I simply want to share with you ONE surprising fact that ive come up with in my years in the hell business.
SMALL places....which everyone seems to fawn over........are a MATTER of love.....passion. Its an opportunity to be HANDS ON, detail oriented and TOTALLY INTO your product. IF you do everything right, you can make a DECENT living.
I started out with small places. I did because I wanted quality over anything else. ANd, no lying, in 5 years of owning my FIRST restaurant, I recieved about 3 complaints......THAT I KNOW ABOUT.....im sure it was more....but I like that number....i just do. This was back in 89. I paid myself 40K annually. BUt, i DID miss checks throughout those years.
The first pizza restaurant I owned, I opened in 2002. It had 70 seats. Small in my mind. I TRIED to pay myself 100K a year. And I WORKED. 6-7 days a week, open to close, not counting special occasions. You gotta understand that all the bennies or being your own boss IS NOT CASH. BUt, for those extras you pay.....worry, problems, sleepless nights......its all part of the deal.
After stuggling with owning my own places for 15 years....I simply sat down and asked myself WHY, if i am so busy just about every night, WHY im not making the kind of money I wanted......Now, Im married, with kids........my needs were different than if I was single. If I was single, my salary and life style would have been fine, but, with a savings obsessed wife, kids headed to college, retirement not even begun to be funded.......MONEY has ceased to be a dirty word. I had ALWAYS pushed my self in the direction of doing the BEST possible product......AT ALL COSTS........and, I partially succeeded....but I had people DEPENDING on my being able to PROVIDE. My dreams and aspirations NOW had to be balanced with THEIR needs, not simply my artistic needs. I HAD to make more money, simple as that.
So, I looked into starting BIG places. And i went through the whole deal.....sba loans, taking big chances. I got an sba loan for 1M and bought a BUILDING and the existing business (which was worth squat). I was so frustrated with seeing BIG, ITALIAN RESTAURANTS run by non italians or coorporations, putting out crap food.....but being totally packed every night. I guessed that a big building will attract big crowds, even if the food is so so. Well, in my case I was right. My first place opened to big crowds, thanks to them recognizing my name becasue of the little place. Our first year we grossed 4M. I opened two more and now i gross 12M annually. I am kind of embarrassed to say what I earn, but it is beyond what i ever dared to imagine........and my food was soooooooooo much better when i struggled and fretted. IT IS NOT FAIR....BUT ITS LIFE, I GUESS.
Its NOT that my food is bad, its simply a matter of numbers. Its simply virtually impossible to maintain the top quality of a small place when you are feeding 1000 people a night. (and thats really how many) But, I make everything in house, I use the best quality i can buy (thats why my protien selection is minimal)....if I can't give them quality product, i won't put in on the menu.
This wasn't a post to wax poetically about myself, it simply tried to answer the OP. Yeah, theres money to be make in this business, but if you want or need to make big bucks, THAT is what you have to shoot for. If you want to open a place where YOU PERSONALLY cook 50% or more of the food, than a small place is for you. You can make a decent living, more than decent if you are really good........but plan on working lots, and lots of hours. Whether that is possible or not is up to your own personal situation. Want to hang with your wife?? Want to be around your kids growing up?? want to celebrate when OTHERS are celebrating......well, then you got to think long and hard.
People ALWAYS assume that now that I have multiple big places, I am working MORE than before....and its not true. I, because of luck and gods blessing, am doing well, I work FAR less than I did when i threw ALL the responsibilities on me. Its a tough life. AN exciting life, but never forget how tough it will be.
I know this is an old thread, but I am hoping SOMEONE who is thinking about this life reads this. I will ALWAYS help anyone who needs it.....and nothing is a secret. Sometimes when I read these posts, i am struck on how commited so many of you are.......I remember that commitment, and how much I would have loved to talk to someone with experience that didn't think every GD thing was such a big secret.
Hope this helps some........
PS there are a TON of so called "facts" about this busines that I have found to NOT be true....now, every situation is different, but i hate it when I hear someone NOT in the business saying stuff that just isn't right. You would be surprised how individual restaurant owners stories are..........