Would you ever open a restaurant?

The restaurant business is so f'ed right now, but it will bounce back. I feel like restaurants celebrate certain cultures and are great places to celebrate life.ย 

They are also among the riskiest investments and most often fail. Staff turnover can be high and employees unreliable. Yet, you have to stay true to your brand and have great customer satisfaction.ย 

Given all these factors, would you ever open your own restaurant? I think it is a sexy concept, especially something simple like a brick oven pizza Italian place with good wine in Cali. I feel like when I'm older, it would be nice to own a place and just mingle with the regulars. Be that cool owner that just walks around with a glass of wine and checks in with the tables.ย 

Living the dream..... would you ever do it and open up a restaurant - what type of restaurant would you like to have?

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Comments (56)

Feb 2, 2021 - 9:49pm

I think it would be cool. It's a fucking brutal business though. In the other threads about buying businesses, I mentionedย my uncle used to own a few Popeyes and did well before selling them off for gas stations (that went to shit), got back in the restaurant business and opened up a place in a mall food court. I worked forย him the summer before lastย and he put in work.12-14 hour days for 2 years, could count on both hands how many days he took off in those two years. He's not young or healthy anymore either, so it took a huge toll on his health.

Shut the place down back in January because it wasn't doing well, never got to the three year mark.ย We actually had the best/highest quality food in the mall, but I think we were too expensive and our food took longer to prepare than others. People didn't want to wait around for it. Still, we had a handful of loyal customers who would only buy from us every single time they were in the mall. I feel it could have worked had we not been a fast food court while not serving fast food. I think he's going to give it another go soon, once he pays down debts and has some savings built up. In better times he had built a small fortune with convenienceย stores and those Popeyes he had, but took on too much risk and didn't do much due diligence and it cost him. ย ย 

Feb 6, 2021 - 7:33pm

Really is a hustler. Left home at 17 went to work on those big cargo ships, came to the US at 21. Made some money, lost it all, made even more money and lost it again now working his back up again.

  • Analyst 2 in RE - Comm
Feb 2, 2021 - 9:54pm

When I was fresh out of college, I worked a year in fast food because I knew I wanted to have my own business one day. I thought fast food might be the route to take. The owner I worked for brought in about 1.5- 2 mill a year. Working about forty hours a week. Maybe less, I really wasn't sure. His employees worked their asses off though.

  • Intern in PE - Growth
Feb 3, 2021 - 12:31pm

How many locations was his portfolio? Would be interested in learning more about what he did to get to the 1.5-2mm income per year.

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Feb 2, 2021 - 9:56pm

For me, I would actually like to own a bar. Nothing crazy, just some something super chill, like a hole in the wall type place. I have no idea how well it wouldย work, or if it wouldย work at all.ย Like if I can't be a billionaire real estate developer, owning a bar that does pretty well would be nice.ย 
Either that. Or really high end clubs. The clubs I would ownย after I'm a billionaire.

Feb 2, 2021 - 9:58pm

100%ย agree with your outlook on the restaurant industry butย I'd never open a restaurant unless I had a very experienced partner to handle ops.

Brutal industry, notoriously low margins, constantly changing consumer trends, high turnover, and hyper-competitive. Maybe a small tiki bar on the beach. Still get to mingle with the reggies and much less of an operational nightmare.

"Out the garage is how you end up in charge It's how you end up in penthouses, end up in cars, it's how you Start off a curb servin', end up a boss"
Feb 2, 2021 - 10:10pm

arbjunkie

its possible to do it in a way that makes money

i know a guy who runs a very successful chipotle knockoff in a town just a bit too small to attract an actual chipotle

There is a Greek chipotle knockoff in my city, near an actual Chipotle. Its actually a pretty good idea. They have greek meats like lamb and sides like tzatziki instead of the usual. The fries there are legendary. Its a pretty good greek restaurant. The menu looks like a greek Chipotle menu and they have the same line and setup and everything.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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  • VP in RE - Comm
Feb 5, 2021 - 1:49pm

The Chipotle model is becoming so common now among different food types:

- Greek

- Indian (pick a naan, indian veggies, tikka masala sauce, etc.)

- Mediterranean (pick a meat or falafels, sauces, middle eastern veggies)

- Italian (pick a type of pasta, pick sauce, veggies, meat, etc)

This model is taking off everywhere. Its clean, efficient, easy to staff, and scalable.

Feb 4, 2021 - 9:21pm

Phizzurp

Restaurant? No. Bar? Maybe.

Margins are so incredibly low in any food oriented business. Liquor is a gold mine if you play your hand right.

Yeah definitely. It would be cool to open a bar too.ย 

There was one bar I was particularly fond of in DC (Adam's Morgan). It was called Dan's. Dive bar. I loved it. They gave you a pint of liquor and a bucket of ice and a mixer and a glass for $10 (in 2006/2007). I liked the concept and everyone got hammered there. It was a great pre-gaming spot. I think they have changed their business model now after a re-open.

I love dive bars - they are my favorite.ย 

"This is about as divey as a dive bar gets. The bathroom is nasty, the floor is sticky, and it's always hot as balls in here, but that's what makes it such an amazing experience." lolol

https://www.yelp.com/biz/dans-cafe-washington

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 5
  • Intern in IB - Gen
Feb 3, 2021 - 10:28am

I actually want to do this but more as a passion project when I retire. I love cooking, and think it'd be awesome to have a small restaurant. I don't expect to make any real money off it though. Just hope to profit a bit above break even.ย 

In a different life I'd be trying to get a job under a top chef in France right now to learn and eventually go off on my own. Cut throat industry though I'm a bit risk adverse

Feb 3, 2021 - 10:48am

I think it is a very difficult industry, with enormous build out costs, staff churn, staff volume, low margins and a lot of competition. so many went bankrupt recently.

However, a food truck might be a better idea if you market it well through social media and if people eventually return to the offices.

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Feb 4, 2021 - 7:34pm

C8

However, a food truck might be a better idea if you market it well through social media and if people eventually return to the offices.

I think that's how a lot of food trucks in LA were founded right around the GFC.

Quant (หˆkwรคnt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • 1
Feb 5, 2021 - 12:00pm

Exactly! When many of my LA friends became unemployed, just one guy turned his hobby into a food truck business and eventually grew it to 4 or 5 trucks, I think. He eventually sold his business and moved away to open a restaurant though. never asked him why.

At the very least you can move a food truck around and create a hip brand. If you are a restaurant in a fixed location it would be difficult if suddenly people stop coming through the door. the delivery model didn't work out for all of them.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1-800-273-8255

  • 1
Feb 3, 2021 - 11:22am

The only one I'd open is an already profitable mini-chain in the Southeast that would fill a gap in my city. Besides that it is way too competitive to survive and tough to build a brand.ย 

  • Intern in PE - Growth
Feb 3, 2021 - 2:22pm

Yes. There are so many restaurants I've gone to where I think to myself "this is so much better than XYZ national chain, taking the recipe/menu and scaling it nationwide would be a grand slam." And they're usually run by a mom and pop that have no ambitions of opening additional locations and have subpar marketing / interiors / etc. Maybe I'm oversimplifying it, but taking one of those concepts, bringing in an experienced operator, attaining growth capital (a lot of restaurant-focused funds in today's market looking to deploy capital) could work in a big way

Feb 4, 2021 - 7:32pm

You should watch The Founder with Michael Keaton about the founding of McDonald's if you haven't already, very well done imo.

Quant (หˆkwรคnt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • 1
Most Helpful
Feb 3, 2021 - 5:46pm

I had friend approach me about joint investing in some restaurant franchises (I've held off given COVID). There are some basic insights I gathered from doing further research into the restaurant business.

  • The number 1 mistakeย seems to be people thinking because they enjoy eating out and are in-tune to the restaurant scene, that that makes them qualified to own and run one. This is could not be further from the truth. Having your own restaurant is about the furthest thing from being a well-informed patron.
  • While the industry figures may be off-putting, there is nothing inherently good or bad when it comes to owning a restaurant. From what I've seen, the reason for the low industry numbers areย (1) Too much supply from people thinking along the lines of the first bullet point, (2) An extreme pareto effect for good vs bad restaurants. Essentially a small number of restaurants are killing it and making loads of money while everyone else is starving.
  • Experience and inside knowledge are huge factors to success. You really have to know what you are doing. Read Danny Meyer's book: "Setting the Table." Everything from limits on how big a party can be (so the chefs can properly prepare and serve everyone at the table at the same time) to whether to have carpeting on the floor/walls (it can absorb smells but also can help dampen an overly noisey restaurant) needs to be taken into consideration. That said, there are cases like California Pizza Kitchen where just a good idea and hard work pay off...it was started by two lawyers.ย 
Feb 4, 2021 - 7:30pm

23mich

people thinkย because they enjoy eating out and are in-tune to the restaurant scene, that that makes them qualified to own and run one. This is could not be further from the truth. Having your own restaurant is about the furthest thing from being a well-informed patron.

This is exactly the reason why so many people want to go into it and end up failing. Basically everyone on Bar Rescue and all those other Food Network-type shows.

Quant (หˆkwรคnt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • 2
Feb 6, 2021 - 9:00pm

Pierogi Equities

This is exactly the reason why so many people want to go into it and end up failing. Basically everyone on Bar Rescue and all those other Food Network-type shows.

I used to love watching Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. I think I've seen every episode. Most owners hate him because his truth comes so sharp.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 1
  • Associate 1 in RE - Comm
Feb 15, 2021 - 12:01am

I'm curious what the terms were on the restaurant investment opportunities from your friend?

Had a friend approach me with one where the owner/operator/GP piece of the deal is 12% of the total Equity. The GP gets 10% of Cash flow until LPs achieve a 1.4x equity multiple. Afterwards, the GP (12% of equity) gets 70% of cash flow and the LP (78% of equity) gets 30% of cash flow... Is this normal for the restaurant JV? Aย 70% promote after a 1.4x equity multiple seems insane to me.

Feb 3, 2021 - 10:17pm

Never as an investment, but if I had F-U money and didn't mind to set a pile of it on fire, it would be cool to have a high end Mexican restaurant. OK basically I just want to own Javier's. Or else something in Fisherman's Wharf like Aliotos or Scoma's.

Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.
  • 1
Feb 4, 2021 - 2:30am

Based on my religious watching of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and fair amount of eating out it seems to me thatย a lot of restaurants are shitย for the same basic reasons. The consistent theme is:

1) Poor cleanliness in both the kitchen and the restaurant itself;

2) Drab decor (good atmosphere means longer patron stays means more orders of $$$ margin liquor);

3) Cutting costs in stupid places like on the quality of ingredients;ย 

4) Long, complicated menus;

5) Being too proud to eat shit every once in a while and have a "Customer is always right" mentality.ย 

I feel like if you could stay on top of those things (which would require you either being a great chef or having a chef partner who you could trust with your life) then you'd already be well ahead of most of the pack.ย 

Of course then you'd have to continually adapt to consumer trends, local demographics etc which can bite you no matter how dedicated you are.ย 

On balance, no.ย 

Feb 6, 2021 - 9:03pm

balanceofpayments

Based on my religious watching of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and fair amount of eating out it seems to me thatย a lot of restaurants are shitย for the same basic reasons. The consistent theme is:

1) Poor cleanliness in both the kitchen and the restaurant itself;

2) Drab decor (good atmosphere means longer patron stays means more orders of $$$ margin liquor);

3) Cutting costs in stupid places like on the quality of ingredients;ย 

4) Long, complicated menus;

5) Being too proud to eat shit every once in a while and have a "Customer is always right" mentality.ย 

I feel like if you could stay on top of those things (which would require you either being a great chef or having a chef partner who you could trust with your life) then you'd already be well ahead of most of the pack.ย 

Of course then you'd have to continually adapt to consumer trends, local demographics etc which can bite you no matter how dedicated you are.ย 

On balance, no.ย 

haha yeah Kitchen Nightmares is awesome. I think the most important thing he stresses is to have fresh clean honest locally sourced food. Base your menu around what is in season in your area and don't use frozen processed products. There were a lot of executive chefs on there who weren't trained professionally and sucked at cooking and were arrogant. I was in awe of how many arrogant chefs were on there that absolutely sucked. Just putting out horrible food and not giving a shit. And thinking their food was 'ok' (!!!). Chef Ramsay helped to save a bunch of places - they needed a rude awakening.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 5
Feb 4, 2021 - 3:52am

The Restaurant Business is a very tough one, many people seem to underestimate that. Furthermore, Profit Margins are very small, and it is physically demanding work.

Feb 6, 2021 - 9:09pm

CollierV

The Restaurant Business is a very tough one, many people seem to underestimate that. Furthermore, Profit Margins are very small, and it is physically demanding work.

This is a good point to bring up. It is tough work. Very demanding. I think for a team to succeed, they must be close knit and passionate about the business/food. You get a sous chef in there that doesn't give a fuck and they could blow your whole investment in one night by putting off the wrong customers. The employees need to deliver amazing food and amazing customer service every night. Not only amazing customer service, but the ability to deflect drunk or belligerent customers who are wrong. If you have a server that can do this - they are significantly underpaid. But the company culture has to be so strong that this is the correct behavior for a server. Not everyone can do it. It sucks to take abuse from someone especially when you know they are wrong. But, it is the essence of high customer satisfaction. And in the restaurant business, high customer satisfaction is where you have to be, or you're not crushing it and your margins are small.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 6
Feb 4, 2021 - 10:50am

https://www.ft.com/content/7b2146f7-f55f-41f2-b0a9-772a1a3c317a

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of ft.com">FT.com ft.com/help/legal-privacy/terms-conditions/">T&Cs and ft.com/help/legal-privacy/copyright/copyright-policy/">Copyright Policy. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be ft.com/tour">found here.
ft.com/content/7b2146f7-f55f-41f2-b0a9-772a1a3c317a">https://www.ft.com/content/7b2146f7-f55f-41f2-b0a9-772a1a3c317a

With some digging, we were able to connect Delight Holdco to something called Delight Holdings. Delight Holdings, among a handful of other investments, owns more than four dozen restaurants across the Wendy's and Taco Bell banners in Virginia, Indiana and Michigan. The Delight backers are literally Harvard bros - two 30-something brothers, Richard and Andrew Krumholz. Both went to Harvard and both were investment banking analysts at Goldman Sachs. Richard then worked at Seth Klarman's Baupost Group. Andrew did private equity stints at Carlyle and TPG. Neither Krumholz brothers responded to LinkedIn messages.

  • 6
Feb 4, 2021 - 2:41pm

Interestingย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Feb 4, 2021 - 4:15pm

After watching my parents run an ethnic restaurant, no. They worked their asses off and get insanely stressed so it seems like it's easier to just buy into aย franchiseย and get someone else (EXPERIENCED) to run the restaurant for you.ย 

Feb 4, 2021 - 7:25pm

I would, but only under the right circumstances since as you mentioned, it's a huge money pit more often than not. In some situationsย it can make sense, like if you can getย professional management in place, have franchises, etc. Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential talks a little bit about food cost management, but Roger Fields' Restaurant Success by the Numbers especially. The thing that's very important to note, is that this is definitely a labor of love, since margins are thin and it's backbreaking work.

However, I've fantasized about opening a restaurant as a kid. One of my high school friends went to the Culinary Institute of America, and we bounce ideas off each other every so often that range from more commercial concepts that can be easily franchised, to higher end concepts as well. For someone wanting to open a restaurant, since it is like any business, you're going to need to delegate well, so it helps knowing chefs while you can focus more on management/finances. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us here know how to eat well and not necessarily cook well.

Most of my ideas, and I suspect for most restaurateurs (especially the failed ones on Bar Rescue, etc.) too, are pet projects, which further shows how the service industry draws emotional and egotistical personalities, so that's something people have to be aware of. Take Bobby Flay, the pretty boy MD that's supposedly a huge asshole in real life. He was a douche in Entourage and is one in real life. Imagine having to work with that + extreme heat + poor ventilation + sharp knives + standing on your feet for hours on end. And then there's the pressure to produce a perfect product every time, quality of whichย can be measured basically immediately.

That all being said, what I like about restaurants is that I feel like it's can be easy to find a good opportunity, but very hard to execute. For example, in Eastern Europe there is a great butchering culture, but no history of barbecue in the American sense, at least done well. Opening a good BBQ place in Warsaw/Prague would be big imo.

Just some thoughts.

Quant (หˆkwรคnt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • 6
Feb 4, 2021 - 7:40pm

Definitely good points. My friend beat Bobby Flay on the TV show (Matt Pace) - I knew he was good at cooking, but didn't know he was that good. He had a restaurant in Brooklyn until he moved to Germany.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/dining/cafe-booqoo-review-brooklyn.aโ€ฆ

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 2
Feb 4, 2021 - 7:43pm

Damn no shit, that's awesome. I only watched it a couple times with my mom, but Flay always won so I was thinking wtf was the point of the show.

Quant (หˆkwรคnt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

  • 1
Feb 4, 2021 - 8:33pm

Hell no. My ideal in terms of making money is finding something with minimal input and getting maximum output (I'm lazy). So basically I'd want to do something I just enjoy that doesn't have too many hours worked for level of pay and invest well outside of work to really put my money to work for me vs. working for money

Restaurants are one of the worst businesses from this respect. And too hard to do, needs a ton of micromanaging. If I was to do something in the capital-intensive physical world, I'd probably go into real estateย 

Feb 4, 2021 - 9:10pm

Sequoia

Hell no. My ideal in terms of making money is finding something with minimal input and getting maximum output (I'm lazy).ย Restaurants are one of the worst businesses from this respect.ย 

Agree. I think if I ever opened a place it would be for the love of food and culture rather than to make money. I'd treat the investment as I treat poker - I'd only put in the pot what I'm willing to lose. And statistics dictate that most restaurants will fail. So the mentality would be 'yeah I'll probably lose all this investment'.

I don't think they are proper investment vehicles. There are many other investment vehicles much better than restaurants.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 3
  • Intern in IB - Cov
Feb 6, 2021 - 7:08pm

Isaiah_53_5 ๐Ÿ’Ž๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ’Ž๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ’Ž

I feel like when I'm older, it would be nice to own a place and just mingle with the regulars. Be that cool owner that just walks around with a glass of wine and checks in with the tables.ย 

Living the dream..... would you ever do it and open up a restaurant - what type of restaurant would you like to have?

simmer down artie bucco

I live in a posh whiteย area -ย I could start a food stall and serve my native food and it would fly off the shelves guaranteed (family friend does a food truck and he makes very good money serving this area)ย If I wasn't doing IB, I would have gone into the restaurant biz - all the men in my family cook and so I learned to cook at a young age. Routinely cooked for large gatherings at college, family eventsย etc. Definitely one of my dreams is to quit ib and start a place...ย ย 

Feb 6, 2021 - 9:18pm

I moved out of my parent's place when I was 18, second semester in HS. I already left my parents place at 17 and moved to California, but ended up coming back and they wanted a curfew and shit, so I wasn't down for that. I left my 'leaving' note on a napkin in the laundry room at 3am one nightย and left.ย 

I was staying at my friend's place and his parents had a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant was directly outside the house. So basically I was eating Chinese everyday for food. They were nice to me and gave me free meals. I usually got the steak and green pepper with fried rice. My friend Allan (their son) would get the same, so it was easy to cook it in one wok. His mom would more or less run the business. She was one of the first people I'd see really hustle there. She was on the phone, cooking, taking orders - everything. It was impressive. They did well. It was definitely better than average Chinese food and they had a following.ย 

I'll never forget seeing that hustle of Allan's mom - I was like wow - she can hustle hard. And that's what it's all about.ย 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • 5
Jul 14, 2021 - 11:01am

I'd love nothing more. I am currently still in college but try to cook on a regular basis.

Very often friends of mine actually suggest that I should open a restaurant but as of right now it is just to risky for me. Maybe when I am 30 though.

However if I am opening a restaurant I am thinking of opening a high end restaurant. While it would be unreasonable to expect to cook on a Michelin Star Level I feel I could cook slightly below that level.

A friend of my parents owns a restaurant with "two hoods" and "three forks". In my country the Michelin Guide is only represented in two cities so we came up with our own rating system. For reference 1 fork is fine dining and 5 forks are extremely fine dining. Restaurants that are in the right city and have 4 forks or more usually have one or more Michelin stars.

Anyways I am really close with that chef and also other chefs and also cooked with them on a regular basis and even showed them my own recipes. And even though I am definitely not a professional chef they all agreed that they would be happy to put my creations on their menu.ย 

Therefore I believe that I could open a fine dining restaurant and I think would really enjoy doing so.

Major problem I am currently way to poor for an investmentย ย 

Jan 11, 2022 - 8:57am

Working as a server in my teenage years made me want to open a restaurant. I suppose something with a theme would have great success. Usually, cultural ones have the most success, but let's say I'm opening a TV show-inspired restaurant. That would thrive in no time. The beginning isn't easy, but what's easy today? But to be honest, even if this idea is very appealing to me, my absolute dream is opening a restaurant in dubai :) Can you imagine the money I'd make there? I believe it's hard to obtain all the authorizations there, though...

Jan 14, 2022 - 9:16am

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"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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