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As a possible restaurant owner what made you take that leap of faith and actually open your business?

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Amanda’s Answer

I haven't personally launched a restaurant, but I've been working with restaurant owners and small businesses for 7+ years. What I've learned is that there's MANY different paths to having your own operation! For some, there was a life-changing event that inspired them to pursue long-time passions of cooking. Others started in hospitality and made it their career - whether it was taking over the family business or growing from a line cook into an executive chef. The third group is my favorite - the dabblers. These are people that start small, prove their concept while experimenting, and grow stably over time.

As a starting point, I agree with Jack - find some concepts that appeal to you and get your hands dirty! Understanding the foundation of an operation is super important as a leader in any industry - you gain extremely valuable skills that during this time. There's so many types of food operations out there. For example, are you interested in large-scale fine catering? Pop-ups, food trucks, or other types of mobile food? Maybe a quick-serve restaurant, known for it's ambiance?

What's exciting is that more and more resources are popping up for food entrepreneurs! So while you learn about the operations of the business by being a part of it, you can start to look into local resources. Look for incubator programs (here's a great intro article: https://www.eater.com/2016/2/26/11110808/food-incubator-accelerator-small-business). Many food-centered companies also have their own programs like Off the Grid's Infrastruckture or DoorDash's Kitchens Without Borders.

When you figure out what you want to do, hopefully it won't feel like a leap at all...just a natural next step :) That being said, it will be very important to stay organized (dealing with permitting and your suppliers alone can be a lot to manage!). Find ways that work for you - maybe it's a written planner, Google calendar, or even a free online project management tool. I recommend starting either ALL digital or ALL written - that way it easier to find information quickly, and not searching between your phone notes and sticky notes.

Amanda recommends the following next steps:

Get a job with a restaurant that you admire or want to learn something specific from.
Look into local incubator programs in the nearest major city.
Get organized! Find a method for keeping track of notes, appointments, budgets, new contacts, etc.
Talk to people who have done it, who knows - you might find a mentor! Check out themuse.com for email templates for asking people if you can pick their brain.

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Jack’s Answer

I had a vision and a wonderful mentor who really walked me through the entire process. I recommend finding a local restauranteur and become an "intern" of sorts. This will allow you the opportunity to get experience and get advice one on one.

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Kenji’s Answer

There's a difference between hospitality restaurant operations as an employee and setting up start up food business. Huge difference. I can say though that you could choose to test your passion and see what its like working towards excellence in a restaurant or similar. Perhaps a few different formats -- QSR (Quick Serve or Fast Feed Restaurants) and more labor intensive finer product operations. Also in catering. Then you will know. I wanted to be a vet forever until I volunteered a summer at the zoo. (!!!)

The reason this is good is to be eventually able to problem solve within the context of your chosen field and to understand very clearly what its like as a worker or salaried manager under you if you are eventually an owner/operator. Also one more...with staffing progressively more challenging (its always been challenging actually) you will be glad you have an effective tool box of skills for when you need to do a shift and be the boss.

Start-up: Many great ones in the kitchen or even on the floor get befuddled when its time to produce a compelling business plan. ITs huge so start early with some templates and fill in over a few years as your gear up. This is long sighted approach. If you have a good template that alludes to marketing plans and financials you will clearly know what you need to eventually know. Concept development is just stage one of business planning.

Restaurateurs eventually if not already know when they get started about all back office things like licensing, tax and regulatory compliance, cash flow management, balance sheets, going to the bank, making bank... So keep an open mind that is ready and able to learn and assimilate all the necessary knowledge and skills outside of your floor or kitchen skills. Also be ready for long hours through the first many years. Getting freedom of movement out of the operation for anything even to go home to sleep is not a slam dunk.

Realize that something around 90 percent of entrepreneurs start up and fail in two years (All type of businesses) so with Food and Beverage its perhaps 95%. You must not compromise in filling your plan with every advantage possible -- whether it be location or ample parking, partners that actually bring material wealth, highly prized skills, or influence into your business. Remember in the first ramp up revenue and cash flow is everything unless your financial war chest is huge. Costs are generally high for brick and mortar outlets. If your cant make bank your can't continue and then back to the drawing board. Eventually you need to be amassing some wealth for retirement years - like everyone else - so there is a limit to how many times you can go back to the drawing board over time in F & B.