Tips on opening a restaurant

  • On April 28, 2015

Originally Published: September 18th, 2013

Maggie Kelly of Minnesota Business Blog


Bar manager Mike Rasmussen has been present for the opening of eight or nine restaurants in his career. In that time, he’s seen what works and what doesn’t. Most recently he was involved with the June launch of Marin Restaurant & Bar in Minneapolis, focused on Northern California cuisine with farm-to-table ingredients. The venue is owned by Craig Bentdahl, known for his successful Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park. With Bentdahl’s experience, says Rasmussen, the opening of Marin was noticeably smoother than with other launches he’s witnessed. “[It] actually opened up one day earlier,” he says, “and it’s twice as big as any restaurant I’ve opened.” Below, Rasmussen shares three lessons for aspiring restaurateurs.
1. Surround yourself with good people: Bentdahl “finds people he has confidence in, and then he stays confident in them,” Rasmussen explains. He doesn’t just pick and choose on a whim – he works closely with each manager to build trust and confidence. At Marin, Bentdahl has created an effective team, with general manager Kelly Lange in charge of the floor, chef Mike Rakun (“a master of his trade,” says Rasmussen) directing the kitchen, and Rasmussen manning the three bars. “We all take what we do really seriously, but we all manage to maintain a certain light-heartedness, which is key in this business to me. We wine and dine people.”
2. Make it manageable: Rasmussen was given free rein on the bar designs. Having worked at many different venues, the creative process was fairly simple. He imagined what he would want if he were sitting on the other side of Marin’s three bars, each with “three very different atmospheres” (patio, restaurant, and library). “Then after that I had to figure out how to make it manageable for the bartenders, because I kind of had some lofty ideas,” he says. “But I think I did OK.”
3. Create a diversity of experiences: It’s important to offer customers more than one atmosphere, Rasmussen believes. At Marin, each of the three bars he manages provides a different experience. A fun after-work cocktail might be found on the patio. A business confab could be held in one of the three meeting rooms of the downstairs “library,” which features soft arm chairs and book-lined walls (the bartenders are called librarians). In this way, Marin reaches out to a wider audience.