Thanks for your reply, you bring up valid points. Gaining experience in the field would make sense, as it would in any industry. I can't imagine that any culinary student would think they are experts after finishing culinary school. The idea of opening a restaurant is daunting and I certainly don't want to get thrown in the deep end. This is why I've made many decisions to start small and slow.
The area we have chosen is a newly-developing section of a small city (pop. 450k) in a northeast Asian country (for privacy reasons, I don't want to get too specific). It is in a relatively quiet, part residential, part commercial area with little foot traffic (as of now). There are big upcoming developments in the area including a train station (connecting a city of over 11 million), a new city courthouse, city prosecutor's office and about seven 25+ story high-rise apartment buildings. The city center and city hall is about a five minute drive away. The area is expected to be in full swing in about three years. We aren't completely foreign to the area and country. One of my parents was born here and now lives here on and off, and I've lived here for the past five years.
We are currently constructing a small 3-story building, with a commercial space on the bottom and 2-bedroom apartments on the upper floors. It is more a long-term real estate investment decision than anything. It's a common set up in the country, and there are entire zones dedicated to this type of (4 story max, part residential, part commercial) building. The developing street I'm on is slowly becoming a little restaurant and café street, with a few business just opened.
Our other businesses are located out of the country and are very well broken in and require very little management on our part, so I will be in the country full time as I have the past five years.
Being in the bar business, we're sticking to what we know. In the evenings, the business will essentially be a taphouse that serves food. Western craft brews are a rarity in the country and are just starting to get really popular with the locals. In the day, we plan to serve coffee and a simple lunch menu of sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc. Perhaps no more than 12 lunch items to start with.
Much of our main, evening menu will be made up of North American and European-style pub grub, American-style barbecue/smoked meats and a variety of European-style house-made sausages. Overall, I would guess about half of the menu would be cook-to-order items since smoked meats are cooked for hours, then held.
I was originally planning on opening this business without going to culinary school and with just hiring a good chef and kitchen manager. My original food interest before considering culinary school were cured and smoked meats. My decision to go to culinary school was for just the reason you mentioned, getting "a good grounding in the basics of food preparation."
Even with my passion for food, I will always be an entrepreneur first and a (future) chef second. If this first food venture is successful, I will likely be in the food business for a long time in this country and would not have the time to attend culinary school in the future. And if the business is successful, only then would I be more comfortable going into risker ventures with a bigger menu, faster pace and more complex dishes.
Western-style pubs, especially those owned by Westerners serving Western pub grub, have been very successful in the country. Because options are limited for Western food for the expat crowd, even bars with menus serving average burgers and fish & chips, with cooks with little experience are doing well. Many of these establishments could do well just on alcohol sales alone and by playing "back home" sports games. A large majority of the expats here have their housing and health insurance paid for, are single, do not own cars, and have disposable incomes with very little expenses.
Compared to most of my peers of this type of business in the country, I am going well beyond what is expected in terms of food. Most of the bars are owned by English teachers-turned-bar owners. Just having an establishment frequented by Western clientele and the presence of authentic international food (in this largely homogeneous country) is a draw for the native-locals. Many of these native-locals have studied or lived abroad in countries like Canada or Australia and have a taste for Western pub fare.
Regarding the chef working temporarily: Almost all of the country's English-speaking Western-born chefs are expats or travelers working abroad. This is more of a problem than it is a plus because it will be challenging to find someone long term (even with the tens of thousands of expats in the country). Most will prefer to work short term. (I've placed sample tester employment ads out just to see what kind of responses I would get, and the responses were much more than I was expecting.)
I've learned from owning other businesses (I've owned three businesses in publishing, advertising and retail prior to this), to not wear too many hats. The failure of one of my businesses was due almost entirely to my bad accounting habits, thinking I could do things myself when they really should have been taken care of by a professional. Bookkeeping for one will be done 90% by an outside accountant. I will have a full-time FOH/General Manager. I will be in control of marketing with freelance support as needed.
To offset the expected slow day-time pace, we will also be selling via online orders (again, on a small manageable scale) freshly-packed deli meats, fresh sausages, Western cuts of beef and pork that are nearly impossible to find here at local grocery stores, and hard-to-find preserved/canned items, to expats throughout the country. There are tens of thousands of Western expats in this country from the UK, America, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc. that don't even have the option of buying a strip loin steak at a grocery store, or a british-style banger or even jar of proper dill pickles. This niche market could be a business on its own.
Having said all that, I still am highly considering working for a bit before getting started. If I could land an entry level job after LCB, I'd most definitely take it. But I doubt it would be more than a year. The biggest reason why I feel kind of rushed is my age and my desire to settle down in one place. I've spent a good amount of my 20s traveling and working abroad.