Is Owning a Restaurant Right for You?

Couple on romantic date at restaurant
••• Jamie Grill/ conica/ Getty Images

Owning a restaurant may sound like a dream to many people, however, oftentimes new owners are completely unaware of the amount of work and stress that comes with the job. Of course, there are a great many benefits to being your own boss, including free food.

Defining a Good Restaurant Owner

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

  • They like people. They enjoy chatting with their customers and have no problem listening to complaints with a sympathetic ear.
  • They are good at multitasking. Multitasking is a popular term that is especially applicable to the restaurant business. As an owner, your responsibilities include managing staff, answering the telephone, taking care of customers, fixing broken equipment, tracking inventory, and paying vendors.
  • They thrive on stress. Every job has some stress, but owning a restaurant brings it to a whole new level. You have daily concerns about everything that occurs in the restaurant, such as staff arguments, finding and retaining good cooks, late shipments, and bad weather. When it's busy you worry about the staff’s service; when it’s slow you worry about the money. A good restaurant owner knows how to handle the stress of the job and not let it affect their judgment.
  • They know how to delegate. As a small business owner, chances are you believe that it's quicker and better if you do task yourself. However, this is not an efficient way to run a business. You need to be able to delegate tasks to staff and trust that they will do them properly in a timely manner. It is highly unlikely that you can do everything, which may take a toll on your health and your business. Your time is a finite resource and needs to be spent on the most important aspects of running your business, such as 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 you receive compliments on your restaurant, whether it is about the food or the service, it is heart-warming to hear positive comments. Perhaps, there are few jobs that can offer as much personal joy, as a successful business.

Being your own boss is another wonderful benefit, as long as you are responsible. Of course, being your own boss means that all decisions, good and bad, are your responsibility.

As a local business owner, you meet a lot of people. If your restaurant is in your hometown, you 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

There are many drawbacks to consider in being a restaurant owner:

  • 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. Even when you are home, you will likely be on the phone with the restaurant several times a day.
  • No weekend breaks. Weekends are a busy time for the restaurant. Therefore, you will not be able to spend much time with your family.
  • Unstable income. If business slows down and your checkbook is in the red, you are still paid last. 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 small business owners. Not only will you have to buy private insurance, you will need to figure out how you want to save for retirement and perhaps your kids’ college fund. Again, planning for these expenses before you go into business can help avoid these problems.

Like any career, owning your own business has some great benefits, as well as some major drawbacks. Ultimately, knowing how to spend your time is what separates successful restaurant owners from those who struggle. Delegating tasks to staff and focusing on the most important work is essential to maintaining a successful business.