Owning a business requires a lot of time, money and sacrifice. The time involved can be hurtful to your marriage and family life. The money, essentially most of your life savings, can ruin you financially if the business fails. The sacrifices are many, from vacations, to date nights, to living a life centered around your business and not family and leisure time.
The restaurant business is even more difficult. I have owned a couple, but have eaten at hundreds, and I am somewhat of an expert, or at least I think I am, of what makes some work, and others not. Lately I’ve been sampling quite a few in the latter category.
For instance one day a few weeks ago, I sent my son out to get a couple of coneys and cokes for lunch. When he came back empty handed, I demanded to know where my food was at.
He said, the owner refused to turn on the grill. She said she didn’t have any buns, was too tired to grill a coney dog, and was going to close up and go home. I looked at my son quizzically and said “you got to be kidding.” He said, “no.”
Restaurant lesson 101. Don’t turn away customers and for chrissakes don’t close up a few hours after you open.
This is precise however, what another restaurant I am familiar with, did. A new pizza place opened to a lot of fanfare on a Saturday recently. They did a bang-up business that first day, selling dozens of pizza pies to an excited clientele.
The next day, Sunday, they were closed to observe the Sabbath. Come Monday, I was hoping to try a pizza for lunch. Lo and behold there was a sign on the door, “Closed, we ran out of pizza.”
Let me reiterate. If you open a business do not turn away customers and stay open, no matter what, during normal business hours. If you don’t, you will not succeed. If you run out of product, go to the store and get more.
This leads me to another less than satisfactory dining experience. My son and I were cruising through a small tourist town when we stopped at a local eating establishment to have lunch. I ordered chicken and mashed potatoes. The waitress returned a few minutes later and said they had no potatoes.
I gave her my perplexed look. How can a restaurant have no potatoes? But she stuck to her story and I ended up ordering a vegetable, but still wonder, why someone didn’t make a trip to the grocery store next door, and what were they going to do when the dinner crowd started to show?
A few weeks later, I found a restaurant that actually beat the “no potatoes” dilemma. I happened to stop for lunch at one of my favorite fast food joints- Burger King. As I pull up to the drive through, I ask for my favorite lunch- a flame broiled cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. The drive thru operator immediately informs me “we have no beef.”
I just shook my head. This takes the cake. A fast food burger joint that has no beef. How can this be? Again this particular Burger King sits right next to a grocery store. I guess I give them points for staying open and trying to push chicken products, but why not run next door and get the beef you need to make hamburger patties?
It is difficult to make it in business, particularly the restaurant business. I guarantee that most restaurants that don’t have their core ingredients on hand always and don’t stay open during regular hours will fail. It is inevitable.
But despite the horror stories I or you might have, there are plenty of great restaurant operators in our communities. Those operators deserve your patronage and goodwill.