Best way to start a restaurant/pub?

I’ve been wanting to do this for years and years, and the Ramsay stuff I’ve been watching has convinced me that if there’s this many incompetent fucks scraping by, I sure as fuck can do it. /Ramsay

Anyway, what’s the best way to do it? I don’t have a million bucks to throw at this venture, and I’m not even sure I can afford to do it at all. Rents seem pretty reasonable, but I’ve only looked into it pretty shallowly.

I’d like to basically open a small gastro-pub, but obviously location is the most important bit. Anyone got any words of wisdom to share? I know there’s at least one restauranteur in the Hivemind.

Might as well get it out up front; I assume you are not looking for the, “Don’t do it, 2/3s of them fail, and you will lose all your money,” responses?

In other words, is it purely an exercise where we assume you will do it and give advice on the best way, even if it is still statistically likely to lead to failure?

Have you ever managed a restaurant? Since you’re asking about it on a gaming forum of all places, that seems unlikely. Don’t do it. Start a bar or a coffeeshop, depending on the location, not a restaurant. If you can make money selling booze, build up a small menu of bar food. Bar food doesn’t have to be mozzarella sticks and hot wings, it can be good food that just happens to be salty, like tapas.

Location, location, location. Also, what Mr. Stusser said.

What are the margins like? I know fast food franchises are awful, like 3%, but I don’t know about most places.

Either start small with a bar/coffeeshop as stusser says or form a partnership with someone who does have experience - someone trustworthy.

Frankly I really have no idea where to start or anything, I just watch Kitchen Nightmares and think, “that’s so easy!” :)

— Alan

Could be worse, you could be thinking of starting a game development studio…

I did say “gastro-pub”, guys.

And yes, long ago I did work in the industry, although I’ve never owned a bar or restaurant.

As for statistics - the REAL statistics are around 59% failure over the first 3 years, ~20% per year. Yep, not good. I read that in an article where it quoted a study debunking the 9/10 restaurants fail myth. :)

This same study quotes 1.06% failure rate for "eating and drinking’ places. Failure in this case is defined as bankruptcy or closure with unpaid financial obligations.

But, I’m not planning on betting the farm, mortgaging the house, any of that. Looking at some places for sale in the Vancouver area, I can get a coffee shop on Davie for instance for a little under $100k, with reasonable rents, with apparently $3500/month to the owner. That is most likely with the owner busting his ass there I’d cynically assume.

But as I said, I’m more of a gastro-pub kind of guy.

And as for asking on a gaming forum - this is a gaming forum now?

i thought you were in russia. :(

Nah, vetoed by the wife at the last minute.

Remember almost all of the restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares are in the U.K., land of incredibly expensive, incredibly awful food. I don’t think any of them would last ten minutes in Vancouver.

I would watch a few episodes of “Opening Soon” on the Food Network before continuing. Doesn’t look like fun to me – I love to cook, but I would loathe running a restaurant.

I always thought this would be kind of fun as well, please keep me updated on how it goes =)

Thanks for the recommend, I’ll try to catch it.

have enough start-up dough to just hemmorrage money for 2-3 years and you should be fine.

Yep. Deep pockets. And a damn good accountant, assuming that you have the rest going for you.

Were you a waiter, or did you manage the place?

Bars are much, much easier than restaurants, and unlike coffeeshops they aren’t heavily franchised. Open a bar, and if it goes well, start selling paninis out of the back. All you need is high end ingredients like bread, (salty) salumi, (salty) cheese and a sandwich press. Anyone can make one, it’s all in the ingredients and coldcuts keep well, so you don’t have to throw them out right away. Keep food prices cheap to push customers to buy drinks.

My advice is to model your place after 'ino in new york. Just a bar, a couple of tables, and a sandwich press. Ino concentrates on wine rather than beer, which has a significantly better profit margin, but your location needs to support that. It’s an absolutely fantastic business model. If you do decide to follow my idea, take a trip to italy and eat a bunch of paninis and drink a lot of wine at road stands, they’re everywhere, and will give you inspiration. Or if you’re cheap come to new york and eat at 'ino, I guess.

Once you have the little bar to fall back on and some real experience managing it, dealing with purveyors, managing a staff, etc, then you try for something more elaborate like a sitdown alacarte restaurant.

Ya, I was bar/kitchen, never management. It’d be a new thing for me.

Thanks for the advice stusser - you have any real world experience in this end of it?

I’d say look into a ‘running a small business/restaurant’ course at the local adult education thing (if they even have those in the 51st state)- I’ve been considering this for a while, and that’s on the top of the list for my plan.

I mean, I’ve been a professional cook for 13 years or so, been in charge of a few kitchens, worked for everything from ultra-high to low-end food. I have a pretty good handle on how to run a kitchen- it’s the rest of the stuff that almost scares me off. But then I think about a restaurant that I worked at a couple of years ago here in Seattle (called Dandelion)- the owner was 50 years old, had never worked in a restaurant before in her life, and she did really, really well- I figure I could do at least as well, right? Granted, she came from middle management in a corporation, so she was good with the organizational stuff, but still.

No, I’ve never even waited tables, but I have a friend that owns 7 in the tri-state area. He started with a scuzzy bar in hoboken. And he’s 31 years old.

From what I’ve heard it’s not that most places go down in flames and send you into bankruptsy unless you put too much into it in the first place.

What’s most likely to happen is that you’ll be working 15 hours a day for what you could earn working 8 hours a day for an employer. If that turns you on and you can live with the advantages (no boss!) and the disadvantages (no benefits! no coworkers only employees) that entrepreneurs face then you should do it.

I worked in restaurants a long time and had several friends who went into management or started their own places. Seriously a lot of stores do tens of thousands of dollars worth of sales a month and bring home like $5000.00 after costs. That’s with a professional manager you pay vs. you working the 15 hour shifts yourself.

So if you want to make money you need to multiply that 5 grand a month by 20 restaurants. If you’re lucky you can sell the chain to some rich sucker who thinks he wants to run a restaurant and retire with about a million or two. Which is about what you would have working for someone else and participating in a good 401k.

If you do this please keep us posted. I’d love to hear some good stories.