Seasoned American Restaurant Owners Dish Out Advice

Some people say you have to be crazy to be in the restaurant business. It's challenging, exhausting, frustrating…and incredibly rewarding.

Here are what some successful American restaurant owners have to say about how to make your business both successful and fulfilling.

1. Don't Get in the Business For the Money

Yes, running a restaurant is a business. But it is an all-consuming one. In other words, it's also your life. In order to thrive, you have to be passionate about what you're doing. 

If you are just in it to make money, you're probably not going to make it.

Wolfgang Puck, the original celebrity chef, knows a thing or two about the restaurant business.  When asked for tips on getting into the business, he told Forbes Magazine: "You have to do what you're passionate about. Passion is really what's important in life."

Long-time Southern California restaurateur David Wilhelm notes in an interview with Bask Magazine how passion is also key to motivation. "Even when things are going smoothly, there are so many details you need to keep tabs on that it can sometimes seem overwhelming, but if you have the passion for the business it will drive you to always keep striving to be better."

2. Surround Yourself With A Great Team

Many restaurant owners talk about the importance of hiring the right people. Cameron Grant, chef-owner of Osteria Langhe in Chicago, Illinois told Zagat, "Investing time in an employee who is willing to learn and shares a passion for the common goal is priceless. It's how good restaurants survive." 

While experience and skill are important, they are not necessarily the most important traits to look for when hiring. Lindzi Shanks and Kat Connor, co-founders of XO Marshmallow in Chicago, Illinois explain in an article in Restaurant Insider: "It's not enough to get someone who is qualified. You need to find someone that believes in you and your vision in order to grow together."

3. Always Strive To Do Better

In this highly competitive industry, you have to stay on your toes to keep ahead of the pack.

Carmen Rossi founder of the Chicago-based company, 8 Hospitality Group, told Entrepreneur Magazine: "One of the best decisions you can make that will take your performance and professional success to the next level is to commit to a never-ending development of yourself and your craft."

4. Fully Embrace Your Life As A Restaurant Owner

Being in the restaurant business is not something you can do halfway. You have to throw yourself into making it work. That means long hours, and making your business a central part of your life.

"If you are not prepared to never see your family, never have a holiday, never play golf, then you are not prepared to be in the restaurant business," says Cory Bahr, of Restaurant Cotton & Nonna in Monroe, Louisiana in a post on Thrillist

Tom Bertolami, the third-generation owner of Mario's Italian Dining in Ormond Beach, Florida says this commitment is the secret to longevity in the restaurant business. "You've got to be here," said Bertolami. "I'm here 99 percent of the time. It's a very tough job, but a very rewarding job," he told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

5. Stay True To Yourself

If you have a restaurant, chances are, you have a vision. Many successful restaurant owners emphasize the importance of sticking to that vision.

"You can't make everyone happy, so stop trying to," writes restaurant consultant and former restaurant owner Chris Hill on Toast's Restaurant Management Blog. "Some people aren't going to like you, your view of the world, or your art. Who cares — just keep making art; art that's yours. Build your own box."  

Caroline Glover of Annette in Aurora, Colorado describes sticking with her vision in the face of criticism in online publication, Westword. "I got a rough review, and it made me step back and think," she says. "But sticking to our guns has proven to be good: People have tried things they wouldn't have tried before." 

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