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The arguments for either one are missing the point. It’s not one versus the other.

Doing just the soft opening is silly. It like saying, “Well, let’s see if this whole restaurant thing is for me. If enough people find out about me, I guess we’ll keep on cooking.” You quit before you started. And when you did start, you did it with a severe handicap to your competition.

On the other hand, starting out with a bang and succeeding in attracting a lot of people fast could be as bad. Your kitchen may implode on the very first night. The logistics get intricate and the sparks fly when you have 50 four-tops sitting there for 2 hours waiting for their plates to come out. Ugly.

The correct answer is, you need a soft opening followed by a grand opening 3 or 4 weeks later. The soft opening gives you a chance to work out all the logistical kinks, train the staff, tweak the menu, and really understand who you want to attract as a customer. This way you are in a position to hit a home run on the night of the grand opening.

That’s why soft opening first, then grand.

Also, the idea that there can only be one Grand Opening for a restaurant ever is totally, utterly, absolutely false.
You can — and should — have as many grand openings as you want and need.
Once it gets too repetitive, you can call them “special events”.

And this is when the calendar becomes your biggest friend!

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