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Owning a restaurant...

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hello all.
I'm kind of in a bind here.
My wife wants to (she's always wanted to have her own business) open her own restaurant. That's all great, but she seems to think that she now needs to go take to LCB (she went there for a tour...and yes, they promised a lot) to learn how to be a chef, so that she can get the experience needed for owning a restaurant. Being an engineer I know almost nothing of cooking or running a business. I really would like to hear from people to know just how ridiculous (or not) that idea is. I understand that having experience will help with running your own shop, but paying $40K for knowing which equipment to buy or how to run your own kitchen when the same could be accomplished by just hiring someone who knows?
Perhaps the better question is this...what are the skills needed for opening my own restaurant and do they teach those in culinary schools?
Thank you in advance.
post #2 of 12
She needs to first get a job in a restaurant or two and see what it's like. Period. I do not know a single restaurant started by people who have simply "wanted to own a restaurant" and stayed in business for more than one year. That is the cold hard truth.
post #3 of 12
1) If you have no restaurant experience, never hire someone to do the things that YOU should be doing.

2) I strongly urge you to take your wife to a used food equipment dealer--but not to buy equipment. Everything you see there was bought new, once, then it was sold for cents on the dollar, marked up 150%-300% and is now offered for sale to you. This is a very sobering expierience. 80% of restaurants don't make it in the first year, 70% don't make it in the second year. Banks and lending institutions will outright refuse to loan money in this industry without any prior expierience.

3) Running a succesful restaurant is more about getting customers in the door and keeping them, than it is about food.

4) A good operator knows about: Building codes and zoning, health codes, labour codes, basic accounting skills, H.R. skills, and lastly, cooking and serving skills. You will need all of these.

5) The only time you make money with a restaurant is when you sell the business. No one seems to understand this....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #4 of 12
I would strongly recommend that you do not do either.. No school teaches business acumen, nor do they teach public relations or attempting to deal with the day to day problems of this venture. It is also the wrong economic time , people are not eating out as much. Everyone thinks owning a place is SHOWBIZ ,Believe me I have owned 3 . You have a strict boss! and that is the front door. It must be staffed, cleaned , insured, cooked for ,purchased for and equipped. If you divide what you make by your time put in , you could hold 2 jobs, and have 2 incomes. Plus you work weekends and Holidays.. Make sure you sit down and give it a load of thought before you jump.:chef:

PS Banks will not finance a restaurant, they know better.
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #5 of 12
I agree with everyone here and LCB will, as you said, make a lot of promises that they simply cannot keep. They are selling you. Plain and simple. If your wife enters the school to prepare to open a business, it will be a ridiculous idea. I am not opposed to culinary school, heck, I even work at one, but promising hopes and dreams of grandeur is where I draw the line. If your wife needs to get advice, PM me and ask for my number.

What does your wife do now? I can think of at least 5 things she should do before even considering culinary school and visiting a college for a visit is not one of them.

Since you are an engineer, I assume you make good money but I don't know if you have a mortgage, if your wife works, if you have serious loans to pay from education, etc.

Without knowing this, I would recommend your wife to work in a restaurant or retail business, possibly in a similar setup to what you both envision in a business and see how that functions. To see if she actually enjoys it. There are books and great resources, like this site, that can answer many of your questions before making such a big decision.

If I don't hear from you, I wish you the best.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you.
She doesn't have any meaningful restaurant experience at this time, but she likes to cook. She went for an LCB tour last week and they did a great job convincing her that she MUST go study there so she can open her own place. In a way I understand that you need experience, but is the experience she would get at LCB worth 40K and how useful will it be considering all the other skills one needs to possess in order to own one?

I've been reading some articles/forums this weekend on the actual real life experiences (and how the pretty picture that LCB paints how you'll be a chef right out of school) and the reality is very sobering, esp the hours. How do you guys manage family life while working 60 (in the off season?) to "some ridiculous number" of hours?
post #7 of 12
For-Profit College: Costly Lesson - 60 Minutes - CBS News

It is 4 years old, but some things never change.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you, I may actually do that. I didn't go to the tour, but we're going back there tomorrow to talk over the financial aid angle, at which point I'm going to ask a bunch of other questions.

Yeah, mortgage, car payments, whole 9 yards, which is why I'm trying to paint her the accurate picture of what her life will be like based on what I find out, not what LCB tells her.

Is it possible for a person with just home cooking experience to go into a restaurant as a volunteer trainee cook type person to work in the kitchen, or would she get a very good idea working as a waitress?
post #9 of 12
It is very possible to work in a restaurant without experience. I have had two students (both career changers and even before they started at culinary school) get chances to stage (basically doing grunt work for free) and were asked to come back to help on a weekly basis. The deal is that they help for free. Both were known and respected restaurants in Chicago. So if your wife can afford to work for free, say 2 shifts or 10-20 hours per week, she can learn a lot about cooking/prep/how a kitchen functions.

Now being a server can be just as beneficial because they usually get paid more and you have to deal directly with customers. If you are going to operate your own business, knowing the front and back of house is necessary.

It seems like you are coming at it from a realistic perspective but it is your wife that needs to see this too.

Here are some questions that you can ask:
Who are their alumni?

-(If they say Julia Child (and you aren't at the Paris location) or Stephanie Izard (and you aren't at the Scottsdale location), then they are not trustworthy. Find out who graduated from their particular school and find out what they are doing.

Am I (your wife) going to be a chef after she graduates?

-If they say yes, don't even chastise them. Just run.

Lastly...

Do I need to go to graduate culinary school to be a chef?

-If they say yes then ask them about Thomas Keller or Charlie Trotter and how they managed to do it.

One more thing...where do you live? I seem very anti-education but I am not. I am for laying out the reality and allowing others to make an intelligent decision. If you need a list of other schools in your area, check out www.acfchefs.org and look under the education section. It will pull up a list of schools in your state.

Now, I have to run and do my job but PM me if you need anything further as my boss likes it more when I am on the phone as opposed to giving random advice on the internet.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #10 of 12
The SECRET to making a million dollars owning a restaurant is.... start with four million dollars!

IMHO, a majority of "culinary schools" will teach the basic skills to qualify as a "prep cook" right out of school paying about $10-15/hour.

Running a restaurant, and I speak from DIRECT experience, involves FAR more than "cooking", it involves business finance, accounting, personnel management, sales, marketing, advertising (and that is NOT the same as marketing), inventory control, and a host of other skills.

Two and a half years ago, my wife and I were "handed" a restaurant for nothing down. We both had about seven years experience cooking professionally and I have nearly 35 years experience running my own businesses. After two and a half years, and close to $75,000, we are beginning to see the possibility of breaking even and we might even begin to see some "profit", besides the warm feeling of doing what we want to do.

The "culinary side" is the EASY part and, IMHO, does NOT require expensive "schooling". Cooking is definitely NOT "rocket science", running a restaurant is probably a little more complex than "rocket science" ;)
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you.
This is going on my printout of "why you shouldn't do it".
post #12 of 12
I opened my own restaurant after being in the business for 20 years. I had practical working hands on experience in every avenue FOH/BOH of a restaurant. I knew a lot about the restaurant business.

Nothing truly prepares you for being an owner except being an owner.

I can pretty much echo the sentiments and experiences expressed in PeteMcCracken's post. Lots of truth and wisdom there.

I owned my restaurant for 12 years and decided to close when the emotional balance sheet (just like an actual financial statement) didn't pan out an longer. After 12 years of long hours, low pay, and little time off; there came a point in time when my emotional investment was greater than the emotional return.

Do I have any regrets about owning my own restaurant?

Absolutely not. I would have plenty if I had never opened my own.

Do I have any regrets about closing my own restaurant?

Absolutely not. I would have plenty if I hadn't closed.

Would I ever try to persuade any one from trying to open their own?

Absolutely not.

The 2 happiest days in a restaurant owner's life are when he opens his own and when he closes it.:lol:
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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