Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Open a Restaurant

For many Aussie chefs, owning a restaurant of their own has always been a career ambition. So many of the chefs we speak to every day have a dream to set up a venue with their own personal stamp on the menu and culture.

But as many chefs can testify, starting a restaurant is a huge task filled with financial, legal, staffing, design and building challenges (not to mention the food!). We are sure there are plenty of questions accomplished chefs and business owners wish they had asked themselves before they started on their journey. So here are 6 things to know ask yourself before you start:

Am I prepared to work way more than the 40-hour week?

The hospitality business is 24/7. It doesn’t really matter what your venue hours are, you will be solving problems left, right and centre, even after you’ve called last drinks. You’ll probably spend the first couple of months basically living in your business. Work will become your life – and you will have to sacrifice your social life (for a little at least) to succeed. On top of that you might not get a single full day off for months. So prepare for that.

Do I enjoy managing and working with people?

The thing most chefs don’t think about when they go to start a business is that most of the challenges they face will not be about creating a menu – but creating a culture among staff. You might not expect it, but you will become a parent to almost your entire staff. Teaching them lessons in hospitality and responsibility but also dishing out the odd piece of life advice. You might not have realised the level of responsibility you’re about to take on!

Can I live without being paid for months if I need to?

When you’re starting up a restaurant, always plan for it to take way longer and cost much more than you think. The things you think are going to be smooth sailing and fast will likely take four times longer than originally planned. With this in mind, make sure you have enough money reserved to be able to hold off on opening the doors to the public (while still paying your bills and staff). No matter how prepared you think you are, you will be scrambling to finish in time so don’t give yourself the added financial stress as well.

Am I doing this because it’s cool or because it’s functional?

Instagram isn’t real life. Just because the communal table on your pinterest board looks spectacular doesn’t mean that people will actually want to sit at it. You will need to consider every decision you make – are you doing it because it looks cool? That’s fine, as long as it’s also functional. Often chefs assume people want a bustling, trendy restaurant but often they want a quiet place to have an intimate conversation. Or vice versa! Of course, pleasing every guest is near impossible, but keep in mind that the things that chefs think are cool are not always shared by the public.

Who will I hire from the get-go?

We often hear that perseverance is the most valuable trait and hire for everything else you might need. We think there is definite wisdom in that! We recommend you hire a good lawyer and accountant as soon as you start. You will be going back-and-forth on leases and contracts a lot at the beginning and learning about taxes is one of the most frustrating things. Leave it to the experts. Also consider a design consultant that can help you out with the fit out and getting approval from council.

After that, begin to consider your working staff. Having good people on board is incredibly important.  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.

Am I prepared to take on a lot of stress?

You will probably spend the first year constantly wondering if you have made a massive mistake and you’re going to have to close. Your patience will be tested with a seemingly never ending stream of problems. But if you’re anything like other chef-owners, the choice to start your own business will probably also make you happier than you’ve ever been. If it was purely a financial decision, you’d probably invest in something else, but it’s not. You’re in it for the love and passion of hospitality, so the stress is worth it.

Being a business owner isn’t for everyone, but if you asked yourself these questions and still came up inspired, we say why not? Throw caution to the wind and give it a go!


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