Is Owning a Restaurant Right for You?

Couple on romantic date at restaurant
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Whenever I mention that I own a restaurant to someone I’ve never met before, they almost always get a dreamy look in their eyes. “Oh, I’ve always wanted to own my own restaurant!” They’ll say, with a knowing smile. “It must be so fun!” Well, I guess fun is all relative. Restauranting is more of a calling rather than a job. And even those who think they are called to it, are often times completely unprepared for the amount of work and stress that comes with being a restaurant owner. Of course, there are a great many benefits to being your own boss, including the free food.

There are a few key characteristics that define a good restaurant owner.


1. They like people. They enjoy chatting with their customers, and have no problem listening to complaints with a sympathetic ear.

2. They are good at multitasking. It seems like the term multitasking is everywhere these days. It is definitely in the restaurant business. As an owner you need to be able to answer the phone, take care of customers, fix broken equipment (or know who to call to fix it) track inventory and pay the vendors. And that is just in one morning!

3. They thrive on stress. If you can’t handle stress, then don’t even think about opening your own restaurant! Every job has some sort of stress, but owning a restaurant brings it to a whole new level. You find yourself worrying about everything thing that goes on in the restaurant, from the staff arguments to finding good cooks. When its busy you worry about the staff’s service, when it’s slow you worry about money. When it’s snowing, you worry about getting customers in. Worry and stress go hand in hand.

A good restaurant owner knows how to handle the stress of the job and not let it consume him or her.

4. They know how to delegate. As a small business owner, chances are you are good at getting things done yourself. You may have the attitude of "it's just quicker if I do it myself." This will not serve you as a restaurant owner. You need to be able to delegate chores and other tasks to staff. There is just no way that as the owner, you can do everything. Your time is a finite resource and needs to be spent on the most important aspects of running your business (i.e. managing staff or the kitchen, not washing floors or checking in the weekly food order).


Benefits of Being a Restaurant Owner


Owning a restaurant is like raising a child. No one will take as much interest and pride in it as you will. When I get compliments on my restaurant, whether it is about the food or the service, I beam. I love, love, love hearing how people enjoy coming to my restaurant. I think there are few jobs (and this is just my humble opinion) that can offer as much personal joy, as a successful business.

• Being you own boss is another wonderful benefit, so long as you are responsible. I’ve been my own boss for so long, I actually cringe at the thought of having someone tell me what to do. Of course, being your own boss means that all decisions, good and bad, fall on your shoulders.

• As a local business owner, you get to meet a lot of people. If your restaurant is in your hometown, you get to visit with friends and neighbors. A restaurant is a community gathering spot, and that sense of community can be very rewarding.

Drawbacks of Being a Restaurant Owner

I would not want to mislead you into thinking that being a restaurant owner is all fun and games and free food. There are many drawbacks to consider, including:

• Long Days and Nights- As the owner of a new restaurant you will be putting in very long days and evenings (if you are open for dinner) to make sure everything goes smoothly. And even when you are home, plan to be on the phone with the restaurant several times a day.

• Kiss Your Weekends Goodbye- Weekends are the busy time for the restaurant. If you have children in school, think long and hard about the time you will miss, if you work all weekend.

• Unstable Income- If business slows down, and your checkbook is in the red, guess who is first to go without a check? Yup, the owner. The person who does the most work, is the person who is often paid the least. Of course, having a nest egg saved up before you go into business can help you avoid this situation.

• Lack of Benefits- Health insurance is a major concern for all small business owners. Not only will you have to buy private insurance (ouch!) you will need to figure out how you want to save for retirement and your kids’ college fund, since you won’t have an employer’s 401K anymore. Again, preplanning for these expenses before you go into business can help a great deal.

So there it is…the pros and cons of owning your own restaurant. Like any career, it has some great benefits, as well as some major drawbacks. Ultimately, knowing how to spend your time is what seperates successful restaurant owners from those who struggle. Delegating tasks to staff and focusing on the most important work is essential to prevent burnout. It’s up to you to decide if it’s the right path to take.