Are You REALLY Ready to Open Your Own Restaurant? What Aspiring Owners Need to Know

By Doug Radkey, Foodable Industry Expert

At some point in life, it seems nearly everyone has aspirations to one day open their own restaurant or bar. With the saturation of restaurants in recent years and months, it appears that the entry-level barriers must have become easier to overcome or are less expensive to do so, and many are jumping on board.

But is everyone really ready to open their own restaurant?

The simple fact is: This industry is not for everyone. It’s not what it’s made out to be on television and across some social media feeds. This industry is cutthroat, plain and simple. If you’re wanting to open a restaurant because you can cook at home for your friends and family or if you want to open a bar because you love hanging out at your local drinking spot with friends, stop here — please!

This industry may not be for you. Consider saving your investment!

If you’ve worked in this industry, you surely know what it’s like. No matter how much improvement we’ve collectively made in recent times to keep operations manageable, flexible, and “fun,” there are still the long hours, the working on holidays and weekends, the minimal margins, the rising costs, and the demand of the market to deliver quality food and drink, all at often the lowest price possible.

If you’ve experienced managing a restaurant or leading the kitchen of one, and you have paired this with the willingness to sacrifice and required systemized thinking, social skills, creativity, stress management, and a lot of passion, then — and only then — you should consider opening a restaurant.

Self Assessment

Take the time to look in the mirror and ask yourself about the above character traits. You then want to ask yourself, and also write down, why you want to open a restaurant or bar, followed by: explaining why you think many restaurants fail within 18 months, explaining the difference between success and survival, explaining your expectations of profit versus the lifestyle you want to live, and finally, explaining how important growth is to you, both personally and in business.

Learn to Cook

Assuming you’re not a chef-turned-owner, make sure you learn about different cooking methods, different kitchen positions, and the use of different commercial equipment. Look for shared or co-op kitchens in your area to rent and test out, visit restaurant equipment suppliers, and consider working with a caterer or restaurant for a short time if you haven’t already.  

Course Instruction

Hospitality, financing, and business administration courses are a great educational foundation to have when owning or operating a restaurant. This formal style of training will ensure you bring additional skills to the table in terms of management, operations, and menu development.

As an owner, you need to monitor your inventory, employees, food and beverage preparations, legal issues, budgets, and other local regulations, in addition to marketing, and of course, your customers. Depending on the size of restaurant, you may be wearing many hats. Be prepared.

Live the Industry

Embed yourself in the industry as much as possible. Read articles (on Foodable), visit trade shows, and meet other owners in your community. Simply, get involved.

Define Your Role

What type of owner will you be and how will you look to position yourself within the operations of your restaurant? Will you be the chef? Will you be the FOH manager? Will you be a silent owner? If you plan to grow into multiple locations, leave yourself (and your team) room for growth within the operations with different positions to learn and develop.

Begin Planning

If you’re ready after all of that, it’s time to begin planning and developing your support team. Find out the financial start-up requirements for building, renovating, or buying an existing restaurant. Use this time — before you get too deep — to complete a feasibility study and ensure you’re creating something your market needs and wants, not just a concept that is your favorite.

It's impossible to know for sure when you’re truly ready to be an owner, but make sure you’ve done your due diligence, have experienced the industry, and have trained yourself as much as possible to become one first.