Five Myths of Owning a Restaurant

Read This Before You Open Your Own Restaurant

Woman explaining to friends at restaurant
••• Klaus Vedfelt/ The image Bank/ Getty Images

“I own a restaurant.” Nothing will conjure up looks of envy and awe faster than those four words. People assume that owning a restaurant is fun and exciting, a great way to make money and perhaps even become famous. Well, I am here to tell you that owning a restaurant is a lot of hard work more than anything else. While there are definite benefits to being your own boss, there are serious drawbacks as well. Let’s clear the air and dispel some of those pesky restaurant myths that keep popping up.

It’s a Wicked Fun Job!

While fun is what you make of it, it would be a bit of a stretch to assume that the restaurant business is all fun and games. It’s more like work and stress. Owning a restaurant means you will be at work a majority of the time, especially in the beginning. Do you like weekends, holidays, and your kids’ birthdays? Well too bad, because chances are you get to work those days. Case in point, my husband and I have never, ever, in the plus 13 years we’ve been together, gone out for Valentines Day or New Years Eve.

Those are work days.

I’ll be Rich!

No. Stop right here. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. In fact, you’d better pay that $200 out to payroll, sales tax, insurance, rent, mortgage, food purchases, liquor purchases, utilities, repairs, ect… Get the idea? Restaurants can earn a lot of money. However, they spend almost all that they make. A restaurant owner can earn a decent living (read= not rich) but only if he or she intends on working in the restaurant. Many people think they will open a restaurant and draw a paycheck, without actually cooking, managing or waiting tables.

This may work in the beginning, but restaurants can’t support dead weight for very long. If you don’t plan on working, don’t plan on getting paid.

I Love to Cook, so I Should Open My Own Restaurant, Right?

Maybe. The fastest way to ruin a favorite hobby is to make it your living. Of course, doing something that you truly love can also inspire you to work harder. Keep in mind though, that cooking for close friends and family is not the same as cooking for strangers who are plunking down hard earned money for your food. Even if friends and family say you should open a restaurant, remember, they are your friends and family and not the most impartial of judges. Try catering a few small parties (for non-friends and family) before taking the leap into opening your own restaurant, to get a small taste of the food business.

I Will Have a Place to Hang Out With my Friends!

Frankly, to me this is the most irritating of all myths. If you want to hang out you’re your friends, build a bar in your basement or throw a party. Don’t invest thousands of dollars into a business you have no intention of overseeing. And you won’t be overseeing anything if you are hanging out with your friends, drinking and watching football. No one is going to care about your restaurant as much as you do. And if you don’t care, then why should your staff?

I am Going to be Famous!

I admit it. I totally fantasize about being the next Food Network Star. Move over Rachel Ray and Giada! I also fantasize about winning Powerball, buying a Scottish castle and keeping company with William and Kate. It’s a fantasy, not a reality. And I’m not in the restaurant business to get famous. I’m in it to make a living.

Celebrity chefs like Emeril, Gordon Ramsey and Bobby Flay are everywhere these days. They have two or three network shows, cookware lines, commercials, food lines as well as popular restaurants. But they didn’t start out famous. They started out with…here it comes…hard work! While its fun to pretend you might make it big in entertainment as well as with your restaurant, chances are, you will have to settle for being an everyday joe. And that is okay.