updating it regularly, and then minimizing mistakes as you go, you can keep your cost as close as possible to your pro forma numbers. Otherwise the cost will be what your pro forma tells you (assuming it's done right) PLUS the cost of your mistakes.

For help or consultation with either your pro forma or minimizing mistakes in opening your pho restaurant, drop me a note using the pho consultation form.

Please share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.

Check out more Pho Restaurant Business articles:

Updated 01-09-16.

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