Owning My Own Restaurant

Owning my own restaurant.


As you’ve probably heard a million times by now: “80% of new restaurants fail.”

The people in the restaurant industry dispute that number, but it is a solidly entrenched urban legend at this point, so it will be challenging for them to turn it around.

Numbers vary widely about new business rates of success in general, and restaurants are no exception. Even so, most sources of data about new business rates of success/failure do show restaurants to be less successful as new business ventures than other types of startups.

Why is that?

When you dig into the numbers you find out that most people who start failed restaurants had no previous restaurant business experience and many had no prior entrepreneurial experience.

I can relate to those numbers because Stephanie and I have often had the, “If we had a restaurant, we’d…” discussion ourselves. Note that we have zero, nada, nil, none, zero restaurant experience, yet we’ve seriously entertained the idea–and we know better than to do so.

One of our kids is a gourmet chef. Even he is wary of starting his own restaurant because he knows very little about the “front of house” operations aspects of the business model. He’s an industry veteran and even he’s leery of launching a restaurant. There’s a lesson there.

So, the first prerequisite to owing your own restaurant is to go work in the restaurant industry. Work in the back of the house and the front of the house. Get some management experience. Get some experience hiring and firing. Get lots of experience on the financial side of things. Learn where the costs are and where the profits are. Learn about different markets at different price points at different day parts. Learn about location, location, location. Learn about permits and licenses and inspections and regulations. Learn about marketing and sales and promotion. Learn about procurement and suppliers and deliveries. Learn about buildings and codes and real estate and leases and zoning. Learn about loans and investors and financing. Learn about LLCs, corporations and partnerships. Learn about your strengths, weaknesses and passions.

Learn all of those things and then you’ll be in a position to have a much better chance at success in the restaurant business.

It may sound daunting, but you can get there. If you’ve already been working in the restaurant business, you’re already down the path. If you haven’t, you could learn all of that in three to five years if you really want it.

Get that industry knowledge first, and while you’re doing that part, spend some evenings taking some business management or entrepreneurial classes to be ready to do it on your own.

The track record of people who say “I want to own my own restaurant” is dismal. You can either end up like most who try to start one with little to no knowledge of the industry or you can invest some time and energy to get to know the business, as well as build a network, before you start. The former choice offers immediate gratification. The latter offers lots of hard work and dedication with a much greater chance of sustainable success.

It’s your choice.

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