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<p>OpenTable&#39;s restaurant startup guide and contest might spur some would-be entrepreneurs to take a chance on the business.</p>

OpenTable contest fuels new full-service startups

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The winner of OpenTable’s Restaurant OPEN 2016 contest will need outside investors to actually bring their dream concept to life. But they should be able to find them, because they’ll be following a game plan devised by some of the restaurant industry’s best minds. That same advice is available free to anyone who downloads “How to Open a Restaurant: The Modern Restaurateurs’s Guide to Starting & Growing a Restaurant Business” from the OpenTable website. OpenTable says it developed its digital guide to provide an easily accessible reference that would minimize the risk factor for startup restaurants.

"There are so many talented, passionate chefs and operators who find themselves unprepared to start their own business,” says OpenTable content marketing manager Olivia Terenzio, who edited the guide. “I realized we can fill this space by tapping into our unrivaled network of restaurant partners to create a business how-to that provides people who love food and hospitality with crucial insight and savvy tips to get their businesses off the ground.” 

Some of those tips come from Daniel Boulud, Danny Meyer, Gavin Kaysen and Aaron London. Their advice is focused on higher-end startups, but could be adaptable to newcomers who will be working with a much smaller budget.

And whoever wins the OPEN 2016 contest seems likely to be tight on funds until their restaurant gets going. OpenTable is being generous with its information here, but the prize package itself is quite modest. 

Here’s the rundown:

“Grand Prize (1): an “Ultimate Restaurant Starter Kit.” (Total ARV: $38,793). Starter Kit consists of: $15,000 (awarded in the form of a check); a set of 25 aprons from Hedley + Bennett® (ARV: $2,250); a set of All-Clad® pans (the All-Clad Try-Ply 14-piece set, set of two soup/souffle ramekins, and set of two stainless oval bakers). (Total ARV: $2,055); and 25 licenses to Journee online platform (ARV: $4,500). Provided and subject to the GP Winner opening a brick and mortar, sit-down restaurant on or before January 1, 2018, the GP winner will also receive: 12 months of free OpenTable Guest Center subscription fees (ARV: $2,988), and a $12,000 credit in cover fees on the OpenTable network.”

Hedley + Bennett makes nifty aprons and you can’t do much better than All-Clad pans. Any operator would be happy to have the OpenTable freebies, too. But some entrants may be dismayed by the cash component. OpenTable is an industry-leading company that was acquired in 2014 for $2.6 billion. The acquiring company and current owner, Priceline Group, has a market cap of $64 billion and its shares trade at about $1,300 each. By these financial standards, the Ultimate Restaurant Startup Kit prize package could have been been bigger.

That may be by design. Contestants need to figure out how to come up with additional funding to get their restaurant open, just as they would in the real world. And they have to crowdsource them online—a unique component of this contest.

After an initial round of judging that will reduce the field to three, each finalist must conduct a 40-day funding campaign on Kickstarter. The concept that raises the most money wins the grand prize. In case of a tie, the first concept to hit the minimum $35,000 funding goal wins.

The biggest prize, however, may be the publicity generated for the winner’s new venture. Being tabbed by OpenTable as an exciting new restaurant should make the chosen concept a high-profile operation right off the bat.

The contest’s entry deadline is April 1, 2016. The three finalists will be announced on May 1, 2016. Those finalists will have 40 days (July 1, 2016 to August 9, 2016) to conduct their Kickstarter funding campaign.

Who’s eligible? According to OpenTable, “The contest is open to legal residents of the U.S. who currently reside in the U.S., who are 18 years of age or older at time of entry, who currently work in, or have actively worked (for a period of time since January 1, 2012 to the present) in the restaurant industry (full or part-time) as a (i) chef, sous chef, or cook, (ii) restauranteur/owner, or (iii) a manager, director, or similar position in charge of any aspect of a restaurant’s operations, of a brick-and-mortar, sit-down restaurant, and who have a good-faith intention to open or be a materially interested party in opening a new brick-and-mortar, sit-down restaurant on or within eighteen (18) months of entry.”

Good luck to RH readers who enter this contest. But even if you don’t, be sure to give OpenTable’s downloadable guide a long look.

Contact Bob Krummert: [email protected]

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