Hey, So How Do You Open A Restaurant?

Don’t get excited: I’m not thinking about opening a restaurant.

But! I have a really good restaurant name in mind (based on a nickname for my friend Diana who, in my fantasy, opens this imaginary restaurant with me here in L.A.; again, it’s just a fantasy, stop getting excited!). I realized, though, in having this fantasy that if I were ever to really do it, I wouldn’t be shooting for the moon ambition-wise. I’d just want a cozy place where I could serve biscuits and comfort food and hang out, during the day, chatting with the staff and customers and maybe blogging from a corner booth. I just heard the guffaw from anyone who’s worked in the restaurant industry when they read that last sentence. Which is why I’m posting this post.

We’re all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Molly Wizenberg’s book about this very subject (pre-order here). Just from her blog alone (and talking to her in person), I know that what started as a whimsical climb up a hill became, at least for her, the equivalent of scaling Everest. That’s why I don’t think I will ever really do this. But still, it’s a fun thing to daydream about.

This post, though, is really about the commments: anyone out there open a restaurant? I know the majority of people will say “it’s more work than you can ever imagine”; I’m curious if anyone will say, “It’s not that bad.” We all know the bad things about it (the failure rate, snotty customers, Yelp), but what are the good things about it? Do you think I should do it? Well, stop! I’m not. But, if I ever do, will you invest money?


12 thoughts on “Hey, So How Do You Open A Restaurant?”

  1. i don’t know the first thing about opening a restaurant! however, i do know that i want to eat the biscuits in that photo. so that’s something!

  2. It’s something I’ve thought about for sure but I need a ton more experience in the kitchen before I try. I was talking to one of my coworkers today. He’s been in the restaurant industry for 14 years. And he opened his own restaurant 3 years ago. Unfortunately he went to the doctors twice due to being overstressed and the left side of his body would go numb and the doctor said if he came back again he would be messed up, so he closed it down and is back working in restaurants again [where everything is easy! :P]. And even one executive chef I’ve talked to who is successful in the industry told me they wouldn’t recommend it.

    I wish I had some good things to say about it. I’m SURE it is rewarding when customers first walk in and you get to serve them and make them happy. But it just sounds like at the end of the day it’s still stressful all the time and it becomes your life.

  3. I totally wanted to open a restaurat, a block from my house, open for breakfast, lunch, grocery and sundries and by reservation only for special dinners. Then I cooked dinner, packed lunches for me And my husband, provided at pot lucks and volunteered cooking meals for homeless youth for a few years after law school and realized a restaurant would NOT be fun. Cooking, like most passions, should not overtake ones work or other hobbies, or joy will be lost. Just don’t tell my favorite chefs.

  4. So did you make this breakfast? I live near LA and I’d totally pay to come over and eat your food. If not, how DID you make those biscuits?

  5. Maybe you could open one of those secret kitchens and have it only once a month and have 20 guests. That would be doable. Of course, I think it’s illegal (thus secret)l but a couple did it here in Paris for several years and now have a famous bistro.

  6. Actually, my husband and I did open a restaurant almost 4 years ago. We had zero experience , being life-long Realtors and developers, but we had a property that need a lot of work and could only borrow SBA money. So we opened a restaurant, improved the property greatly, and are flourishing almost 4 years later. Our secret? Research your market, know what will bring locals in time after time, and be willing to work your a.. off. Oh, and it IS fun, at times- we’ve made a lot of fantastic new friends, learned how to run a new business successfully . . .at other times, you want to run out the door screaming. But it sure beats sitting at a desk 9-5!

  7. My husband and some business partners are in the process of opening one, a craft beer bar called The Jeffrey, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan (should be open by the end of this week!). It’s a ridiculous amount of hard work, and full of unexpected changes and random city permits and building codes, PR handing, and menu decisions, both in the kitchen and behind the bar. But it’s worthwhile, and tough, and stressful, and comes with a ton of pride in seeing what you have built.
    Though my involvement in the Jeffrey itself has been minimal, in the past I have been involved in the opening of a few restaurants and it’s always a wild ride. This place, however, is the first one where we have a cash investment in it, and that naturally brings on its own flavor of anxiety. God knows exactly HOW it will affect our lives, but I’m excited about where it’s going!

  8. I think it all depends on how you approach wanting to open a restaurant. It sounds like you would be a really great person to meet and greet, do menu consulting, spin some PR now and again. But I’m not sure how blogging and writing would jive with the full time responsibility of opening the restaurant. If you got enough people together, I could see you being really good at it. But I’m not sure if you would enjoy funneling all of your energy into this, and it seems like opening a restaurant would be totally consuming.

  9. Kate @ Savour Fare

    I want my friends to open a restaurant where I can go hang out all the time. In my neighborhood. And offer constructive suggestions.

    Actually, my cousin and her new husband (both longtime veterans of NY’s restaurant scene) are moving to LA and thinking about opening a place of their own. I, of course, am all for this.

  10. I think you can open a restaurant and still keep a somewhat healthy schedule. If you can establish clear goals through every step of your business plan it is easier to stay true to why you are embarking on the venture. If you are not purely focused on profits you can easily create a reduced schedule restaurant, or, for example, one that is open as a coffee shop all day and focused on creating really epic breakfasts/brunches when the time calls.

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