Po-Boy Views: Handmade Home Cookin’ or Eat This

14:57 January 05, 2017
By: Phil LaMancusa

Why does every friggin’ restaurant have a drawback? Why can’t they be perfect, like me? They are altogether either too fancy, too plain, out-of-the-way, noisy, crowded, sloppy, expensive, uptight, elitist, surly, or they just plain don’t know how to cook!

If you agree with that statement, then I’ve got perfect advice for you: open a restaurant of your own! Think of it—New Orleans is a food town, you have a perfect recipe, you know how to cook, and you, above all, know what people want in a restaurant. They want a restaurant that has no drawbacks--the perfect restaurant. A neighborhood place with a great atmosphere, friendly service, reasonable prices, yummy food, clean restrooms, and fun, fun, fun! Where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came ... etc., etc.

Sounds great, right? Sounds simple, huh? Sounds … hmmmmmm ... lucrative ...Yeahhhhhhhhhh!

Well, Sparky, just you pour yourself into a hot bubble bath, light candles and some incense, and turn the music down real low and let Uncle Phil tell you a horror story.

Okay, it’s not that bad. First, get yourself a restaurant consultant, say someone who’s been doing it for a couple of decades. May I suggest me? No kidding, AND, as a qualified consultant, I will give you the best consulting you could ever get. It’s free, and the wisdom of the ages comes in one word: “DON'T!” Any qualified consultant will give you that advice, and when you don’t take that advice, then the consultant takes your money. How much money does a consultant take? $120 by the hour, or $750 a day, or 2.5 to three grand a month. But if you’re going to be spending a hundred grand to a quarter mil for your dream place, that’s a drop in the bucket. Another way to go is to contract a tutorial for about $500 for the day.

No? Are you not about that kind of money? Well, tell you what. I’ll give it away free as long as my thousand words hold up. It doesn’t get cheaper than that.

The two most important words in the restaurant business are 1) location and 2) rent. In fact, you can repeat #1 three times for its proper effect: "location, location, location."

#2 is how you will make your money, because your rent determines how much money you need to make and that is this: you have to make 20 times your rent to stay in business. Period.

Next, with the grand scheme comes tenet number one: identify your customer. Got it?

Po-Boy Views: Handmade Home Cookin’ or Eat This

So, now the situation can, in a perfect world, be thus: you have a wonderful location with great rent and you’ve identified your customer base as people who really want what you have to offer and can reach you without too much inconvenience. Congratulations—this is very rarely the case.

Let’s start over. Location. Considering that you are a smart person, you will try to find a location that was already a restaurant: all the hook-ups, some of the fixtures, and possibly a spare piece of equipment or two is already there. You didn’t stop to ask why the business before has left, but what the hell, it feels right. Okay, what’s the rent? Five grand? That means that you have to take a hundred grand a month to survive. Not a tough nut but, at least, it’s ... challenging. How is it laid out?

In a perfect world, the space has a third put aside for the kitchen and a half for the dining room. The rest of the space is for restrooms, office, storage, garbage and employee lockers and such. This is also rarely the case. Usually, everything else (including the kitchen) is minimized to make room for what really pays the rent: the customer. Remember, you need to have 15 customers in your base (at least) for every seat in your restaurant, and you’ll need 10 to 20 square feet per customer for comfortable seating. This is also a rare case. You need room for servers to get past tables (fat chance). And you need plenty of room for the hostess stand (hahahahahaha). Now, what about the bar? Smart move.

NOW you're hooked up. All you need now is your dining room staff, kitchen monkeys and supplies and yooooouuuu’rrrrre off! Terrific, yes? Nah, you want the news too, right? Here’s Johnny!

With 5% for rent, 12% for liquor, 35% for food, 32% staff (including management), what do you have to work with? As an owner, you have to keep up with the utilities, phone, insurance, cleaning crews, anti-theft devices, office staff (including bookkeepers and CPAs), a lawyer on retainer, area maintenance, advertising… Do the math.

Here’s a little restaurant trivia. The owner kicks in 18 to 23 cents per dollar paid for every hourly employee, for things like unemployment insurance, workman’s compensation and even contributions to social security. $10 an hour literally costs the employer over $12 an hour. How many employees do your think you’ll have? Again, do the math.

Sound fun? It gets better. Here’s a little more before I run out of room. Rents in the area are up 46% since the Storm, the worker pool has shrunk 75%, and the insurance is through the friggin’ roof. On top of that, you have to live with (or fight) a .075% waste factor in all areas. And just when you’re having a hard time watching a member of your staff (who cost you $100 to $200 to train) on his cell phone, smoking a cigarette outside while your tables get sat and the tickets start piling up ... Bam! The ice machine goes on the fritz, the prep cook calls in too drunk to work, the toilet in the ladies room overflows, and the bartender cuts himself while cutting lemon garnishes and has to go to the hospital.

Remember my first piece of advice? “DON’T” And my second? In the meantime, try to find a place that rents for five grand a month and gimme a call. Cheers!

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