What Makes a Restaurant Owner Successful?

Restaurant Owner Resource Guide

Owning a restaurant is more than cooking food
A good restaurant owner has many talents. Restaurant Nuovo Antica Roma via Pixabay

Many would-be restaurant owners don’t realize that owning a restaurant involves more than just cooking and serving good food.  There is accounting, human resources, marketing and maintenance to attend to, among other things. While being able to delegate tasks to employees and outside vendors is essential at the end of the day, the owner is still ultimately responsible for the overall management of his or her restaurant.

For those looking to open their own restaurant, I’ve put together the top five traits of a successful restaurant owner.

Be a Strong Leader

Running a restaurant is a team effort and as a restaurant owner, you are the team captain. What you do sets an example for your employees. Your behavior gives others permission to act the same way – no matter if that’s good or bad. Many people want to open their own restaurant because they enjoy cooking or entertaining, or they want to be their own boss. They aren’t necessarily thinking about the skills needed to manage multiple employees. Often the HR portion of running a business is where many restaurant owners run into trouble. Navigating the different personalities of employees can be difficult for someone without prior management experience. Susan M. Heathfield, the About Expert to Human Resources, offers a lot of great articles about managing employees, including how to hire (and fire), and how to handle conflict.

Know How to Balance a Budget

Just as complex as handling employees, finances is another sticky wicket for some restaurant owners. Maybe your passion is cooking or catering, or event planning, rather than reading profit and loss statements. If the most bookkeeping you’ve done is balancing your personal checkbook, I strongly recommend taking some basic accounting/business classes before opening your own restaurant.

And even then it’s best to leave the more complex stuff like taxes and payroll to a professional. Small mistakes can end up costing a lot of money, if you aren’t careful.

Be Flexible

Another important attribute for a successful restaurant owner is a willingness to be flexible and adaptive. Even the most well contrived restaurant concept may need some tweaking, either before opening day or afterwards. If you have your heart set on a certain location for a restaurant or you want to offer a distinct type of cuisine, but discover through preliminary research that those early ideas won’t work, be willing to adapt your version. Creating a thorough business plan before you start spending any money can help you identify possible problems early in the process.

Be Patient

In an ideal world, your restaurant will be busy from day one. If that isn’t the case- if you are seeing midweek lulls or if breakfast isn’t really taking off the way you anticipated, don’t give up hope. It can take weeks to months for dining trends to emerge. As you track your restaurant sales over time, you can start to adjust your staffing and food orders to accommodate.

Be Kind

As a restaurant owner, you are part of a larger business community.

Undoubtedly your business will be solicited by nonprofits and charities for donations. Charitable giving, whether monetary, gift cards or sponsorships for sports teams are a great way to give back to your community. A bonus of giving is it usually tax deductible.

There are many factors that contribute to a successful restaurant, like a good location, great food, and awesome staff. But none of it will work without a strong leader to make it all happen.  By setting a good example, doing your homework and having flexibility and patience, you are positioning yourself to be the best restaurant owner possible.