Success is bred not from great ideas, but from incubating and protecting them until they have a chance to be great. That's all well and good if you work in a large restaurant group that can support your fledgling restaurant. It's a harsher lesson for a solo entrepreneur during a punishing off-season.
I've talked about the toll that being a boss takes on you. But I've never told anyone about the leitmotifs—the particular notes and sounds associated with bossdom.
Why does it seem like no restaurant ever opens on time? We really do seem like the flakiest business in the world. Even Danny Meyer, the single most on-point guy in the industry, faced massive delays when he was opening the now iconic Eleven Madison Park. The running joke is that everyone tells you they'll be open in three months, which they'll keep on saying for the next two years.
The restaurant industry, for all its ills, does offer the opportunity for mentorship. And that mentorship is vital to know-nothing upstarts like me.
On a cold Monday morning I was sitting at the counter of a diner. It was buzzing; omelets, French toast, and eggs Benedict flew by. And as I sipped on my coffee, my eyes were darting all over, putting price tags on every fixture, every chair, every packet of ketchup. I knew a secret through the grapevine that employees and customers didn't. Seven hours from now, this restaurant was going to die. And I was going to pick over the remains.
Opening a bar has its own set of problems, such as the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing. While I've worked in the kitchens of some of New York's most expensive restaurants, I've never changed a keg of beer, much less set up an entire massive bar program complete with 20 rotating craft beer taps, 25 whiskeys, and an entire encyclopedic division of labor known as cocktails.
You've read about my long hours and my frustrations, the almost paralyzing anxiety of starting a food business in New York. Here's why it's all worth it.
Six weeks after opening, my menu's gone through some changes. But incorporating feedback isn't always easy.
The first week of operating your own restaurant is just like the first week of having your first child: you don't sleep very much, you're fairly confident you're the worst parent in the world, and the crying never ever stops. Here's a review of my first week in business.
I've always imagined some magical demarcation point between building a restaurant and opening one for business. But right now, two weeks after my grand opening, I don't see it.
There's one question people keep asking me: what's it like to be your own boss? The answer: terrifying, humiliating, and lots of McDonalds.
Two weeks ago my liquor license arrived and I set a grand opening date. Now judgment day is almost here, and I've been having the worst panic attack of my life.
At 11:30, two inspectors from the Department of Buildings showed up to inspect my restaurant space. Like many New York City restaurants, I didn't pass. Here's why.
I'm often asked why I gave up the freewheeling life of catering to settle down with the headaches of opening a permanent restaurant. One of my answers is staffing.
Meeting with the Community Board is basically like doing martial arts. Win, lose, or draw, it's gonna hurt. You don't really engage so much as struggle for survival. And somewhere in the middle of all this, all you want to do is curl into a ball and whimper for your mommy.
I don't have an eye for design and I don't have much money to beautify my restaurant space. But decor goes a long way towards turning a restaurant into a neighborhood hang out. And once I learned I could build a bar by setting wood on fire, I gained a whole new interest in interior design.
Now that I'm working on opening a restaurant, I can have great days and awful days. They are often 18 hours long. Here's what a day in my life looks like right now.
Building a restaurant around Carolina-style whole hog is just bad business sense: the high food cost means slim profits. So here's how I'm making my restaurant a financially viable one.
In the Inferno, Dante travels through nine levels of hell. The first three are staffed by contractors.
It took months to find a retail space for my barbecue restaurant in New York City, but when it comes to real estate, there's a big difference between finding something and being able to call it yours.
The Arrogant Swine, my barbecue restaurant to be, needed a home. But New York's real estate market was less than cooperative.
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