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Your Experience in a Failing Restaurant?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Has anyone here been a part of a failing restaurant? Especially at an owner, GM, consultant, head chef or sous level. What was it like? Did you dig yourselves out or close the doors? Did you change your game plan? What was the hardest part? Was it poor sales, food costs, management or something else?

 

We all talk so often of working in great establishments but the reality of this business is failure is everywhere and at all levels. I hear stories of tired and mentally exhausted owners/cooks/chefs/managers and it seems like a failing/failed restaurant sucks the life out of all involved.

post #2 of 8

You seem to be asking a very broad question. Is there something specific you are trying to find out?

     Restaurants close for the same reasons many businesses close. Sometimes it is because the owner(s) has a gambling/drug problem, sometimes because of general poor management  skills; that alone covers a variety of fatal errors. Good help is universally hard to find. Costs for everything continue to increase, often at a pace difficult to keep up with. Government regulation can be a real challenge. 

Every situation is different. Some are salvageable, some are not. Some people can rise to the challenges they face, some can not. 

     If you are faced with a particular situation or problem you would like some advice on, state it clearly. There are many very smart and experienced people on this site who can offer great assistance. 

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
I'm not really looking for a specific answer to a specific question, more so interested in hearing peoples stories to learn from them. In my place we are not financially failing but do have a ton of FOH and GM issues coupled with a lot of competition. The street we are located on is going to become one way greatly reducing traffic flow so I'm wondering if we are going to come to a tipping point sometine down the road in the next 6-8 months.
post #4 of 8

Your FOH and GM issues will most likely be the deciding factor. As you don't specify them, I'll pass them by to focus on the other concerns. 

Competition is neither here nor there unless you are a pizza shop next to a lot of other pizza shops. Otherwise focus on doing what you do well.  Good food and service done well in your own style will set you apart enough. Comparisons are odious. Be yourself. Worry about what the other guy is doing is taking your eye off the ball. Continuing to focus on ways to improve what you do and how you do it is what to worry about. 

 Many factors play into the one way street issue. Are you a dinner house and traffic is heaviest in the morning as people drive by on the way to work and therefore will not drive by at night? How will this new traffic pattern affect available parking? Is there a lot of pedestrian traffic? Will there be after the change?  Reducing traffic congestion may provide more opportunity for visual recognition of your restaurant for those driving by, no longer distracted by oncoming traffic and perhaps better able to pull over. 

    Change is the only constant in life. How you adapt to the change is most important. In your case it means how your GM adapts to the changes. If they can't handle it generally, perhaps you should be looking for a new job. 

post #5 of 8

Restaurants fail for a number of reasons, with the biggest one being under-capitalization.

 

But mostly restaurants fail because the owner has his head so far up is rectum, he thinks his tongue is a foreskin--they don't know what they are doing.

 

About 8 years ago, I was scouting around for a new kitchen, the lease on my existing place would expire in about 8 mths.  My first choice was to find a restaurant for sale, as it would easier and cheaper to take over a clapped-out one, than it would be to start from scratch.  And I had a zillion choices, each with a different story...

 

A) was a pizza and burger joint on a busy street with great exposure.  At first glance, the infrastructure looked great, but on closer inspection, the vent hood had no , I mean "0" fire supression--highly illegal, looking closer I saw that the shaft for the hood was a common 4" household forced air duct line, again, highly illegal. I'm no electrician, but when I see 220 amps go to a knife switch and then dissapear behind a wall, somehting is fishy.  Dumb (deleted) owner figured he didn't need to follow codes, get inspections, or do things right, and when the landlord witched over insurance companies, and the insurance inpsector had a peak, all hell broke loose and the operator got tossed out.

 

B) was a chain muffin and donut place in a mini-strip mall (donuts = fryers=ventilation system, ansul system, and gas) Nice place, all up to code.  Owner had installed pinball machines and gambling machines and got shut down.  O.K. that didn't bother me, but when I started to negotiate with the real estate agent I found out the the landlord would not give me any parking, nor was I able to claim any of the 30-odd parking spaces for any customers--he had sold or rented them all to the auto-body shop next door.

 

C) A large "indie" restaurant styled along the lines of Denny's or IHOP.  Rent was a killer.  Just by sitting in the place with a coffee and a cheap calcualtor, I figured I'd have to run 24 hrs and make a minimum of 5 grand a shift to cover rent and staffing costs.  Not for me.  This place changes hands about every 9 mths since I visited it almost 8 years ago.

 

And on and on, and on. A coffee shop that only sold coffee an nothing else--not even a Costco muffin,  and couldn't make rent, sit-downs with no parking available, full service places running on 100 amps and no gas, places with overwhelming staffing issues, you name it

 

 

I finally bought a crapped-out place that needed a whole lot of upgrading, but at least the infrastructure and permits  were in place.  Place was family run, and it was just limping on, owners wouldn't even do bare maintainence on it, customers wouldn't eat there because of it, and eventually he only did take-out.

...."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 #6 of 8

The last restaurant i worked at , will most likely be shut down regardless. 

 

Classic italian restaurant , seats about 150 people. 

Place doesnt have proper cooling and refrigeration for certain products. 

No washing machine <_<

Staff was not properly trained , with no training on how to reduce , re-use and recycle , no comman sense either.

 

The GM is 19 years old ( has been the GM for about 3 years after getting fired by the restaurant owner , who owns another business ) , obviously you know the dude has no culinary knowledge. When service starts he is no where to be found , either goes home , takes a break or does something else and returns one hour before the shift ends. 

 

Owner also has no culinary training , and wastes at least 8 grand a week to keep the place running. This place financially wont make it. 

Head chef , is horrible , no culinary training and basically became chef because she was the last one sticking around one year ago when most of the staff quit. 

 

The place is nice and has a great dining room , but the kitchen is a distaster. 

The restaurant is in a very old house <_< from about 100 years ago , when the owners italian relatives bought it ,so you can imagine the infrastructure. The place is beautiful inside and out , but really shouldnt be producing food , im sure a health inspector would shut it down on site. 

 

The place had way too many employees <_< and on weekends they would even get some extra hands in the dining room when it wasnt necessary. Pay was decent , but just a bit too high , especially when you work only 4 - 5 days a week less then 50 hours weekly. 

 

Basically i know the place is destined to fail , i may work their just for the pay , until it closes but for now , im okay with staying home and not having to deal with the standard B*llsh*t daily , as well as not suffer headaches because of incompetent people. Aside from that its my only and hopefully will still be my only failing restaurant experience. 

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr.Seuss

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post #7 of 8

I work with failing restaurants all the time. I've helped a lot of them and watched many of them refuse to make changes and fail despite the help. There are a lot of reasons restaurants can fail, but there are many I see over and over.

 

The biggest is a poorly designed menu that is either too big or too burdening on one station of the line.

 

Probably the next biggest is owners that don't know how to market their restaurant. It doesn't matter how good your food is, if no one knows it won't sell. That marketing issue usually includes a lack of a unique selling point or general confusion of the overall restaurant identity or theme.

 

Another mistake is people thinking they can run a restaurant because they can cook/serve/bartend. Cooking good food is only a small part of running a restaurant. If you don't know how to keep records and track your numbers, you'll fail.

 

Another mistake is pricing incorrectly. Many chefs and owners get hung up on food cost percentages and create menus thinking that achieving a particular food cost is going to make them profitable rather than worrying about the more important part, the money left over after the food cost is covered. Food costs are anywhere from 18-40% of overall costs. Prices have to cover all of the restaurant's expenses and have enough left over to make a profit. If the pricing strategy doesn't take into account all the costs of doing business, the restaurant can leave a lot of money on the table.

 

Bad negotiating skills are another major restaurant killer. The most important part of negotiating prices is knowing what other people are paying. You can't pay significantly more than your competitors and think you are going to make money.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply
post #8 of 8

just remember guys theres always a line. if the checks start bouncing, so do you.

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