This is How you Own a Restaurant

A few words on how to do it right.

This is how you own a restaurant.  Start small.  Avoid a lot of debt or investors.  The less you spend up front, the sooner you will be making money.  If possible own your real estate.  This will help finance your business needs now and “retirement” later on. 

If you can’t buy real estate, find a cheap lease.  You don’t need an A+ location to start.  Serve great food and people will find you.   Don’t rent from stingy landlords or large, faceless corporations.  Both will screw you. 

Have a clear vision of your restaurant before you start.  Share your vision with employees, purveyors and contractors.  Fire anyone who doesn’t help to make your vision a reality.

Culinary chops and business acumen are the foundation of a successful restaurant.  Consider taking on a partner to compliment your skills.  

If you need to hire a chef, find one who is humble and curious.  Humble doesn’t mean push over.   Don’t get seduced by talent.  Chefs with big egos only care about themselves.  Avoid them at all costs. 

The kitchen has a culture of its own.  Respect it.  Don’t bend it to your will.  You will lose.

When your doors first open, good food and good service matter most.  Word of mouth is the best form of marketing. 

If you’re not making money within the first year, consider closing.  Its easy to dig a financial hole you can’t get out of.  Don’t begrudge the shitty restaurant down the block that has more customers than you.  This is a vanity business. 

If you are making money within the first year hire a great General Manager.  And then do everything to keep them.  GMs are the unsung heroes of the industry.  They don’t appear on TV shows or score product endorsements but their job is vital to your success.

Drugs, alcohol and dysfunctional behavior are part of the industry.  Minimize their presence in your restaurant as much as possible.  Drama will cost you money.

Assume theft in some form will happen.  Put systems in place to safeguard against it, but don’t obsess.  Trust but verify.  

Hold your staff to high standards.  Pay attention to details.  Teach a lot.  Yell only if you must.   The restaurant business has enough lunatic assholes.  Please don’t add to the ranks. 

Make time for your staff and take an interest in their lives.  Share the spotlight when it comes your way.  A photo-op of your dishwasher will raise staff morale a lot more than a picture of you.   If you take care of your people they are more likely to be loyal. 

Read business books to run a successful enterprise.  Read cookbooks for inspiration.  Read food magazines to keep tabs on the industry. 

Bend backwards to build goodwill and a great reputation for yourself.  Treat even annoying sales people with respect.  The restaurant industry is very gossipy.  If you grow a shitty reputation it will cost you opportunities. 

Take advantage of the perks of your job.  Whenever possible go on “research” trips to relax and eat well.   Shamelessly ask for product samples.  

Spend 98% of your time focused on your restaurant and 2% on the competition.  Praise your competitors when they’ve earned it.  No one holds a monopoly on great food. 

Schedule time off.  Don’t forget to sleep.   If you find yourself in your restaurant with nothing to do, leave.  Thank your family and friends for their support.  They have to deal with your crazy hours and bullshit constantly.

This is how your own a restaurant.

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