A soft opening refers to the practice of a business opening before its actual grand opening date to test its operations. By doing this, business owners can diagnose and correct any problems they might have with their operations without enduring the scrutiny that might accompany a grand opening. In some industries, a soft opening is required by law or industry officials before the business can proceed further. Even when not required, such an opening may be beneficial as a means of working out any kinks in the business before inviting a large segment of the public to the establishment.
Grand openings are a way for businesses to attract a large amount of people to a new business and immediately give it a competitive advantage in the market. Making sure that a grand opening is as effective and smooth as possible is crucial to a new business, as any mistakes will be magnified due to the increased attention. Since this is the case, many businesses choose to go through a soft opening, in which the business is officially opened up without all of the fanfare of a grand opening.
The grand opening in these cases is usually scheduled after the soft opening, with the duration of time between up to the owners of the business. Soft openings may last several days or weeks, or they can even be one-day test runs to give the owners a sense of how things will work once the real thing takes place. These openings are usually unpublicized to the public at large, and attendance may even be by invitation only.
In some cases, a business might not be allowed to officially open without a test run, depending on laws or industry regulations. For example, in the gaming industry in the United States, casinos usually are required to have a soft opening so that gaming officials can witness the operations to make sure that employees are taking the proper precautions handling money and that security is tight. Some countries also require that establishments that will hold events drawing large crowds, like stadiums or arenas, have run-throughs to allay security concerns.
Smaller-scale businesses also may wish to consider a soft opening to see if they are ready for the grand opening process. By doing this, the owners of the business can observe how their staff reacts to customers, whether business equipment works properly, and other operational elements that will be severely tested with the larger crowds brought about by a grand opening. Such run-throughs may prevent the potentially disastrous effects of a poorly executed grand opening.