I've been lurking this forum for about a week since I found it, your post was enough to make me register... for what that's worth... Also, all my experience if from USA restaurants. If you decide to open in another country, my comments may or may not apply, I really have no idea.
I worked in a restaurant owned by a guy in a similar situation, but from your posts, obviously a completely different outlook. He had never worked in the restaurant industry, but decided it'd be cool to open one. Eventually I was promoted to the executive chef position of that restaurant, and I'd constantly hear complaints about how he has never taken a paycheck out of the place, how he needs changes made, and how his well has run dry. His mistakes were beyond numerous, too many to even get into, but most of them could have been avoided by simple insight from the average line cook. The two mistakes I will mention, first, he hired a friend to be general manager who also had no prior restaurant experience. Then, because they were friends, he gave him a six figure salary. The guy worked 8-4 Monday through Friday. As anyone in this business can tell you, it's bad enough that you don't have any experience in the business before becoming the general manager, but it's even worse when you try to hand down edicts based on second hand testimony of problems that happened over each and every weekend. Once we did a banquet that he booked. The party paid $4200. I paid almost $3800 to order the food we needed, and that did not include the open bar. After mentioning the problem to him many times over for the past six months, he came to me after that night and said "We should review this banquet option." Duh. The second mistake of the owner, he was an egotistical bastard. He had all the answers. Except they were usually wrong. After a year and a half of trying to reason with him and improve things, I left. Never been happier. Bah, enough rambling, you've got questions.
Plan your menu first. Then try to estimate your sales of particular items. Then figure out what equipment you'll need. A rotisserie is great, but if you find yourself selling 10 roast beef sandwiches a day, you don't need the biggest and best model available. This is something that is tough to estimate, and even tougher if you haven't been in the business, but you need to find a way. More on this later. The last place I worked at bought a 40 gallon tilt skillet for soups. It cost over 10k USD. We sold maybe 2 gallons of soup a day. You can see the error.
You absolutely must train each employee in the use of all equipment. Thankfully, it doesn't take long. Teach them to use the guard and the handle of a slicer, don't push things through with their hands. Always return the blade to a neutral position before cleaning, and of course, make sure it's not running. It's all common sense, but if a guy sticks his hand in a slicer, it's still on you. Pretend you are talking to a five year old when teaching safety precautions. Nearly every time, they already know, but you have to say it anyway.
Are you buying an existing facility or building from scratch? I've never dealt with licenses and such, but there are specialized companies that deal in selling and repairing kitchen equipment, including exhaust hoods and maintenance. If you're buying and existing place, have an inspector come before you buy and make sure if everything is up to snuff. If you're building from scratch, talk to some hood companies and have them install everything and inform you on what you need to do to keep up with code. Sorry if this advice is vague, I just haven't had that much experience with it.
Ask them both food and non food questions. In a sandwich shop type place, unfortunately you will sometimes be hiring people that don't have experience. These people should demonstrate some eagerness to learn and work hard, or at least have some idea of what they are doing. Ask them if they know what's in a rueben, or how they would know if beef is at a certain doneness. If they simply say, "I don't know." then that's a red flag. Even if they don't know the answer, a response such as "I'm a quick learner and though I don't know now, I would like to know." Enthusiasm is key. Ask them what they do in their free time, then why they like doing that. If they like to play golf, why? If they can't come up with an answer quickly, think about why that might be. Everyone has fun. I rarely hired anyone without experience, but the one question I would always ask is "Have you ever burned bacon?" Every chef has. If they said no, but had a lot of experience, I probably wouldn't hire them.
Pretty much. In a small operation like this, you should expect to be there open to close every day for at least a few months in the beginning. Once you can find people you can trust, you can take a day off here and there, but be ready to come in at any time.
You can try to call around other similar businesses in the area to see what they are paying. Some will help you out, most won't. Peruse your local craigslist and see what people are offering for similar work. When you first open, it's easiest if all employees in the same position start at the same wage. After a few months, you'll quickly realize who is worth more money and who isn't. Also, hire more people than you think you'll need, probably double. Not only are people new to their jobs and not proficient at them yet, but restaurants are generally busier when they first open. People want to check out the new place. This added stress tends to make people quit/walk out/not show up.
As for how long to keep ingredients, you don't need to learn it in culinary school, you should already know. Chop an onion and throw it in your fridge. Check on it a couple times a day. Eventually you wouldn't want to eat it. Same with everything else. There are guidelines involving shelf life on various ingredients, you can google them easily, but most of it is common sense. Just don't go overboard. Fresh is extremely important, of course, but I once worked in a place that wouldn't allow any sort of cut tomato to be sold after it was more than 6 hours old. If the AM prep people made bruschetta, they had to throw it out around 4pm. Not only is this ridiculous, it increases your labor, food costs, and headaches.
How to estimate how much you'll sell? I guess this is tough without experience. The general rules are, one the longer it takes to make an item, the more sure you should be that you won't run out. Two, the better an item keeps, the more you can cheat ahead. For example, if you're making a pulled pork sandwich that braises for 3 hours, you better be **** sure you have enough for the next day. On top of that, you can braise a ton of pork at a time and then freeze most of it. Just pull out a little each day. Sliced tomatoes on the other hand are probably going to be a pain. They go bad fast, can't be freezed obviously, and you won't be able to cut tomatoes to order during a busy rush without sacrificing a lot of productivity and sales. On top of that, a sandwich place that runs out of tomato is ridiculous. In the beginning, slice more than you think you'll need and identify slow times in the day where you can slice more. With items like these, you set pars throughout the day. For example, if you're busy from 11:30am to 1pm, have a bit of a lull until 5pm, then are busy from 5pm to 8pm, decide how many tomato slices you need for each rush. You'll want to cut more than you'll need barring a crazy tomato rush, but at the same time, not too many that they don't get used at least by the follow lunch and dinner the next day. For items like these in the beginning, plan on wasting a good bit until your business levels off and you can nail down the pars.
Three years without a single customer would be good. There are many hidden money sinks in restaurants of any kind. Training a new employee will cost anywhere between $200 to over $1000 in additional labor cost before they can perform the job the way you want. Equipment breaks and needs repaired. A key ingredient's price rises. You need new equipment that you hadn't anticipated. All the while, you are working 80 to 100 hours a week and need to pay your mortgage, your bills, etc. Think of the worst case scenario over a year or two span, and then what you would want to have left to go on with your life. Add that all together and that's what you should have.
Do you like it? Does it look appealing? Is it visible and recognizable from an appropriate distance? I've heard stories about the letters in the lights of a restaurants name being out for years because the owner and all employees entered from the back and never noticed. Consult with your key employees, more on this below.
There are a ton of POS software programs available. Make sure you get one that is easy to use and is adaptable. You come from a computer backround, so you should be able to easily master even the most complex system and make it work the way you want.
You want to get someone who has worked in the business who you can trust. How exactly is up to you. You need recipes, staffing pars, ordering pars, ability to adjust, a million other things. They need to realize that the local college football game is going to create a business spike right after the game ends, and they need to be ever aware when the kids go home for easter break. There's a snow storm coming up in four days, order and staff less. There's an article in the paper touting the weight loss benefits of chicken over beef. Lent is just rough. Don't fool yourself into think it's as easy as people order food and you make it. Any minor detail can affect your business and needs to be planned for accordingly.
Lastly, I don't think you need culinary school, I think you need experience. Go work in a restaurant similar to the type you want to open. Work there for a year. Learn to deal with the frustration of having to work ten times as hard when someone calls off and there's no replacement. Learn to spot troublesome coworkers from the start. Learn how frustrating it is to work 12+ hours for low pay and no thanks, and sometimes not even a tidbit to eat, let alone sitting down. Learn how to sweat in 100+ degree F for that entire time. Learn to take silly orders from a chef or manager that has worked too many hours or lost too many brain cells to drugs, alcohol or both. Learn to do it with a smile while you watch them do not half the work you do. Learn to be treated like the "rank and file" with an absolute expectation of perfection or else. Most of all, learn to love it. If you do love it, great, that's the most important quality. If you absolutely hate it and can't wait to get out, this business is not for you.
If you have any additional questions or something I didn't answer, let me know, I'd be glad to help. The owner of a restaurant can be the greatest or worst person, and it's a fine line between the two. Wow, what a novel I wrote for a first post.