Food has always been your passion. Now you're ready to make it your career. But opening a restaurant can be a complicated affair because the food industry is not only about service but also about selling and manufacturing, says Stephen Zagor, director of the Culinary Management Program at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education. So, he asks, "How much money and aggravation are you willing to take?" If your answer is a loud "a lot," then here are some pointers from those who've whipped up winning establishments.
Determine Your Risk Level
Opening a restaurant is the most expensive way to get into the dining industry. Less expensive options include buying a franchise or purchasing an existing business. Zagor fell into the business years ago when he bought a restaurant in Texas from an owner who, it turned out, wanted to sell because of personal reasons. That became the first of many eateries the founder of Hospitality & Culinary Resources opened.
But if you're determined to build a place from the ground up, partner with someone with experience or spend some time behind a stove. Jamie Tiampo devoted two years to getting a master's in food studies at New York University, mastering cooking at the French Culinary Institute and learning about restaurant management at ICE before opening an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
If starting an establishment is your dream, then come up with a plan that spells out what your place will be. What kind of service will it offer -- full-service or casual café? What kind of diners do you want to attract? What are your hours of operation? How much do you want to make? This sounds obvious enough but actually it requires some serious sleuthing and planning.
You may want to open a casual Italian eatery, but what will make you different than the five in the neighborhood? The best way to make all these decisions is to put together the business plan yourself, says Zagor.