Restaurant concept design, 2009

Owning a Restaurant

Have you ever been in a relationship that was so extremely exhausting it made you want to run away every day but you stayed because the sex was good and you had too much property together? That’s how owning a restaurant feels.

Restaurants are massive investments. Like gamblers we keep pouring money into the unforgiving gaping maw, hoping to see three lemons soon. On great days we walk home knowing that we can make payroll next week, on bad days we stay until the sun rises to come up with a way to pay the delivery man. Once that one-armed bandit swallowed it all, maxed our credit cards, line of credit, loan, our refinanced house and the cars as well as our friends’ we can’t walk off. And the sex is good, ooooh so good. When the place hums, when there’s action in the back and the front, when diners walk out laughing and smiling, it’s all worth it.

And then, the next morning, you smell the stale smell of grease and beer, that odor that empty restaurants take on, of food and people and work, and you'll wonder if it’s all worth it, if running away isn't the better option. You'll wonder until the doors open again, and then you will wonder no more.

You’re a moving target with dozens of guns aimed at you. One bad delivery and two diners in the hospital and you are toast. One waitstaff making an inappropriate comment (or not and just finding someone who needs a reality check and not being a slavishly good demurring servant) in front of a foodie blogger and you’ll fight idiotic comments on the web for weeks. One food critic coming in on the day your chef had a fight with his ex-wife and you’ll lose your stars. Damocles had it easy, there was only one sword hung above him.

All that could describe most any business owner, except the food business is fickle, fast, and fun. The pain and exhaustion is greater than anything you can imagine in business (maybe aside from being a professional sherpa), but the payout and the ecstasy you’ll feel every night is also soooo much greater.