By Mike Wilcox
Owning a business requires a lot of time, money and sacrifice.
The time involved can be hurtful to your marriage and family life. The money, essentially most of your life savings, can ruin you financially if the business fails. The sacrifices are many, from vacations, to date nights, to living a life centered around your business and not family and leisure time.
The restaurant business is even more difficult. I have owned a couple, but have eaten at hundreds, and am somewhat of an expert, or at least I think I am, on what makes some work, others not. Lately I’ve sampled quite a few in the latter category.
A few weeks ago, I sent my son out to get a couple of Coneys and cokes for lunch. When he came back empty-handed, I asked where my food was.
My son said the owner re-fused to turn on the grill. She told him she didn’t have any buns, was too tired to grill a Coney dog and was going to close and go home.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I told my son.
He said, “No.”
Restaurant Lesson 101” Don’t turn away customers and, for chrissake, don’t close up a few hours after you open.
This is precisely, however, what another restaurant I am familiar with, did. A new pizza place opened to a lot of fanfare on a Saturday recently. They did a bang-up business that first day selling pies to an excited clientele.
The next day they were closed to observe the Sabbath. Come Monday, I was hoping to try a pizza for lunch. Lo and behold, a sign on the door said, “Closed, we ran out of pizza.”
Let me reiterate: If you open a business, do not turn away customers and stay open, no matter what, during normal business hours. If you don’t, you will not succeed. If you run out of product, go to the store and get more.
This leads me to another less-than-satisfactory dining experience. My son and I were cruising through a small tourist town when we stopped at a eating establishment to have lunch. I ordered chicken and mashed potatoes. The waitress returned a few minutes later and said they had no potatoes.
I gave her my perplexed look. How can a restaurant have no potatoes? I ended up ordering a vegetable, but still wonder why someone didn’t make a trip to the grocery store next door, and what were they going to do when the dinner crowd started to show?
A few weeks later, I found a restaurant that actually beat the “no potatoes” dilemma. I happened to stop for lunch at one of my favorite fast-food joints, Burger King. As I pulled up to the drive-through, I asked for a flame-broiled cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake. The drive through operator informed me, “We have no beef.”
I just shook my head. A fast-food burger joint with no beef? How can this be? This particular Burger King sits right next to a grocery store. I give them points for staying open and trying to push chicken products, but why not run next door and get the beef you need to make hamburger patties?
It is hard to make it in business, especially the restaurant business. I guarantee most restaurants that don’t have their core ingredients on hand and stay open during regular hours will fail.
Despite the horror stories I or you might have, there are plenty of great restaurant operators in our communities. They deserve your patronage and goodwill.