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OPINION: So… you wanna own a restaurant?

First timer? Great life choice. Nobody’s doing it and it’s super easy. As long as you have a good concept and strong passion, you can just barrel in blindly. All of the details will fall into place in a timely fashion, just like it did for me. So hopefully I can help you with what I learned from my first kick at the can on James North.

First, you just need to buy a commercial building OR sign a lease. Don’t worry. Your down payment on a commercial property is comparable to a residential down payment.

BUT, if you HAVE to lease, the building owner usually shares a mutual interest in your success. And the commercial landlord/tenant act is there to protect YOU! The business owner that invests all her/his money into restoring an old building and making it profitable is well protected. They regulate your rent increase from lease to lease, just as they do for residential tenancy. They’ve got your back. You will never experience a 500% rent increase, while being held responsible for all of your lease hold improvements.

Licensing is a breeze. The city is a well-oiled machine. Antiquated processes no longer exist and the steps are clearly laid out for you. All of the departments are in constant communication. All information is the same from one person to the next and the fees and wait times are almost non-existent. Every municipality has your growth as their number one priority, because they know that every day not making money, is a day losing money.

As a first-time restaurateur, don’t worry. Veterans ‘in the know’ will seek you out because they see an opportunity to help you identify YOUR weaknesses for YOUR benefit. They share your vision, your commitment to customer service, efficiency, profit and growth. You seldom need to check the references, inventory, labour costs, or cameras. Good staff is readily available and will always promote your business to customers and friends, because they know how few and far between good restaurant positions are these days.

Here’s another great side: You get to take on the challenge of not just providing for the well-being of your immediate family, but an extra colony of people who respect you to the end of the earth for your dedication to their preservation. It’s very fulfilling, as they are always grateful for your commitment. You are now responsible for a system of commerce that affects the punctual paying of their rent, bills, groceries, etc… in a business that fluctuates with the weather. It’s a great game in which you are always the appreciated queen or king. Just like a cool app on your phone.

Theft? No worries. NO ONE would ever steal from you. WHY?… because they all know every process that you had to go through to get where you are. They know that you have a family to support and second to their wellbeing, your staff wants what is best for you.

And more good news for first time restaurant owners is that most staff are gifted with the insight to run your restaurant better than you… so consider yourself lucky. You’ll also never have to worry about employee inefficiencies as there’s plenty of time for ‘TED Talks’ and multiple cigarette breaks. The prepping and cleaning can wait until the resto is closed, and everyone is up to speed. This gives them the time to do it properly at their own professional pace. It’s worth the extra $27,000 per annum.

Everyone on social media has the best intentions. Very supportive. Bloggers are selfless people that have the personal experience to understand what you are going through and to take the time to grow your business. They never have a bad day and are never quick to judge, because they have taken the same life changing risks as you in their leap to professional journalism careers. They have just as much to lose as you do.

And just like in the commercials, the big banks are there for YOU! Making your money make sense. They know and respect the small business owner. They understand that you are the one supporting local vendors, student and community employment, and municipalities. They always give you the best deal on your business banking. Minimal fees, overdrafts, and business improvement loans are at your fingertips for first time restaurant owners.

Another great side to restaurant ownership is that you can shut your phone off after you finish your 16 hour shift. Problems don’t tend to occur and people don’t tend to bother you on your ‘off’ time. This gives you the ability to grow your friendships and for all of your personal relationships to flourish. PLUS, now you are your own boss so you can vacation whenever you want!

Don’t worry about your neighbours! If they are doing something that jeopardizes your business, they will change. Just talk to them. No matter how much illegal money they are making or how many desperate junkies live within or outside of their unsupervised walls, they understand that sharing is caring. They always take care of their housekeeping to ensure that the experience of your guests is paramount. If still no luck, your municipal bodies will address the problem ASAP.

And the government… they understand too. They know that restaurant sales are inconsistent due to many uncontrollable factors. They often wave late fees for payroll and HST remittance. And they would never increase provincial minimum wage at your slowest time of year on a stat holiday, because they know how hard it is to make a buck AND they understand the toils of the small business owner. They are real people, without any privileges or undeserved pensions and they spend their entire careers dedicated to the same principles that we all do. Also, they would never give bailouts or tax shelters to mishandled billion dollar corporations. Hence, you can be sure that all extra tax revenue goes into taking care of the small business owners. They know that we won’t leave the country and that we will be the ones footing the bill for the misspending of our formal Governor Generals.

The utilities companies give you great rates. All of their policies are more than fair and their equipment is top notch, flawless. You will never run into a situation where a ‘smart metre’ took bad readings to the tune of $9,000. They will never demand immediate payment and would never think of shutting off your gas, hydro, etc… because their ‘brain trust’ know that if you can’t make money, then they won’t get paid. They care.

And thank goodness for insurance companies. They are such a reliable safety net. The more that you pay into them, the better your rates get. If you lose everything due to theft, or fraudulent personal injury suits, they painlessly process your claim in a timely fashion and let you keep your current deductible rate, because they understand what you have gone through. They always give you fair replacement value for everything lost and get you up and running with no delay or consequence for your misfortune. Solid entity.

And say you decide to leave the industry, or you want to take on another profitable business, well great news! All of the equipment that you bought is still worth at least 15% of what you paid for it wholesale. It probably won’t bother you though because you were dripping in profits anyway.

So… now that you know that everyone’s on your side, you’re ready to get started. Bon chance!

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, the aforementioned was not my actual experience… but I’m out of space. If you are so inclined, check back next month for part one of a gritty and candid account of how things went for me the first time. The fleeting highs and the long lingering lows. I won’t pull any punches. But I will change the names of those involved, to protect the identity of the guilty. Then… I will give you a truthful account of how the great people that have come into our lives for the second time around have renewed our faith and changed our attitude toward the restaurant industry. Stay tuned…

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