Surprise! Running A Restaurant Isn’t A Piece of Cake

At every event we catered, there was at least one starry-eyed guest who would happily bounce over to myself or my husband and inquire as to what it’s like running a food service business. “Oh, I just love cooking for other people,” the food-minded guest would gush, “Maybe I should open a restaurant or catering business of my own!”

A bombardment of questions would inevitably follow. When did we start? What’s it like? Is it really as fun as it looks? Hesitant to badmouth the oft-harsh food industry, my husband and I would try to make our answers as positive as possible. “Just make sure to do your research,” I would answer with a smile, trying to remain friendly while managing the chaos of an off-site catering event.

The New York Times had a great editorial today on what it’s really like to manage your own restaurant, from mortgaging your home for business loans to working an exhaustive 90 to 130 hours a week! Shockingly, being smart and successful in your current (or previous) career doesn’t always equate to success in the outrageously competitive restaurant industry, a lesson some culinary entrepreneurs learn the hard way.

“It’s very easy to fail if you know what you’re doing, and even easier if you don’t,” said Ms. Linda Lipsky, president of Linda Lipsky Restaurant Consultants, a firm based outside Philadelphia that has advised restaurant owners and chains for 20 years.

While most make the mistake of not properly planning for the financial burden associated with owning and managing a restaurant, many entrepreneurs are surprised that even with good food and a great location, a restaurant can still fail.

“How could someone with a law degree and as smart as you blow it this big?” Ms. Charlita Anderson said she asked herself. But she ultimately decided that it was better to be realistic. “You have to appreciate that this might not work,” she said. “If it doesn’t, get out.”

~Jennifer Heigl

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