The Insanity of Opening a Restaurant
December 31, 2016
Something light for New Year's.
(From April 15, 2015)
by Henry Makow Ph.D.
If I were starting out in life again, I would become a psychologist instead of a writer.
I would specialize in the peculiar mental derangement that causes people to open a restaurant.
Approximately 60% of restaurants fail within three years. And no wonder. There are tons of restaurants competing for business.
Indeed, restaurants compete with everyone who has a kitchen and a cookbook, which is almost everyone.
When I consider the cost of food, equipment, furnishings, rent, advertising, labor, taxes, utilities, etc. I can't understand how restaurants survive.
For me, opening a restaurant would be like renting, furnishing and staffing a reading room where people can buy my books and then sit down and enjoy them. I would go broke.
Once I've finished a book, it's done. But a restaurant must manufacture its product anew every time, to exacting standards or face the indignation of the customer and a scathing online review.
Did I mention the hard work and long hours? The city health inspectors? How just one bad review can spoil your business?
My sister owns a successful restaurant. The margin is 5%. You must do a lot of business for that to pay. My brother-in-law says it's like preparing to give a concert every night, and not knowing if anyone will show up.
What inspires people to get into this thankless business? Couldn't they just throw a dinner party instead?
I can't help but notice if a restaurant is empty. I feel the helplessness and anxiety of the owner as he contemplates the weekly payroll. Certain restaurants are on my deathwatch. I pray for them but am relieved when they finally go to a `better place.
A upscale restaurant opened in my budget conscious neighborhood. It struggled for about two years before closing.
Meanwhile across the street, a new restaurant did a thriving business catering to the grunge crowd. They treat their customers like shit. Their ratings are awful. Yet it is packed. It caters to masochists.
After a brief hiatus, a new restaurant opened in the same location as the upscale restaurant. It was a Deli featuring the best smoked meat sandwiches in town. It was packed from Day One.
I felt so bad for the owner of the upscale place! Imagine how he felt!
Imagine my elation when I discovered that he started the deli!
In conclusion, when you're eating out, don't be a cheapskate.
Buy a drink.
That's where they make their profit!
Comment from PJ:
Comment from AQ:
I wish I had read this article 15 years ago. I went to cooking school with hopes to one day open my own restaurant, if only I had known what I was getting myself into. Needless to say, I never opened a restaurant. Little did I realize that here in Ottawa to open a simple restaurant with 20 seats or so would cost around $250,000 and no bank will give you a loan because of the excessively high risk. Unless you or your business partners have the money you will need to find private investors, which is not easy at all.
Most people who open a restaurant are motivated by the fact that they "like cooking" and think it will be "fun". Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant can tell you that there is very little about it that is fun or to be liked. I enjoy cooking at home, but a restaurant environment is something completely different. When it's busy, you are under constant stress. When it's not busy, you are either stuck scraping some grease in the corner or you are going home. It's a business in which employee's rights are rarely recognized - no overtime pay, no holiday pay, no breaks (even though they deduct money for them), no chance to eat even though you are working with food all day long.
On a side note, I try to avoid eating from restaurants as much as possible. After seeing what goes on in there I don't want to take the risk. "What? There's no time to wash your hands!", "Just pick it up off the floor, we can't throw out steaks", "No need to wash the lettuce, there's black pepper in the salad dressing, nobody will know the difference". These are not imaginary stories. Speaking of lettuce, most restaurants I have worked in use the same sink to wash lettuce (the ones that actually do) and dump the water from the mop bucket. Is salad really a healthy option? If you are hungry and don't have time to cook you are better grabbing a burger at McDonald's or something like that, it's greasy and doesn't taste so great but you won't spend the night on the toilet. If you are worried about your weight then skip the fries and soft drink, eat some fruit when you get home instead.