Jumping into the Fire or not

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by planethoff, Jun 5, 2016.

  1. planethoff

    planethoff

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    The thought of returning to the industry and starting my own place has been haunting my brain for the last couple years.  I am living very comfortably and working a cake job that pays fairly well, but I am not completely happy.  Staying the course is the most prudent and fiscally responsible route, but the urge to run a kitchen again and feed people great food is so alluring.  I would seriously be putting myself out on a limb and taking on some debt to make it happen, but it is on my mind all the time.

    It has been just over a decade since I worked in a kitchen, I had a personal chef business for a couple years, but that was a whole different thing.  I have been GM of 3 different places, Kitchen Manager/Chef De Cuisine for 2, and worked almost every imaginable position over the course of my life.  My parents had a place when I was young and both sides of my grandparents were restauranteurs.  I used the restaurant business as a way to get through to the next thing, but I have recently realized it was THE thing all along.  

    What do I do?
     
  2. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    There is nothing quite like having your own place. I did it for 13 years and have no regrets. I would have regrets if I hadn't done it. I also have no regrets about no longer being an owner. I have been cured of ownership :~)

    I am sure you know this part, but it was my life for 13 years. Now I work for someone else and have a life once again. Wouldn't trade my journey with anyone else, been a helluva ride so far!
     
  3. planethoff

    planethoff

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    That is the thing cheflayne. Am I willing to give up my "life" to do this? I live pretty cushy. so cushy that having the pressure of a place might be good for me. I'm just south of 50 so it's a bit late in the game, but I know I could handle it. Hey 50'is the new 30 right? Lol
     
  4. lagom

    lagom

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    50 is the new 30 just refers to how many years you still gave left to work until retirement 😬

    Seriously though, I've been an owner for a long time. I tried a few years ago to divest and just work as a head chef in a small boutique hotel and conference facility, nice work, good staff. I got bored really quick.

    Get a well thought out plan together. Find a good, real bastard of an accountant who won't pull punches and give you honest brutal feedback and advice. Go for it.

    It's not really giving up your life, but you are changing it.
     
  5. silver pantry

    silver pantry

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    I'm not so sure its just a mental thing. I'm nearing 50 and recently left the daily grind for about a year.  I'm back in it with my own business (I got brave enough mentally), but add that ownership pressure to the physical grind and it's no joke.  If the concept doesn't work as quick as you want it to, there is no rest to your body or mind...and this effects your family dynamic.

    I've had to make the same choice.  I'm going out on my own late in life and don't regret it, but I have to admit, part of it is out of the desperation I can't make it enough $ in corporate kitchens to ever retire.  The other part is that I know my body can't hold up in a kitchen till I'm 65...I have to make some bigger money now or I'm (and my family) are screwed anyway.

    That said, you probably won't regret it if you have the desire and already understand that it will be hard.  You just may want to test your stamina out in someone else's kitchen for a bit first.
     
  6. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I vote for doing it. Sure, you should plan long and hard on how to do it. How much of a life you have outside of it depends largely on how you set it up. But it also depends on what you consider a life, what activities are important to you. 

         My leisure activities center around going to orchards and farms in season, canning, reading cookbooks and other food related activities, getting out and finding other people to talk about food with. If I could find a cooking job working in the right kitchen that included those activities and my life wasn't limited to me spending all day in a windowless box just sweating out food production and cleaning up the mess, I would be very happy.  And of course, you need some down time to spend time with family and friends. 

        In any event, I've heard it said that in old age, we regret what we didn't do. Life is short and has an uncertain length. If you want to do it that badly, do it now. 
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2016
  7. theelectricchef

    theelectricchef

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    I second Chefwriter. Go with your gut and go for it. It will be not fun to live with those 'what ifs". I, myself am in a so called "cushy" corporate job but slowly finding my way back to my passion. This time it is on my terms. I hope this helps.
     
  8. lagom

    lagom

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    If it's money that you're looking for then I will honestly say that you almost never get wealthy working for someone else in our business.

    Before I got out on my own many years ago I had a comfortable life, nice house, car , paycheck with a good bonus plan. My 70 hours a week served me well.

    Once I started working for myself I saw what I could really do with my talent. It's hard and time consuming but the rewards are worth it. My staff is my own dedicated crew. Part or my family. I pay and treat them as such and they do whatever needs done. I still work long days but the rewards are much dearer.

    Edit

    My financial rewards over the years have been great. Im north of 50 with 2 knockouts kids in college and 2 more to go before I retire. I have multiple houses in multiple countries and look forward to leaving my kids and wife in good shape when I check out to the great kitchen in the sky.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
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  9. planethoff

    planethoff

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    Thanks for the kind words and encouragement everyone.  I've been musing the idea with my wife for a long time now, but actually sat down and had a serious "I'm gonna do this talk".  So, I think it's really happening.  I have a long road ahead, so I will periodically post updates to this thread to document my adventure.

    I plan to have a solid business plan developed in the next six months and am looking to get the place running in an 18-36 month time frame.  I am focusing on a 75-100 seat place, but am not limiting myself to that.  I will scout a few locations in the next few months and use three suitable places for mock planning to hone my concept and get the general feel for location costs, equipment requirements, staffing levels, etc.  I don't plan on shopping for an actual lease for at least a year. 

    My goal is to have enough to fund the place with no profit or paycheck for me for one year when the doors open. (Is that still the standard?)

    My menu is currently all over the place.  There are so many things I want to do, but I know I need to keep it relatively simple, so cutting my entire repertoire into a one page menu will be hard, but necessary.  I know I can do daily specials, but there still has to be a lot of great dishes cut from the menu.

    @Lagom- Obviously, I want to make money, but this is about way more than that.  I make a comfortable living now, but the thing I like to do the most is cook, feed people, and enjoy the company of friends and family.  I know all the headaches and hard work associated with running a place, but am not worried at all.  I did it very successfully for other people.  It will be much easier to do it for myself. (I think)

    A question I would like to pose though is about Investors.  Is that an avenue I should pursue?  Does anyone have any opinion or experience with investors that could give me some insight?  I could probably make it alone (and with a loan), but there are a few people who have expressed great interest in backing me. (and I know they are legit offers)

    I know I am all over the place right now, but there is so much to it and I'm just starting.  So, I am open to any and all advice.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
  10. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    The one potential sore point that can develop with investors is that once the doors are open for business and they come in as guests...they act like they own the place... because...they do. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif  
     
  11. planethoff

    planethoff

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    Yes. That is kind of my line of thinking, but I am still entertaining the possibility. I would be able to open sooner, have less personal risk, and be able to reach for a better location. (Maybe waterfront? Without them there is no way). The other factor is the potential ones I have Are far away and I wouldn't expect them to come in more than once a year. Wouldn't mind more, but doubtful.

    Since it seems you have experience, how do you handle them? Repayment schedule, % of profit, just a cut when business is sold? How do you draw the line of control and management decisions? (Obviously lawyer, but how do you structure it?)
     
  12. greyeaglem

    greyeaglem

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    If you can possibly stay away from investors, I very, very strongly encourage you to do so. Especially if they are people who have no restaurant experience. You cannot apply the same standards for profit, etc. as you do to other businesses in the same time frame. Restaurants just don't work the same way as you have no way of knowing from one day to the next how many people will come through your door and it takes awhile to establish a solid clientele. At least until the place is established, plus you are working with perishable stock. Most investors don't understand this and expect X amount of profit from day one. I have witnessed horrible scenes involving investors where they have come into the place, directly messed with and berated the crew until the whole staff walked off mid shift. They often don't understand that there's a honeymoon period when a place first opens where everybody and their dog have to try it. This naturally tapers off after a couple of years (in most places anyway) and the place settles in to what will be it's normal business pace. But to the unknowing, they see it as a fail and then starts the "what are we doing wrong" merry-go-round where they start to change the menu constantly, etc. and alienate the clientele they did have. Better to do this on your own if you can so you have complete control of the direction of the business and can make intelligent decisions based on your knowledge of your business and your clientele, without it being totally money driven. If you have investors, you have to answer to them. Better to answer to yourself. As for if you should or shouldn't do it, that's a decision only you can make. There are, as you have pointed out, pros and cons. My gut feeling is if you don't try it, you will always regret it and wonder what could have been. Give it a shot, but don't ruin yourself financially over it. Sometimes things just don't work out for reasons beyond our control (economy goes south, for example) and one of the biggest mistakes I see owners make is not knowing when to close. I doubt this will happen to you, but what I am saying is make sure you don't lose everything you have worked for if something does go wrong.
     
  13. lagom

    lagom

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    Investors, do you really want them?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2016
  14. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    I feel that a repayment schedule is the most straight forward approach with the least chances of disagreements, however it is not without pitfalls. As to drawing the line of control and management decisions this can also be spelled out pretty well on paper, with that being said though, the issues that can muddy the waters are simply that most investors don't really understand the restaurant biz.

    They come in on a busy night and expect a table. A table that could filled with paying guests. Even if they pay, that table could, instead be filled with potentially new to the restaurant guests that wind up being so happy with their experience that they turn into regulars, given the chance to dine, but that requires a table being available and not occupied by investors.

    This is just one small example, there are plenty of other similar scenarios that I am sure you can come up with minimal thought.

    I expect to explain my business thoughts, business decisions, and business philosophies to employees as part of fostering a team atmosphere. Doing that with investors as well, is many times an unproductive exercise in futility and requires an additional time investment from an owner's already full dance card.
     
  15. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    There are ways of jumping into the fire without getting burnt. Why not look into a small cafe that serves breakfast and lunch. Or a small 40 seat Bistro maybe with a small outside courtyard with a small  two butt kitchen. I started my business at 47 and retired at 61 and it was the best thing I ever did. My business wasn't a B&M and I didn't need a lot of capital because my clients gave me the use of a kitchen for upscale Employee cafe feeding and catering. IN your case, you miss doing what you love and do well. What we all get from this business is a great feeling of pride, accomplishment and self-satisfaction. Do you really need a business with a lot of employees and headaches. At this stage of your life it should be a restaurant you can Chef De Cuisine with low overhead. low payroll and manageable hours. You already have a cake job, what you want in your business is to have your cake and eat it too..........Chef Bill
     
  16. planethoff

    planethoff

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    Thanks again everybody. I really knew that investors were a path to avoid, but the idea of extra money can sometimes cloud judgement.

    ChefBilly, I picked 75-100 thinking about possibility of a banquet room. Looking closer at the potential overhead cost increase with that number of seats. I think you have steered me well to downscale my plan. I am so happy I started this thread. Just that nugget of wisdom might have saved me years of anguish. I want to cook great food, not babysit a drama filled crew.
     
  17. someday

    someday

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    Uuuuuhhhhh....you sure about this? 
     
  18. planethoff

    planethoff

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    HAHA  So true.  Don't know why I put that.  The only family I have around is my wife and she would probably be there a lot, but I was more referring to the close knit camaraderie of a good crew.  I know the only life outside of my restaurant will be the couple hours I will get to sleep.
     
  19. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    Don't take on debt to do this it will only make a difficult situation worse. I often have this same thought but one things brings me back to reality and that is could you really stand the work now? It is 10 years later man you are not the same person and it is a physically demanding work. Maybe you can find a happy medium and work a few days in your spar time in a kitchen to help fill the obvious void in your current work situation. In my opinion it is not worth putting your family in a financial risk over. 
     
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  20. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Nicko, I still think this way after retiring from this business 4 years ago. When passion is in your blood you can't just filer it out. I know in my case this business gave me what I gave it. It's the only job or business I have ever worked that gave me self fulfillment and a great sense of accomplishment and self pride on what I did. I would wish this on everyone in any occupation. I think if I ever did get back into this business. I would do it as a partner with managers and Chefs working with me.