Anyone in the restaurant business?

Feb 28, 2008
Last month my wife and I opened up a restaurant that we had planned for over a year now. We knew it was going to be difficult and we thought we were ready, but wow...we didn't imagine it would be this difficult. We thought we hired enough workers, but nope, we are understaffed and over-worked. 4 hours of sleep each night for the past month has been so exhausting. We feel like we should shorten our business hours to hours we can handle, but we don't want to turn away customers. Being a new business, our debts are piling up and we need to get as much income back as possible. Anyone in the food business with any advices or similar stories?

I would be so happy to be able to get back into photography again. :rolleyes:
Sep 4, 2007
Fairfax, VA

I'm not in the business any longer but I waited tables & bartended my last year of college and then went into management a year later. I opened 3 restaurants (chain) in 4 years, the last one as the Asst GM/Kitchen Manager. It was amazing working restaurant openings; a vacant space is transformed into an eating establishment in under 6 weeks at the same time you are recruiting, hiring & training kitchen, bar and wait staff. As manager/owner you are the best hostess, waiter, bartender, busboy, and the best dressed cook & dishwasher. It's pretty hard delivering quality food, knowledgeable service while watching the bottom line.

New places, new staff invite a lot of turnover. We hired and trained double the staff we thought we needed because of the expected turnover in the first few months. We also overstaffed the first month to develop the communication, cohesion and coordination needed in food service.

Your reputation is built in the first few months. Only seat a portion of the dining room that you can comfortably serve that is within your standards. That may mean empty dining room seats and a wait but try not to overseat your team's capability. This is an opportunity to push bar sales and even offer complimentary apps to feature new food (have a server with a tray serving samples).

If you have steady sales your food and bar costs (% of sales) will be relatively steady. The only real way to make a profit is to squeeze labor costs. I hope you have these budgeted out. It's a constant struggle balancing staffing with anticipated guest counts.

Employee fraud is your biggest threat to being successful. Keep the back door locked, check bags and don't let bartenders free pour. I still remember the day I had to terminate a long time employee because he tried to steal a case of NY Strips.

After the first few months, your remaining staff will begin to settle in and star employees will rise to the top. By it's nature food service has a lot of staff attrition, plan on it by having a good training plan to replace them.

As a manager working 50-60 hrs/week, nights, holidays and weekends gets real old. It's Baby Sitting 101. I was single so in my off time, I spent in other restaurants and bars. After 5 years, it sucked the life out of me so I quit. My big takeaway from my time is the customer service skills that help me to this day. There is nothing like preparing & serving food/drink to a guest then to find out it was prepared wrong or the guest did not like the waiter recommendation.

Is this a life long dream or a money making venture? If it's the latter, what is your exit strategy? The strategy should involve a high and low, similar to buying/selling stock. How much $$$ do you want to earn before you sell at a profit and how much are you willing to lose before selling at a loss?

Good luck. I hope you achieve your goals. I have to say though, opening up a photography business is easier. In business I was taught that everyone on the team is replaceable. Remember that when your dishwasher(s) do not show up for the Friday dinner shift. :eek:
Dec 16, 2008
i have 3 brothers all in the restaurant/food industry......sorry, no shortcuts, long hours, pour the profits back into the business, then after 5 years you begin to reap the rewards...then after 25 years, you have well trained staff who run it for you....then you can buy whatever camera and lenses you want.
Aug 27, 2008
Townsville Straya
Lex just like any business when you start, there'll be long hours, some days are more stessfull than others, many bills, problem staff, and the list goes on but after a few years you'll learn not to worry when you have a quite day or week or if you have to sack someone, just remember it's you & your wifes business and your in it to make money.
Sep 27, 2008
SE Wisconsin
Not in the business but I wish you luck. At least you are living your dream and doing what you want along with not working for someone else.
Aug 12, 2005
Broussard, LA, USA
If it's a real problem, contact Restaurant Impossible on the Food TV channel. Great show and it highlights the real problems of running any eating establishment.

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