Opening a Restaurant is not for the Faint of Heart

You have to be a little crazy to open your own restaurant. I should know, I just opened one. Most of them are doomed to failure—more than half go under in the first three years. That’s pretty terrifying.

Before you even make a single purchase toward getting your restaurant up and running, there are all kinds of things to consider. You have to find a location. It may have great foot traffic, convenient parking, and already be set up with every appliance you need. But if your dream is to open a bbq restaurant and there’s already two on the same street, you might be out of luck. If you’re thinking fancy French cuisine and most of the locals can’t even pronounce Bœuf bourguignon, you are going to fail. On the other hand, if you are thinking of opening a casual pizza restaurant right near a little league field and there isn’t another one for miles, you might have found a sweet spot.

And once you find the right location, have the right concept, and have a menu, there’s even more to do. Here are just a few of the things that were (and still are) keeping me up at night.

First of all, the cost to open the doors is more than you think. Finding the right location was hard, then outfitting it was even harder. The décor, which I never really thought about anywhere else I worked, suddenly was a factor. All that little stuff added up like crazy. And that’s not counting the problems you run into (nobody plans to have to update wiring or stuff like that)! I am cautiously optimistic that I’ll make a profit in a couple of years.

Secondly, there’s the cost-profit ratio. I didn’t have a lot to do with this prior to now, either. My boss would say, “hey, I got a great deal on this steak, do something with it.” I’d make a dish and he’d determine the price and put it on the menu. I didn’t pay his bills so I had no idea how much we were actually making. It’s actually hard work to figure out that fine line between charging people enough to make a profit and what people are actually willing to pay. That takes a lot of investigating and research. Guess wrong and you could price people right out of your restaurant, or have a packed house every night and still have to close because you can’t afford to keep the lights on.

Third, you need a good staff. You can have the best ingredients and the most appealing menu, but if your chef can’t cook, you might as well set that money on fire. If the waitstaff is lazy, rude, or lacks knowledge about the menu, you’ll suffer the consequences as poor reviews and a lack of repeat business. And they all have to be clean freaks. A dirty restaurant at best fails a health inspection and at worst can make people sick or even kill someone. Nobody wants to eat at a gross restaurant.

The thing is, I can do everything right and still fail. I know that. The last couple of months have been difficult but also amazing. I love making all the decisions and executing my own menu. Even if I do fail, it will be worth it.