Opening my own

Joined Jan 9, 2004
I know that this topic has been done to death, and I HAVE read every related post, but I wanted to throw out my own circumstances for the usual criticism/critique/people telling me how much work it is...

I am living in a small town near a ski area (I'm being purposly vague)... We have busy winters and REALLY busy summers with dead seasons in the spring and early fall... I am a young cook (24) cooking since I was 14, I am currently holding two cooking jobs at fine dining restaurants (one brunch on weekends and breakfast and lunch on weekdays, the other working saute for a dinners only place)... I want to open my own restaurant because there is a glaring hole in the local cusine and I am sick of working for some of the people I work for (to be fair, some of the people I work for are great, but others are terrible)... As far as quality dinners go, the area has one botique pizza place, one mediocre italian pasta place, a fine dining southern/american place, and a fine dining steakhouse... That's it... All these places are PACKED in the summer, doing reservation only, three turns a night, big hits every night... and pretty busy in the winter... even on the slowest nights, we turn 75 covers...

There is a restaurant that recently closed that was a breakfast/brunch/lunch place that was owned by a wonderful wealthy woman who really loves good food and wanted her own restaurant, she tried to staff and run the place herself and had bizarre hours and a lot of competition (tons of breakfast and lunch places around, cafes, coffeshops and the like)... So she still owns a gorgeous space with an open kitchen that I reckon is capable of turning out 100-120 covers a night fully staffed (3 cooks, a prepper, 2 dish dogs) of good, fine dining french/medeterranian food... The house could seat 35 in one room and another 25 in the other... I want to convince this woman that the restaurant could be profittable if she was willing to finance it, and that it's a waste to have the space empty and unused, especially going into the summer season...

I am used to working a lot (I already do 60-80 hour weeks depending on business) and I have run my own non-foodservice business before... I have a pretty good understanding of the financial end of things (payroll, accounting) and I have good friends with more experience than me in these areas willing to help... I have a very good working knowlege of food costing and menu design and pricing (I have done lots of this)... and I have worked my own kitchens before, hired cooks and dishers, etc...

Here are the questions... First of all, I'm only 24... What the %&*#@ am I doing thinking I could start a restaurant... Second, I'd need to get someone to handle front of house, I have someone in mind, who is good, but should I consider running a restaurant without a lot of experience outside the kitchen?... Third, can it really be as simple to make this profittable as it sounds? I know you'll all say no, but I've run the numbers a lot of times and no matter what, it looks good... Restaurants out here do well and they get a lot of business... Especially the fine dining places... The restaruant is already 90% equipt... If I paid a living wage, I'd have no trouble staffing... I've spent my time doing the homework and it seems that after overhead, payroll, food costs, front-of house costs, a generous chunk of change for odds and ends, the restaurant could easily turn a low end of 1000 and a high end of 5000 profit in the summer and a low of 0 and high of 1500 in the dead season... Something between there and there in the winter (that's all per week)...

Could it be possible...

Sorry for the long post... If ya'll really care enough to answer and want more details on numbers, etc... I have PLENTY of data, opinions, rants and draft business plans all written that I could toss out there... But I figure enough is enough for today...


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
So far, the only problem I see here is your lack of seating. 55 isn't much at all. Your average ticket price needs to be pretty high because you won't be turning your tables in 45 minutes. For fine dining restaurants it's something like 2.5 hours. Two seatings and it'll be 10pm. By that time most people are gorging themselves on wings and beer at the local watering hole. Your main concern is how you're going to get this many people to pay a certain price at a particular time. This ain't Wayne's World. Just because you build it doesn't mean they'll come.

You need to be really careful when dreaming. Many bistro "deluxe" style restaurants with 50 seats run with the chef/owner, a cook, and one DMO. The wife does the FOH with a coupla servers. Daughter helps on weekends.

So let's see the numbers. Might as well try to shoot you down.

Joined Oct 13, 2001
Bang Bang kuan . You are such a realist at times . Cook , you are young but you do sound like you have the fire and the hands on ability to pull it off . I have worked a similar sized property before as a cook with a fine dining menu and the labor was much lower than what you are looking at . During the off season we did as little as 15 dinners a night during the week . The owner was the chef , his wife ran the foh including the bar . There daughters waitressed and and there son did the after shift cleaning . Keeping the money in the family is what made this operation viable in the slow times and very profitable in the good times . I remember that the most meals we did was a mothers day dinner and we served 127 for the night in this 50 seat restaurant . The back of the house labor was the chef , me , and Jose the dishwasher / bussboy / janitor / foodrunner/prep cook .
My advice is to post your numbers and see what kuan has to offer . The dude knows his stuff and I would listen with an open mind .
My 2 cents ......... Doug................
Joined Mar 2, 2002
Sure, it's possible. Anything is possible. Will it work? Who can say? It is a huge risk, as it is for anyone in this business. The smart, the talented, the fair wage paying - none of these escape the risk of the restaurant business. All the knowledge and talent in the world doesn't guarantee success - especially in a seasonal market.

Having said that, here are my answers to your questions...

1) I don't think you age is a factor

2) Learn something about the front of the house - and, believe me, I feel your pain there; it's not my cup of tea either. Delegate with knowledge, though.

3)No, it isn't simple. If it was simple, everyone could do it, right? Running numbers looks good a lot of times when you are projecting. Living it day to day is different, believe me. I'm not saying you don't know what you are doing. I'm sure you are quite informed. Just try dividing all your figures in half, though, just to come up with a worst case scenario - and then decide what you would do if that was your reality. It is certainly a possibility, no matter how good you are.

The other thing I wanted to comment on that you mentioned was how you had friends willing to help you out. Whatever it is they say they will do for you, you better get it written in stone before you start. Otherwise, don't count on it. I know they are probably really good friends, and you think, "yeah, but this is so-and-so, and he/she would never let me down." As friends, they probably won't let you down. As business associates, they might. What will you do then?

Okay, one other thing. If you ran a non food related business before, why in the world would you want to start from scratch in the food business? Food cost alone could easily sink you. What business were you in before?

Joined May 26, 2001
What's your source of capitalization? And how deep are the pockets? Do you have access to at least 2 years' worth of operating expenses?

Because you know your purveyors will want COD until you've established a track record; your staff (other than yourself) will have to get paid, whether or not there are customers; your laundry and hauling will still need to be kept up, as will you utilities and insurance. If you've done the numbers as you say (which I don't doubt), do you know that you've got enough to keep the place going with little or no income?
Joined Jun 13, 2002
Cook, you're location sounds a bit like where I live, if not where I do live. (Northern Michigan).

Here's a bit of advice about dealing with the skiing in the winter, and the tourists in the summer.

Follow the crowds. They are your bread and butter. Consider closing in the off season for a couple months. Clean the place, then get ready for the next season.

You'd be foolish to not look at local cuisine items for your menu. For instance, if your area is known for deer hunting in the fall, put Venison on your menu. If you have a local winery, put their wines on your menu. If there's a favorite or local ice cream shop, put their ice cream on your menu.... etc., etc., etc....

With your limited seating capacity, you'll need to consider catering to keep your numbers in balance.

Liquor license? If not, then consider it. Vactioners and tourists want their alcohol when they're on vacation. There's no other reason why my town has 11 bars and only 4,000 people year round.

There's all kinds of other things I could go into, but these are just the start. I live in a tourist area. We survive on our tourists, and beleive me.... you'll need to, too!

Joined Apr 3, 2003
Well it sounds like your ready to pursue a big under taking. A brief history of myself, I have owned a small 80 seat restaurant in Minnesota and have been a Chef for 10 or so years and am currently working back in Minnesota at a ski resort. This is my first ski resort experience and I am learning a lot about this type of resort life. I am used to Golf resort Chef and have been for most of my life. So that being said I thing I might be able to give you some insight and some question to ponder! First I must say "Go for It" you have a backer in mind, but remember you must sell this idea so purpose only what you know to be fact and don't sugarcoat anything, (leave that to the baker). When I started my restaurant I first doubled my startup cost and put the excess money in the bank for unforeseen expenses. Within the the first year over half was gone. This brakes, and that, tax law changes, wage laws increase, insurance and may more that even the brightest minds can’t foresee. One a different note I thing you must determine your placement in the restaurant community there. What I mean is that there is, from the sounds of it a lot of places around you and you should find out what the costumer what's there, not what would necessarily be what you want. Sounds like the fine dinning scene is covered, and don’t be lead by you emotions that you can do it better than them, if you can it will take you some time to gain that reputation and that costs a lot of money. You are dealing with a resort lifestyle not repeat, count on every-day-of-the-week cliental. I would like to quote from this thread, “Just because you build it doesn't mean they'll come. (Kuan) I also like the idea of closing in the off season, what I have found is that even the locals look for and anticipate your reopening this is a real good thing. Speaking of locals I will have you know they can make you or break you! People do ask where to go when they get to and area and the ones they ask are locals so do everything NOT to burn those bridges. Now the front of the house, well the long and short of it is this. This is the place where all your business takes place. Learn it or better yet find someone who knows it inside and out. Not a friend I might add because you could manipulate them, you need someone to tell you what's up not what you want to hear. Of course I have to touch on a couple of other things: Build your menu around your equipment and your staff. Don’t open until your completely ready (first impressions you know), You will get hit your first month or so by people checking you out so don’t over extend yourself thinking its going to last it will even out, Something else I have seen through my years is that if you package food in a nice manner you would be surprised what you can sell out the back door in the form of togo, and don’t rule out the catering scene ether! Your place is small so look for other revenue avenues now not later, that way you can hit the market with your biggest punch. Set up some money for advertising purposes you will need it. Remember the “squeaky wheel” theory. Well I hope this work for you keep asking question and good luck you you!

The Crazychef

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