"What do you wish you had known when you were starting out?" "What has hindsight taught you?" We posed those questions to four seasoned restaurant owners in response to the many queries we receive from entrepreneurs longing to become restaurateurs. Their answers reveal some solid advice.
Marty Bloom, CEO Vinny Testa's Restaurant Group
Marty Bloom opened the first Vinny Testa's in 1993, and five years later the company was ranked 259 on the Inc 500 list. Bloom says he had intended to open multiple locations and built the first for replication. There are currently nine Vinny Testa's Restaurant: eight in the Boston area and one in Pennsylvania.
Running one or two restaurants bears no resemblance to running a chain.
Understand the hidden costs.
Gordon Hamersley, Co-Owner and Chef, Hamersley's Bistro
Gordon Hamersley and his wife Fiona opened Hamersley's Bistro in Boston in 1987. This four-star restaurant has received many accolades including a 1995 James Beard Best Chef of the Northeast Award.
Respect the statistics.
Appeal to more than one market.
Robert Perry, President, The Elephant Walk Restaurant Group
The Elephant Walk Restaurant opened in 1991, a venture of Robert Perry, who had been in the ice cream business, and his former in-laws, diplomats who fled the Khemer Rouge. Boston's first Cambodian restaurant, which serves a French and Cambodian menu, was named one of America's Best New Restaurants in 1992 by Esquire magazine and has been inducted in Boston Magazine's Best of Boston Hall of Fame. The Elephant Walk Restaurant Group now owns three restaurants.
Consider the state of the economy.
Crunch the numbers.
Learn the industry.
Karen Barker, co-owner Magnolia Grill
Karen Barker and her husband Ken opened their Durham, NC restaurant in 1986. These graduates of the Culinary Institute of America have received many awards for the restaurant and for Ken's work as a chef. This year, Magnolia Grill is ranked number 11 on Gourmet magazine's list of the top 50 restaurants in the United States.
Don't consider it unless you've spent several years in the business.
Raise enough capital to do it right the first time.
If you've got partners, put your agreement in writing.
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