running a restaurant team

Five things you need to know about running a restaurant

By the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia

There are many appealing factors to running your own restaurant – it’s exciting, fast-paced, you get to be your own boss, make a name for yourself, and so many more. The one thing you will never hear a restaurant owner say is “how easy it is.”

Ask any single person who has owned and operated a restaurant and they will probably tell you that it’s one of the toughest things they have done. The hours are long, the work never ends, and it can and will be stressful. Despite all of this, once you get the itch to open a restaurant, you’re hooked. It’s a certain kind of person who can successfully run their own restaurant and at the core of it all, they have tenacity, passion, and a vision. They know the work will be immense, but they also know the payoff will be well worth it.

In this article, we are going to look at five key things you need to know about running a restaurant. These are not necessarily in any order of priority and certainly the list to consider is not limited to five. In fact, there is probably an unlimited amount of factors to consider, but for the purpose of this article we are going to focus on a few that we think are important to consider.

1. You must have the right personality

Running a successful restaurant is going to entail that you have many redeeming qualities. You must thrive on chaos and have a thick skin. You must be a leader and a great communicator. You must move with a sense of urgency and react quickly to situations. During the normal day-to-day operations of running a kitchen, things are going to get heated (pun intended). You could come into your restaurant one morning to a broken refrigerator, a cook that didn’t show up, leaks, plumbing woes, and on and on.We’re not suggesting that you don’t feel stress. You most certainly will, but you’re the type of person who can take a deep breath, dig in, do what needs to be done, and push through. Your ability to be resilient will be one of your most redeeming qualities!

2. You need to have industry experience

You need to understand the restaurant industry. Some experience in the restaurant scene is going to be very crucial to your success. You want to know what you’re getting into. If you don’t have a great deal of experience, go out and talk to somebody who does and get their feedback. Ask them to be completely honest and tell you all the nitty gritty details. You may find it very helpful to get a mentor, somebody who can support and guide you through the process of opening a restaurant. Opening a restaurant isn’t just about your location, decor, and the food you’ll serve; there’s the entire business and human resources side of it as well that you will need to consider. Connect and listen to people who have been there done that and dive in with your eyes wide open. You know the saying – “Knowledge is Power.”

3. You are only as good as the people who work for you

Employees can make or break your business. They are your greatest asset and your greatest potential liability, making them critical to your success. Proper training and good communication will help you mold your employees into a successful team. Keep in mind the old expression: “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” It wouldn’t hurt to do some research and educate yourself on recruitment and human resource practices to ensure you’re getting the right people through the door and retaining them. We’re going to be straightforward with you — finding qualified staff to work in your restaurant may be one of your greatest challenges, so being a stand-up employer and investing in your staff will be fundamental.

4. You need to be aware of your finances and your ability to become profitable

The financial aspect of a restaurant can be difficult. You will need money to open the restaurant and cover costs while you build the restaurant. Restaurants often have hefty overhead costs and it may be a while before you start to see a profit. Pre-tax profits average only 5 per cent and the business failure rate is high. The industry is very competitive and fickle so commit to doing your market research and business plan. It is necessary to do a practical assessment before any major commitment to a business. If the math doesn’t add up, it is worth revising and making necessary changes. You may need to reconsider the location, your consumer market, or your product/service. Set yourself up for success as best you can.

5. You need passion

Do you have the hunger? This is a big endeavor so you must “want” this entirely. You need to be passionate about owning a restaurant. You must have strong vision and a concrete concept for your restaurant. Everything —your menu, design, staffing, training, branding, and marketing — will be driven by your passion and motivation. You need to be dedicated to your customers, and constantly deliver a positive experience to them. Your passion for quality food and strong emotional connections to your business will help bring customers back time and time again.

Opening a new restaurant is exciting. It can be one of the greatest achievements of your life. On the flip side, it can be overwhelming and stressful or you may find the repetition and day-to-day operations can easily become a grind. Stay focused, hold onto your vision, and persevere!

The tips listed above were obtained from a document that was created by the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, titled “A Guide to Starting and Running a Restaurant in Nova Scotia.” If you would like to obtain a copy of the full publication, please contact

One thought on “Five things you need to know about running a restaurant

  1. I would add you also have to have a lot of luck. I grew up in the business working as an hourly employee and then cutting my teeth in management. All in all, 47 years at this game and there isn’t enough said about getting lucky. In the old days it was about location, location, location. I have had the opportunity to own my own restaurant and was on the other end of a referendum and an ice storm that crippled my business. On another time, the Franchisor made terrible decisions and I was one of 30 Franchisees that had to throw in the towel. On both occasions, I was able to prolonge the inevitable but no amount of experience was going to lead me to the promised land. Your comments are well founded and kudos to you for identifying the passion and drive required to be successful. The business is enticing and sexy but a number of people get into it for the wrong reasons. God bless those restauranteurs that have faced adversity and lived to tell the tell. There are graveyards filled with best intentions and people that didn’t have the fortitude or good luck to make it happen. Knowledge is power and articles like this are well worth their weight in gold.

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