I own a restaurant!
Nothing will conjure up looks of envy and awe faster than those four words. People assume (which you should never do because it makes ASS out of U and ME) that owning a restaurant is fun and exciting, a great way to make money and perhaps even become famous. Well, I am here to tell you that owning a restaurant is a lot of hard work more than anything else. While there are definite benefits to being your own boss, there are serious drawbacks as well. Let’s clear the air and dispel some of those pesky restaurant myths that keep popping up.
1. It’s a Wicked Fun Job!
While fun is what you make of it, it would be a bit of a stretch to assume that the restaurant business is all fun and games. It’s more like work and stress. Owning a restaurant means you will be at work a majority of the time, especially in the beginning. Do you like weekends, holidays, and your kids’ birthdays? Well too bad, because chances are you get to work those days. Case in point, those are work days!
2. I’ll be Rich!
No. Stop right here. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. In fact, you’d better pay that $200 out to payroll, work permit, sales tax, insurance, rent, mortgage, food purchases, liquor purchases, utilities, repairs, ect… Get the idea? Restaurants can earn a lot of money. However, they spend almost all that they make. A restaurant owner can earn a decent living (read = not rich) but only if he or she intends on working in the restaurant. Many people think they will open a restaurant and draw a paycheck, without actually cooking, managing or waiting tables. This may work in the beginning, but restaurants can’t support dead weight for very long. If you don’t plan on working, don’t plan on getting paid.
3. I Love to Cook, so I Should Open My Own Restaurant, Right?
Maybe. The fastest way to ruin a favorite hobby is to make it your living. Of course, doing something that you truly love can also inspire you to work harder. Keep in mind though, that cooking for close friends and family is not the same as cooking for strangers who are plunking down hard earned money for your food. Even if friends and family say you should open a restaurant, remember, they are your friends and family and not the most impartial of judges. Try catering a few small parties (for non-friends and family) before taking the leap into opening your own restaurant, to get a small taste of the food business.
4. I Will Have a Place to Hang Out With my Friends!
Frankly, to me this is the most irritating of all myths. If you want to hang out with your friends, build a bar in your basement or throw a party. Don’t invest thousands of dollars into a business you have no intention of overseeing. And you won’t be overseeing anything if you are hanging out with your friends, drinking and watching football. No one is going to care about your restaurant as much as you do. And if you don’t care, then why should your staff?!?
5. I am Going to be Famous!
I admit it. I was totally fantasizing about being the next Food Channel Star. I also fantasize about winning Lottery, buying a Scottish castle and keeping company with Charles and Camilla. It’s a fantasy, not a reality. And I’m not in the restaurant business to get famous. I’m in it to make a living.
Celebrity chefs like are everywhere these days. They have two or three network shows, cookware lines, commercials, food lines as well as popular restaurants. But they didn’t start out famous. They started out with…here it comes…hard work! While its fun to pretend you might make it big in entertainment as well as with your restaurant, chances are, you will have to settle for being an everyday "Joe". And that is okay.
6. Just because you are a success in one business doesn’t mean you will be successful as a restaurant owner.
Gordon Ramsay pointed this out with the owner of an over-the-top rural English pub. The owner had been hugely successful in other ventures, (he took Gordon on a tour of the grounds in his private helicopter) but couldn’t figure out why his restaurant was doing so poorly. Gordon, in his wonderful lack-of-tact style was quick to point out to most obvious flaws…menu, kitchen staff, wait staff. The owner didn’t take kindly to any of Gordon criticisms at first. Eventually he came round and followed Gordon advice (like they do in every episode Ramsay Kitchen Nightmares) and he and his restaurant lived happily ever after.
The big problem with this particular restaurant owner was his pride. He thought because he was successful in other areas, he would naturally be successful in the restaurant business, despite having zero experience in it. When suggestions were made to change his menu and his marketing approach, he balked. He took the suggestions as a personal affront, rather than much needed business advice.
7. Everyone Will Flock to Your Restaurant
During another viewing of Ramsay Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon is getting the low down on the history of the restaurant he will be helping this week. The owner mentioned how successful his grand opening was. He said people, many of whom were friends, loved it and they all said they were coming back. He was very excited. Unfortunately his friends were big fat liars.
If you build it they might come. Or they might just say they will come. Or they might show up once and never come back. I don't mean to sound well...mean, but people will lie to you without thinking twice, if they think that is what you want to hear.
Friends, family, coworkers, even general acquaintances are great for support, but not a substitute for real demographic research and market analysis that is needed to open a successful restaurant.
8. Just Because You Work in a Restaurant Doesn’t Mean You Should Own One!
Working in a restaurant before owning one is preferable in this industry. It is the only way to really understand how a restaurant operates, in both the front and back of the house. But just because you have worked in a restaurant doesn’t mean you are ready to own one. Being an employee is very different than being an employer.
As an employee, you can go home after your shift and not worry about how the restaurant is going to make its rent. Or how your going to pay the electric bill if you have another slow weekend. You aren’t thinking of ways to trim labor costs or improve the menu. Owning a restaurant is a 24/7 job. It never goes away. It is always with you. Whether you want it there or not.
“So who should open a restaurant?”
Well, I'll tell you who I think make the best restaurant owners. People with who are tenacious. People who don’t give up, even when common sense is screaming at them to do so. People who really believe that they can be a success. People who are patient. Because, despite stories on the Food Channel, success does not come overnight in this business, if it comes at all.
Related post: Restaurant Openings
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