So you want to own a restaurant?

Posted by John Foley

restaurantfor leaseCongratulations, you have done it. You have graduated from one of the top culinary centers in the world. You have worked for some of the best in the biz, and you just recently signed a lease on the space once occupied by Judy’s Café on Chestnut St. in San Francisco. You’re excited about opening the new space except for the fact an investor fell through and you are strapped for cash.

The chicken man, a gent from Jersey, has just shown up with a your last non negotiable check, nine cases of raw wings for the Schmekelman reception and refuses to deliver unless you hand over a fistful of Jackson’s and a few C notes to cover the vig. Bob Shapiro, from Light Soda is there to deliver your stove and he is not too happy about hearing non-negotiable checks.

What’s a graduate to do? Drop to your knees and beg for wing forgiveness? Fogetaboutit. He’s seen that scene before. And, don’t think for a moment that your bookkeeper wouldn’t let this happen. Your roommate — Tyler – the accounting major — fell in love with Buffy, your sous chef. The two became enamored over their mutual fondness for Dom, embezzled the cash — a loan of course — and left you holding the empty deposit bag after the weekend receipts were going to cover last week’s payroll. You’re stuck with nothing but a pocket full of lonely lint, an empty register, a bank account dipping below zero and a group of investors who have decided the steaks were tough, the service slow and the balance sheets tilting in Tyler’s favor.

Here’s ten tips you won’t learn at Cornell Culinary:

1. Ice is cheaper than Coca-Cola – Fill the glass with ice before you add the soda.
2. More often than not, your day begins by putting out fires someone on your payroll started the day before.
3. For every step forward you take, someone on your staff will unknowingly impede progress.
4. One bad apple does ruin a perfectly enjoyable Friday evening.
5. The possibility that one of your chef’s leaves in mid shift is guaranteed.
6. There will be days where you have numerous expenses and no money to pay them.
7. Your staff will enjoy your product, and depend on it, as much if not more than your customers.
8. You will receive more advice than you will ever use, implement, or defragment. This column included.
9. Your vendors have all enrolled in CSU – Common Sense University –  and live and  work by those guidelines.
10. You never graduate from CSU. Stay enrolled…the degree is in continuing education.

If you don’t have a budget, a plan, a training program, a policy and procedures manual, a chef that knows food cost, purchasing, and product rotation, along with a dining room manager that continually smiles, can handle the frustration of constant training, enjoys people, shaking hands, checking for a clean bathroom, and possesses the tactful diplomacy of a United Nations Ambassador you will soon learn that the cost of Coca Cola doesn’t really matter.

And by the way, the chicken man is waiting.