Get a successful restaurateur talking about their business, and you’re sure to see the passion they have for what they do.
Being successful as a restaurant owner requires a true love for the food service industry, but like any business, restaurants can pose hassles and challenges. Every restaurant is unique, but many of the things that keep restaurateurs awake at night and drive them to frustration are universal. Here are 10 things that even the most devoted of owners are likely to loathe:
1. The Hours
For a restaurateur, the idea of a 40-hour work week is laughable. Owning a restaurant means plenty of face time when the business is open, frequently being present before opening and after closing, and doing paperwork and planning off hours. Restaurant owners work nights, weekends and holidays as the rule, not the exception. To manage the work schedule, restaurateurs rely on talented, reliable managers and systems and procedures to help the restaurant run like a well-oiled machine when they’re not there in person.
Foot traffic through the doors of restaurants can be very inconsistent, especially when businesses first open. Special events, weather, and economic conditions can all affect the number of people who come through the door. Restaurateurs can mitigate the fickle flow of traffic by carefully monitoring sales over the short- and long-term. Patterns typically do emerge with careful study, and observing the trends can help restaurateurs plan for slower periods.
3. Managing Inventory
Most restaurant owners are passionate about the food that comes out on the plates into the dining room. The food that gets unpacked and put into the coolers and freezers? Well, that’s not nearly as exciting. Managing inventory can be very time-consuming and stressful, particularly when restaurants first launch. Using a state-of-the-art POS system is one way to reduce the stress, simplify ordering, reduce waste, and control what’s in house.
4. The Unexpected Tasks
Restaurant owners have to be true jacks of all trades. No one opens a restaurant expecting to have to unclog toilets on a regular basis, de-escalate fights at the bar and shovel snow from their sidewalks; however, these tasks often fall into the laps of restaurateurs. Delegating can help to reduce some of the burden of unforeseen tasks, but owners need good time management skills to deal with all of those surprise jobs.
5. Internet and Social Media
Social media and online reviews are a double-edged sword. They can create a buzz and attract new business, but they also allow bad reviews and negative press to spread like wildfire. Restaurateurs who devote some time every day to monitoring their online reputations can often reduce the impact of a scathing write-up on Yelp!, or a flub that ends up being discussed on Twitter and Facebook.
6. Red Tape
Before opening their restaurants, owners never dreamed that they’d have to become legal experts and sanitation engineers, but they quickly learn that it’s all part of the job description. Restaurant owners have to deal with tons of red tape in the form of permits, safety and sanitation regulations, insurance forms and more. Staying on top of changes to rules and being willing to pay for help from the pros as needed, can help to keep owners from feeling tangled up in all of the tape.
7. The Pay (Initially!)
Most restaurants don’t become profitable until they’ve been in business for at least 18 months, and for many owners, that means taking home little pay early on. With an average profit margin of just 6.5% among businesses that do operate in the black, there often isn’t enough room for a large salary until sales dramatically increase. Prospective restaurateurs need to plan ahead to ensure that they can survive through the lean times, as they get their businesses off the ground.
8. The Bar
Bars can be extremely profitable for restaurants. They can also be an extreme headache. Serving alcohol opens restaurateurs up to potential legal liabilities and can lead to all types of drama on the floor and in the back of the house. In addition, the bar is one area where the risk of financial loss is high due to over-pouring and stolen drinks. Reducing the hassles posed by bars takes a broad approach. Restaurateurs must hire the right bartenders and managers and have clear-cut policies regarding over-serving and dealing with unruly patrons. Liquor liability insurance and a POS system for tracking the booze behind the bar are also of the utmost importance.
Turnover in the restaurant industry averages about 60%, compared to a 40% average in the private sector at large. In other words, restaurateurs find themselves in a nearly constant state of hiring. Focusing on ways to attract talented employees through wages and perks, and on keeping employee morale high can help to cut down on the hassles of perpetual advertising for workers and conducting interviews.
10. Keeping the Books
Restaurateurs need to have a clear picture of their cash flow, but few look forward to handling the nitty gritty when it comes to the books. Restaurant finances can be complex with considerations like tip reporting and sales, vice and entertainment tax payments, which are not applicable to many other types of businesses. This doesn’t mean that restaurant owners have to pay professional bookkeepers. Linking a POS system to an accounting software program like QuickBooks can make the process easier and also simplify tasks like making tax payments, paying vendors and processing payroll.