Can I make money with an idea for a restaurant but no experience?
December 20, 2004 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I've got (what I consider to be) a great idea for a restaurant, but no knowledge or experience in the restaurant industry. Is there any way for me to profit from my idea?
posted by goethean to Work & Money (22 answers total)
 
No. The restaurant industry is incredibly competitive. Everyone else has a ton of ambition and lots of ideas. If your idea does work, someone will steal it and implement it a little better.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2004


Something like two-thirds of all restaurants fold in the first year. Pull franchised operations out of that and you see it's even worse for the individual startup.

But if you're determined, my advice to you would be to get a job washing dishes in a mom n pop restaurant, work your way up to cook, and decide if that's really what you want to do. Because in my experience, the best restaurant owners are the ones that do the lowliest jobs to keep the place runnin'. If you can wash dishes 10 hours a day, you may be able to run a restaurant.
posted by Doohickie at 12:24 PM on December 20, 2004


Sure. Get some knowledge and experience.

Seriously. Don't go sinking thousands of dollars into a restaurant that you don't know how to run. Understand what permits you need. Understand what kinds of insurance you need to have. Understand the inspection process. Find some distributors that you want to work with. Think of how you're going to market the place, and who you're going to market it towards. Figure out how much it is all going to cost, and how much you need to bring in each month to cover all of your expenses.

Once you've done that, you can take a gamble on the hope that your restaurant will be profitable (and most new enterprises in the restaurant industry are not, so they fail). By the way, expect to spend all of your waking hours dealing with the restaurant until you can hire somebody to run it for you / find somebody to sell it to.
posted by rockabilly_pete at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2004


b1tr0t pretty much hit it. There is an old industry joke: How do you make a million dollars in a restaurant? Start with two million.

But really, maybe your idea is good. In that case treat it like starting any small business and look for investors and loans. A restaurant is a difficult business to start because of the high equipment costs and the need for lots of experienced labor, but if you assemble the right team you might get lucky.

on preview: What Doohickie said.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2004


Yes. Find an extraordinarily experienced partner who has run similar restaurants who is, for some reason, between restaurants at the moment (perhaps a chef/owner who closed a relatively successful restaurant because of a fire, or losing a lease for reasons unconnected to the success of the restaurant, or to have a baby). Convince partner of the power of the idea. Find investors. Open restaurant. Work like crazy to build a clientele.

Even then, you have a poor chance of succeeding, but that's probably the only way you can succeed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:33 PM on December 20, 2004


Why isn't there a Chinese fast food chain?

Don't steal my idea.
posted by orange clock at 12:50 PM on December 20, 2004


Orange...have you been to the mall lately? Manchu Wok?? Every galleria food court has one. At least between here (New York) and Philly.
posted by spicynuts at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2004


orange clock: Fast food Chinese? You stole my idea!!! I'm gonna sue!
posted by grouse at 1:36 PM on December 20, 2004


Everyone's advice here so far is good. If you want to see their ideas expanded upon, read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.

It's got some pretty damning appraisals of people starting out in the restaurant business without realizing what they're getting into.

It's quite possible you'll come to feel like your idea is still tenable at the end of the book; it's certainly not 100% pessimistic. But I would put it high on the "required reading" list for anyone starting out.
posted by bcwinters at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2004


Fast food Chinese?

Panda Express. Over 600 locations in the U.S. Good luck catching up.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2004


McDog?
posted by tr33hggr at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2004


Fast food Chinese?

Also the up and coming Pei Wei -- the fast-food version of P.F. Chang's
posted by fourstar at 2:02 PM on December 20, 2004


If you want to "look before you leap" I'd suggest getting on as a part-timer and work some swing shifts after your normal job. This will help in several ways: you'll get used to working long days, which you will have to do if you run your own business, you will learn how to (and sometimes how not to) run a restaurant from an employee's standpoint (I think this is important for an owner/manager), and it will help you earn some extra money for starting your own restaurant. I worked as a dishwasher and short order cook for several years in high school and I think that experience helps me understand what happens when I go out to eat. I think it also helps to figure out what amount to tip, but that is a thread in it's own right.
posted by Numenorian at 2:10 PM on December 20, 2004


Is there any way for me to profit from my idea?

Yes. Patent it.

This is how most people who can't implement their idea but want to make money from it go about the problem.

If someone does steal it, you can make billions. Maybe.
posted by shepd at 3:02 PM on December 20, 2004


Christ where is you people's sarcasm detector? (Re: fast food chinese)
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:54 PM on December 20, 2004


I hope your idea isn't "make your own pizza", cause it's been done
posted by softlord at 4:45 PM on December 20, 2004


I'd be scared. A close friend who is a head chef at a local restaurant explained an all-too-typical restaurant scenario in which a funding partner destroys the business and leaves the other partner to deal with Chapter 11. Brrr.
posted by plinth at 5:12 PM on December 20, 2004


Instead of dinner and a movie why not dinner at a movie? I know Portland used to have such a thing.
posted by geekyguy at 5:57 PM on December 20, 2004


Dinner at a movie? Come to Austin.
posted by adamrice at 8:19 PM on December 20, 2004


"I've got a great idea for a resturaunt"-type places are the kinds of establishments you eat at once, say "yeah, that is a neat idea," and then go back to your usual place next Friday. The only way to succeed in the resturaunt biz is to build a loyal clientelle who keep coming back week after week and month after month, which simply doesn't happen with gimick joints. When it comes right down to it, people go out to eat because they want to be waited on, feel important and be taken care of. That usually doesn't happen at a resturaunt where the focus is anything but good food and great service.
posted by ChasFile at 11:35 PM on December 20, 2004


Exactly, adamrice. I just think that is a great concept. Plus, anyplace that does "The Jerk - Free Pizza in a cup! 11:45 pm" has got to be fun.

How is the execution? Can you really watch the movies or do the crowds get unruly?
posted by geekyguy at 1:15 AM on December 21, 2004


Along with bcwinters' mention of Kitchen Confidential, I'd recommend Menu: Pricing & Strategy.
It'll give you an idea of the financial considerations and diminishing return rates you'll have to face should you become a restauranteur.

As ChasFile and others have pointed out, niche restaurants often end up by the wayside. I should also add that people who've succeeded in the food biz were often successful in some other industry altogether. The clubs/eateries they ran were side venues, buffeted or written off in financial hard times without much of an afterthought. Smaller investors counting upon their project as their lifeblood are rarely as lucky.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:53 AM on December 21, 2004


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