Six Reasons I Don't Want to Open a Restaurant

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Flickr user kalyan3
I post pictures and descriptions of the food I cook on Twitter and Facebook, and I certainly have earned a reputation as someone who knows his way around a kitchen. I am honored to have received a lot of compliments, but the one I hear most often is "You should open a restaurant!"

I don't want to open a restaurant. Cooking is a hobby for me, and one that I flatter myself I'm pretty good at. I know plenty of people who own and work in restaurants, and I have an enormous amount of respect for them for being able to do it as a job. Following are six of the principal reasons you're not likely ever to eat at chez Dave unless you're invited into my home kitchen.

1. There's no such thing as a "mental-health day" in a restaurant.

Flickr user glennharper
Not a regular feature of a restaurateur's life.
There is nothing--nothing at all--that makes me happier than going out to the farmers' market and the shops, buying screamingly fresh and high-quality produce and meat, and planning meals for the week. In the summer, I have a hard time restraining myself, and I tend to come home with bags and bags of fresh vegetables and fruit.

Sometimes, though, I have a meeting in Burbank and I get home at 7 p.m., or I've got a headache and feel bad, and the last thing--the very last thing--I want to do is stand in front of a stove for half an hour or more and cook. If I ran a restaurant, simply not cooking is not an option. As a home cook, I can say, "Screw it. We're going out" and have few repercussions; as a restaurateur, that causes angry customers who expect consistent hours.

2. Restaurants have strict rules.

Restaurateurs dread the moment the health inspector shows up. Even if they're 100 percent aboveboard and following the rules, it's a delay while the staff hangs around during the inspection and a hassle while the chef/owner has to listen to the results instead of expediting food. The list of rules for food safety is so long that there are whole classes dedicated to them.

In my home kitchen, if I feel like making crème fraîche, keeping butter on the shelf or tortilla española served the Spanish way (at room temperature), I can do that. That's not to say that  my kitchen is unsafe; I am not stupid enough to cut raw chicken on a wooden board, and then go toss a salad with my hands. Restaurant chefs don't have this flexibility; even if the food police weren't out and about, the fact is that the chances of a problem go up proportionally with the number of meals served. Seven (okay, five) dinners per week pale next to the 200 to 300 dinners per week a busy small restaurant serves.

3. Restaurants are more business than food.

Flickr user socialeurope
It'd be nice if all a chef had to worry about was making sure his or her food tasted great, but unfortunately, chefs are businesspeople by necessity, and this means wearing the accounting hat (food cost), the marketing hat (menu writing), the HR hat (staff), the security hat (loss prevention), etc.

While some of these happen at home--we all have budgets, some more generous than others--cooking dinner, even for frequent dinner parties, is not at all on the same stress level as earning one's livelihood from cooking. I don't have a staff to maintain, I don't have people leaving with pounds of foie gras, and people come when they're invited rather than my having to seek them out.

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Jenny Nguyen
Jenny Nguyen

Totally agree with you. I only work at a cafe and that's already a drag. The nature of the work is very repetitive, and then of course, you get drunk college students who come in at 1 in the morning. Yep. I work on a college campus. My boyfriend Rick dreams about owning a restaurant...but if I were to do that, I'd better be wealthy already so I can just hire people to run it for me. Then I can do whatever I want and throw around the phrase, "Yeah, I own a restaurant" and smugly sip my champagne.

Christian Z.
Christian Z.

Let's give a big hearty thank you to all the people out there that are running great restaurants who put up with the difficulties of these six very good reasons NOT to run a restaurant and probably other difficulties as well.

Phil Nigash
Phil Nigash

Great piece, Dave.  I'm going to print this out and hand it to the next person who says that to me too.  I was honored the first 20 times someone told me I should open a restaurant, but then the reality of what that would actually do to my life made it seem like a burden.  Even starting a business producing artisnal food items is too big of a headache. 

My hat goes off to anyone who has the dedication to devote their life to it.


#5 and #6 were enough for me to consider never running a restaurant myself.   Having to bang out the same thing, consistently, day after day just sounds like the ultimate in boredom.    And then to top it off with long hours, stressful working environments, and never having a holiday or weekend to yourself...nope, I have other things to do.

And once you realize that consistency is praised over creativity, you realize that the muse you have while cooking at home can go take a flying shag in a restaurant, resulting in very few incentives for me to ever do it.

Now....a coffee/Internet café?  I could *absolutely* do that.

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