Ever since I was a kid, I have been passionate about food. When I was younger and adults used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them that I wanted to be a chef. And, for a long time, I meant it. I love cooking, and I’m good at it. I think I’d make a good chef!
But as I got older and worked hard in school, I started to feel like I wasn't as sure about being a chef. I read books about chefs and talked to chefs in the real world, and I realize how tough the hours would be and how rough it is to not be in control of your own restaurant. It seemed like all the chefs I talked to wanted to start their own restaurant — and now that’s what I want to do, too.
I think I can do it. I’m a hard worker, and I do well in school. But I also know that the restaurant business is tough, so I want to be prepared. Besides good food (I have that covered!), what does it take to run a restaurant?
You’re right. Running a restaurant is no walk in the park. You can expect long hours, a risky investment, and plenty of hard work. Nearly one in five new restaurants fails within one year of opening its doors for business, and keeping a restaurant afloat remains tough as the years pass.
To be successful in the restaurant business, you’ll need to have a good business sense. While food will be at the center of your business, your role as a restaurant owner or manager will be different from the role a chef would have. You’ll be dealing with the behind the scenes stuff: the dollars and cents decisions that make your restaurant work as a business. That means keeping supply purchasing and payroll efficient while trying to maximize pricing. It means setting the right prices on the menus. While your staff is thinking about daily specials and mixing cocktails, you’ll be the one pricing those specials and deciding when happy hour begins and ends.
You won’t do everything yourself, of course. You don’t stock a restaurant by heading to a home goods store, for instance. Restaurants work with supply companies that make sure they get the right flatware, plates, napkins, and other supplies that they need, the hospitality supply chain experts at VEGA Direct explain. Ideally, you’ll find an all-in-one solution to your supply chain needs, which will bring down prices and leave you with fewer headaches.
Being successful as a restaurant owner also means having people skills. The dollars and cents side of things takes business savvy, but coaxing the most out of your employees and giving patrons a personal touch takes a certain charm. As a restaurant owner or manager, you’ll be a boss. It will be your job to manage your employees in a way that makes them happy and productive without letting them walk all over you. Meanwhile, you’ll be the brand ambassador for your restaurant, the person who embodies the local flavor of your spot and wins new customers while turning first-time visitors into regulars.
And have we mentioned the regulatory side of things? Restaurants have to deal with plenty of red tape. Regulatory agencies in American and Canadian cities will want to make sure that your food is as safe as it is delicious, your kitchen as clean as it is productive, and your dining area as polished as it is comfortable. You’ll want to work with an attorney to set up your business properly — protecting your personal finances against at least some of the consequences of a business failure — and then keep careful tabs on laws related to food and drink. You may need to work with an attorney to get the right licensing, too.
It takes a lot to run a restaurant, but you can achieve this dream. You should focus your education on topics related to business and hospitality. Consider working in a restaurant to get a sense of how the business is structured, and talk to successful restaurant owners to ask them how they achieved their dreams. Good luck!