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So You Want to Open a Restaurant?

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Read This Before You Decide

One of the biggest decisions you'll ever make, aside from who to marry and whether or not to have kids, is whether to open a restaurant. If you do open an eatery, you'll feel married to it and that it's your child. You'll spend most of your waking hours working in it and much of your snooze time dreaming about it -- really.

Running a Restaurant is Just Like Parenting

And, just like being a spouse or a parent, it may seem glamorous to those on the outside, but those in the know realize that it's not. To continue the metaphor -- while having a child is a wonderful experience, changing poopy diapers and cleaning up spit-up goes along with the job, and it's the same with running a restaurant. No matter how much help you have and how good a staff, there will be plenty of hard, unglamorous and sometimes boring work you'll have to do.

I'll never forget the first time I tried to lift a 50 lb. bag of garbage into the dumpster. The dishwasher was out sick, I was closing, and it was August in Philadelphia. Let's just say that when I close my eyes, I can still see the dark brown juices from the holes in the bag dripping down my clean white shirt...

Learning More Than an MBA

I got an MBA from Wharton before I opened a restaurant. I had even managed some food brands for Fortune 500 companies before I ran a restaurant, and yet I didn't fully appreciate all the skills needed to build and run a restaurant.

I learned more about business creating and managing a restaurant than I did getting my MBA and managing multimillion dollar businesses. That's not to say that the MBA didn't help us get a Small Business Administration loan and teach me a few things, but to be a restaurateur is to be a true Renaissance person.

Jack of All Trades

You'll need to be an Architect, Construction Manager, HR Manager, Accountant, Marketer, Graphic Designer, Interior Decorator, Visionary, Spokesperson and Mentor all rolled into one. If you don't have these skills, then your partner better have them, or you better take a course in the areas you're missing before you open your own place and have your money at stake.

If you don't know how to speak the language of construction, your contractor will spend more money than he has to. If you don't know what to look for in a good assistant manager, you'll never have a good team.

Franchising

If you decide to go the franchise route, many of the operating decisions will be made for you including: the restaurant's name, menu, design, operating systems and suppliers.
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