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Goal oriented and need advice

2262 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  leo r.
I need some career counseling, what better place than here? You are all honest and fair in your replies, so I ask you to lend me a bit of advice and thank you all in advance.
I have no wife and no kids, I have some money saved up, and I want to own a restaurant in the very... distant future (long-term goal). With no restaurant experience, but much ambition to learn, where should I begin (school vs. baptism by fire) and what goals (short-term) should I set to ensure I remain on the right track?
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Hi, Mike. Nice to meet you. You have indeed come to the right place!

First, before I make suggestions (which I will, fear not), I'd like to ask you, or rather have you ask yourself:
Why do you want to own a restaurant?
What do you think it's like?

While you're chewing on that, I will suggest that you probably should go to school: a program that includes both culinary arts and management training. Preferably one that requires you to do an internship in each. You'll need to learn about food (all the basics about ingredients), food preparation, service, business systems for restaurants, human resources, fund raising, and more -- a whole range, because the owner should be able to do EVERYTHING. I'm not talking about one of those 6-week continuing-ed courses on how to open a restaurant. I mean SERIOUS SCHOOL. After you finish school, then you'll still have to work in the industry for several years, front-of-house, back-of-house, and office. And, oh yes, maybe it would be good to get some experience as a purveyor, too. If you still want to be an owner after all that, great.

The reason why I recommend school over experience is this: wherever you work, all you will learn is how they do it THERE. Maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong. In any case, it's very limited. Good coursework from good teachers will give you a much broader knowledge base.

What I'm getting at is that as much as we crab about how hard it is to be the chef, or the manager, it's THE OWNER who has ultimate responsibility for everything and everyone. That's a big burden, not to be taken lightly. If you've got what it takes, more power to you. But please go in with your eyes open.

Let us know what you think, please. We're on your side!
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If the 2-year program near you can teach you what you need to know, why look elsewhere? There are many debates -- even here on CT -- about the relative value of different schools to people who want to become CHEFS. But as Chrose pointed out, you won't necessarily need to know the finest points of every cuisine. A solid general food knowledge base will help you make good decisions, and hire good people, and be able to figure out when someone is s***ing you.

A lot of restaurant failures have nothing to do with the quality of the food, or even the service. Usually it's because the owners had not done all their homework, and didn't have the business skills they needed. They didn't know how to control costs; they were way undercapitalized; they hadn't done the research on their site or their probable expenses. So the more you learn about the business end, the better off you'll be.

(And it wouldn't hurt to learn how to have access to an unending supply of money! ;) ;) )
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