Originally Posted by Douglas
yeah, plus one.
not really busting your chops, nereis, as it's obviously a formula that's worked for your family and I congratulate them (and you) on their success. But it's not the only way to do it, necessarily.
They weren't a formula to success (that's due to product differentiation/good chefs, marketing and client service) but really more of an indication as to what a good owner should be doing just to have a chance at not failing in the first year. When Gordon Ramsay's restaurants fail it's an indication that the industry is cutthroat and anything you do to reduce ongoing costs and hence, shorten the time to which you can begin having positive cashflow is quite necessary. I agree that too many people open a restaurant/bar for the wrong reasons, like many other small businesses. Often they have aspirations to work together with friends and family. My father lost a good friend when negotiations to buy out his half of the business went sour.
Unfortunately, opening a place where we would like to go to does not necessarily result in a successful business venture. For example, my ideal bar would deal exclusively in spirits and chill your drinks with whiskey stones. But we need to sell tap beer and wine or else we would paint ourselves into a corner by not providing the options that people expect to be able to get at a bar.
While not having at least a hand in day-to-day operations won't necessarily kill you if you have very experienced staff (poaching good managers from existing restaurants is difficult without connections), HR-wise discipline among front end staff (high school and college aged kids who think they're too good for the job) and kitchen (if not you or a family member, then prone to constantly asking for pay raises despite wastage) is difficult to maintain. People have a tendency to slack off when they're not being monitored, and sometimes even when a CCTV camera is pointed right at them. Naturally, this results in the situation where people start to only go on the nights where the proprietor is present.
As my parents got older they no longer had the energy to maintain that sort of lifestyle and so started to hand off duties to more experienced staff. What happened was that they began preparations for closing up half an hour to an hour before official closing time, were overgenerous on the drinks and were prone to lapses on cleaning duties. In the end they just realised that they weren't prepared to let what they'd spent over a decade creating go like that and went back to spending long hours there.
Long story short, it's a tough business to survive in, let alone make money. It's a game of 'not losing money' more often than not, especially in this economy. The number one thing I can say is that experience either in the kitchen or operations would limit the downside risk the most. Good luck with the venture!