Owning a Restaurant

It takes hard work and persistence to own and run a successful restaurant, but the rewards are many. You get to meet and work with many different people; your schedule is varied; the work is very satisfying, and you can get to know important and famous people on a first-name basis. If you plan well and put in the required effort, a restaurant business can provide a good, reliable profit, turning you from a struggling entrepreneur into a successful, comfortably well off, or even wealthy, businessperson. As the owner, you will reap all the rewards of your success. If you are committed to good customer service, and have or are willing to develop strong administrative and management skills, this might just be the business for you.

Typical career paths

There are many ways to develop the skills to become a restaurateur (the French word for restaurant owner). You can work your way into the business by learning from experience, listening and observing - even a former dishwasher or kitchen hand can become a successful restaurateur! You can take hospitality or cooking courses then strike out on your own. You can buy an existing restaurant, and follow the established procedures and concept, or open a new restaurant with a different concept. You can join a franchise company and be trained in their system. You can buy or lease.

Most restaurants fail for one of two main reasons: poor customer service or poor business management. (If your food is awful, the business won't even take off). Even if you are an excellent cook, you should prepare for this career by developing good customer service skills, and learning even the basics of good business practice, perhaps through a solid course. Look for a hospitality course, or, if you have experience in the food side of hospitality, a business course. Also, gain as much hands-on experience as possible in restaurant food preparation and service, which is nothing like cooking and serving food at home.

Remuneration and Advancement

As the business owner, you set the pace for the growth of your business and establish the basis for improving your profits. Yes, this puts the entire financial burden on you (and your partners, if you have that kind of arrangement), but you are also the main beneficiary of profits. Do not expect immediate wealth, though. If you bought or built your restaurant, it can take years to be free of debt because there is considerable overhead associated with a restaurant - wages (your own included), equipment maintenance and repair, food and beverage stock, energy for ovens, cold rooms, etc. A restaurant owner might do it tough for a few years, paying off loans or a large mortgage, before enjoying more of the profits.

Stress Rating

A restaurant owner must keep a very close eye on all aspects of the business, and there are many areas where things can go wrong. Power blackouts, equipment breakdowns, spoiled food, complaining customers, incorrect or late deliveries, cash missing from the register, sudden slumps in business, meals arriving to customers too slowly, customers arriving late for bookings, chefs quitting on a busy night, staff failing to show, high staff turnover, escalating costs, arguments between staff, temperamental or flustered cooks - all these situations are part of the normal life of a restaurateur. This is a high stress job. It takes careful planning, self-management, and focus to keep things under control. For many people in this business, these daily challenges are part of the fun; they test the owner's abilities and inner resources, and make sure that the job is never boring.

How to Distinguish Yourself from the Competition

As an owner, you are not competing for a job, but you are competing for a place in the restaurant market. Therefore, do your research. Before setting up or taking over the business, study the demographics of the area (the kinds of populations - family, aged, students etc. that live there), and find out about the competition. Choose a target market and offer them something they want, and preferably, something that they can't easily find (such as low-cost, healthy food; a child-friendly environment; special ethnic foods and atmosphere). Actively promote your business - offer special deals, extend invitations to important people, donate to community events, keep the media informed, reward repeat customers. Finally, always deliver what you promise: quality of food, reasonable prices, special atmosphere, and excellent service.

Professional Bodies

A restaurateur can only benefit from establishing and maintaining good relations with members of the community, many of whom may become valued customers and promote your restaurant to others. It is not necessary, but very helpful to become a member of one or two business bodies, as well as some that serve the community (such as the Lions Club, Rotary etc.).


Because an investment is such a big investment, you should give serious thought to insurance. To set up and run a restaurant business, you usually need product liability (against possible harm from your food) and public liability (against possible harm to customers on your facility) insurance. You may also need insurance coverage against fire, theft, loss of income, and coverage for damage to glass, machinery and equipment. Insurance requirements may vary from country to country, so check on the insurance requirements in your region. Also, talk to restaurateurs in your area to find out what kinds of insurance they have. Insurance is expensive, but it can be far more costly to go without.

Legal Considerations

To open a restaurant, you need a special license. If you plan to sell liquor, you need a liquor license as well. You usually also need a workplace health and safety certificate, and provisions for workman's compensation. If you are building, you will probably need approval from the city council or a similar body. Check with your local government to find out what is required.

Where To Start

There's a lot more to running a successful restaurant than just investing money and buying or starting one. Above all, you need to know the industry, where you can make mistakes, and how to avoid problems.

One of the best ways to do this is to study a good foundation course. To be of value, the course should be at least 80 hours duration. Food and Beverage Management is one such option.

Other Recommended Courses

Management and planning skills are critical for a restaurateur. Take a course to develop those skills, if necessary, such as the ACS Advanced Certificate in Applied Management (Small Business) or the Certificate in Management. Other relevant ACS courses are short courses in Food and Beverage Management, Bar Service, Personnel Management, Marketing, Business Planning, Bookkeeping, and Human Nutrition.

 See our hospitality courses at and Hospitality