Running a restaurant ain’t easy. From the day the idea settles into your head, to your first customer’s order, to celebrating your restaurant’s 20th anniversary, there are challenges the whole way through. Wouldn’t it be nice to be in on some secrets from experts who’ve been there?
Here’s just what you need: We asked some seasoned restaurateurs to let us in on their secrets to success and here's what they had to say.
1. Open with Double the Capital
“When you think you have enough capital to open, delay it and double your capital.”
–David Ayers, Glacier Brewing | Polson, MT
Opening a restaurant is an expensive endeavor, and while it might seem like a good idea to try and do it on a tight budget – the opposite is actually true. Unforeseen expenses and drawn out renovations will eat up more cash than you’ll be prepared for. Going into business with more in the bank than you need is ideal, because you might not hit those big sales numbers right away.
2. Hire Well
“Staffing is the key to success.”
–Graham Braun, Monigram Coffee Roasters | Cambridge, ON
The people you hire to work front of house serving customers, or in the back cooking up a storm are such an integral part of your business that they can make it or break it. Bad food, rude service, and lazy staff do more damage to your bottom line than you’d think. If there's an element of your business that you pride yourself on like customer service or culinary creativity, make sure to take time in the interview process to make sure that each candidate is vetted based on their experience and company fit. An inspired, caring, careful, and clean staff are key to increased business and growth.
3. Have Checklists for Checklists
“Write lists! Checklists for opening, closing, lists of inventory, lists of what to order, to do lists – it will help a lot!”
–Alex Nemetz, Mayday | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
Establish proper organization. Procedures and policies are important for a reason: they keep consistency and order, two things that are very important in a restaurant. Creating and maintaining lists for both the front and back of house will help you prioritize, plan, and manage your business, as well as give you a greater sense of power and control.
4. Don’t Drink the Kool Aid – Your Own Kool Aid
“Don't drink your own booze, and don't comp all your friends.”
–Ryan Kahl, Pacific Standard | Brooklyn, NY
It may seem obvious, but a bottle of beer here, and a couple of comped bottles of wine there can add up quickly. It’s nice to treat your friends or grab a cold one after your double, so set yourself a weekly comp budget and stick to it. Your bottom line will thank you.
5. Welcome to Your New Life
“Working in the restaurant business is not a job it's a way of life.”
–Barry Vaters, Côte de Boeuf | Toronto, ON
When you run your own restaurant, work life and home life isn’t kept in nice, neat separate compartments. They bleed into each other. Your Sunday off will be interrupted by calls from staff, emergency repairs, suppliers, and even customers. The faster you understand this the sooner your life will find it’s happy flow. Welcome the way your new world is and you’ll start spotting the opportunities this lifestyle brings.
6. Realize the Importance of Teamwork
“It's all about the team. Respect the team, value the team, drive the team, appreciate the team”
–Anthony Vink, Analog Coffee, Calgary, AB
No man is an island, and no restaurant is a one-person show. Find and recognize the value in your team and reach out to them for support, encouragement, and advice. But remember that you’re one of the team too, which means offering support, motivation, and praise to keep the teamwork alive.
7. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
“The most valuable thing I’ve learned is to not sweat the small stuff. Everything is important, but you can't melt down because of each one.”
–Tim McLean, Her Father’s Cider Bar | Toronto, ON
Perspective is what it’s all about when running a restaurant. With the endless tasks piled high on your plate on any given day, getting wrapped up in the frenzy isn’t going to do much good. Take your time dealing with what comes your way, and remember to take a breath and remind yourself not to sweat it.
About the Author
Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.More Content by Andrea Victory