The Leadership Cookbook: 10 Pitfalls to Avoid When Opening Your Restaurant

Regardless of the segment in which we play, our “biz” is nothing short of magic! There’s nothing much better in the world than a great restaurant experience.

Adrenaline flows. We do research and development, undertake purchasing/ receiving and perishable inventory management. We do retail sales and production at hundreds of transactions a day (or hour) with an expectation of perfection and a 100% money back guarantee. We do accounting, cash flow management, marketing, hiring, training, HR management and community outreach. Let’s not forget repair and maintenance, or construction management. For most of the independent segment, all this is done under one roof. The generic list of performance is the same, regardless of segment or concept. The products may change some but the urgency and complexity is almost identical. Data keeps showing we have the highest mortality rate of any industry in the U.S., 50% in year one, 85% in year two. The global numbers aren’t better.  

I believe two things make our industry such a challenge; one we talk about a little and one we really don’t at all.

#1. We run two businesses at once: a. We run the restaurant. b. We manage the business of the restaurant. Between the two, we end up with a really long day and little free time. #2. To be great, we need to perform in-balance with both right and left-brain disciplines every day.   

Both #1 and #2 create pitfalls. The good news? The pitfalls are simple, not easy. Each can be avoided in both when we know what we’re looking for. That said, discipline is critical.  

By the way, lack of money is not the biggest single issue it's a symptom of both.

So, what’s it take to do right things right? What makes some companies excel and others fail? After 30 plus years opening and building concepts without a failure, I have no faith in luck. And, there’s always risk. The goal? Mitigate the risk. Here’s my top 10 list: pitfalls to avoid.