I don't how I stumbled upon this search in Google, I certainly did not enter it myself, but it's obvious that people must google these sort of questions. The answer in brief is: not much. Certainly not running a small restaurant. Often if you count the hours you put in - and this must include all the admin work, trips to the cash and carry, phone calls etc - the hourly rate is not that high. This said, one can make a comfortable living as a owner-operator with a restaurant of about 35 covers, plus takeaway. Also as discussed on my previous post "is opening a restaurant for you", running a restaurant is, and must be, about passion and fulfilment.
Just the other day I was listening to Carol's Haidar's podcast "Your Table's Ready" (which by the way I highly recommend) where a restaurant owner was saying that you can hardly expect to make any money with just one restaurant and that's why concepts need to be scalable. This in my opinion it's BS and crazy. I appreciate running a restaurant in a capital has high costs, but betting on expansion and outside investment to eventually hope to make some money it's a risk strategy. Unsurprisingly Hacker Young accountants reported a 25% increase in insolvencies in 2019 compared to the previous year and over the same period the UK top 100 restaurant made a collective £82 million loss!
And that's exactly why I am passionate about small restaurants. If you open you must make money and if you don't, there is something wrong with the business that needs to be fixed.
You have been thinking about this for ages. You have a real passion for food and customer service (I hope) and now you want to take the plunge. You start thinking you have to quit your job, and what about the mortgage?
Running even the smallest of restaurants is no small feat. Apart from the rosy part where you serve fantastic dishes to smiley customers, there are a ton of things to think about. From compliance e.i. health & safety, food hygiene, fire safety to dealing with your suppliers, utility suppliers, staff and your landlord.
A lot of these things you can learn along the way, some you can Google and some you can find in forums or simply by asking around. But one thing you need to be damn sure about is your commitment. Your first year will likely consist of long days and long weeks and in general a lot of hard work.
If you are the kind of person that gets easily stressed, can't handle a bit of pressure or gets tired really quickly, this job is not for you. Most restaurants make 65% of their money at the weekend - talk about surges in demand! And even then all this orders are concentrated during 3 hours of Friday and Saturday!
Even if like me you have been working in hotels and restaurants for 20 years before opening your own, running your own small restaurant is a totally different ball game. The first thing you realise is that you are missing the infrastructure you were used to, the help you get by your colleagues and your superior and the company as a whole. I remember thinking, as the restaurant was small, how to best utilise the space. Should the counter be against the wall or in the middle, should we have a partition between kitchen and restaurant, how many tables and seats can we really fit in. In the end you realise that when you had launched a new concept/bar/restaurant in London, you had help from corporate designers and architects and you only had to give some practical input as they mainly design pretty things and you need functional "things". In the end for my first restaurant I used a designer I found through a friend of mine and for a modest fee he helped us maximise the space and gave us an idea of what we could do.
You will be in in front of customers and dealing with people most of the time, so you'd better be a cheerful, smiley person or at the very least someone that can put a mask on when problems arise, when your new baby or puppy kept you awake all night or you just had an argument with your partner (in business or life)
All in all this is a very hard decision you are making, so jot down some ideas, maybe a business plan, have an in depth look at your finances and an even deeper look at your self.
if you want to bounce some ideas or need some advice post a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan shares his experiences, struggles and tips to help other small restaurant operators.