24 Things Restaurant Owners Wish They Could Tell You
Restaurant owners are in charge of quite a bit when it comes to owning a restaurant.
We need to have a lot of different skill sets
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to owning a restaurant. Restaurant owners need to be a “gracious host, firm but fair employer, tough negotiator, empathetic friend, all with excellent cleaning skills,” says Goldberg. And if an owner is in charge of a big staff, that involves having excellent management skills to ensure all of their employees’ needs are met. “I have to find a way that allows for 75 employees who have never worked together to develop a synchronized groove and perform smoothly,” says Stratis Morfogen, owner of JADE Sixty in New York, NY. “It’s like I’m the orchestra leader conducting a performance.”
We aren’t fond of review websites
“My biggest pet peeve is how people use ‘helpful’ tools such as Yelp to make their dining decisions—I personally think it does more harm than good,” says Morfogen. When guests make their dining decisions based solely on other people’s reviews, there’s a risk that they’ll avoid the restaurant altogether if there are a few critics. But you’ll never know what you could be missing out on if you don’t give it a chance at all. (Make sure you’re following these simple etiquette rules next time you’re dining at a restaurant.)
That “free” stuff is expensive
It might seem harmless to ask for more bread or extra butter, but if hundreds of people are asking for more of the same things, it starts adding up. “As an Italian restaurant, the cost of the bread, butter, cheese, and olive oil is more expensive than you’d think,” according to Francese.
We really do try to offer the best quality of food
If restaurant owners don’t make the effort to provide the absolute best quality of food, customers will search elsewhere. “When we make our fried zucchini blossoms, my wife and I pick the zucchini from our garden at home to make sure they’re fresh and top-notch quality for our customers,” says Lombardi. Lombardi isn’t the only restaurant owner with this mindset, though. “At Buck & Rider, our seafood restaurant in Phoenix, we fly in seafood from across the United States every morning to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, to ensure that the food really is fresh as possible, despite there being an extra cost,” says Steven Totten, marketing director for LGO Hospitality. (You won’t believe these secrets that fast food employees won’t tell you.)
We hate “no shows”
“As an owner, the one thing that irks me is when reservations are made and the guests are a ‘no show,’” says Russell D’Anton, owner of B2 Bistro + Bar in Red Bank, NJ. If you make a reservation and don’t show up (especially in a small restaurant) it affects all of the employees. The night is planned out before customers start showing up so everybody knows exactly how many tables are left for walk-ins and other reservations. Plus, the restaurant loses money if walk-ins need to be turned away.
We pay attention to every little detail
From the music and the lighting to the shape of the dishes and the color of the napkins, restaurant owners are responsible for just about everything. It’s safe to assume every little thing in a restaurant has been run by the owner. “We painstakingly pick every ingredient that goes into every menu item,” says Tony Yanow, founder of Artisanal Brewers Collective. Another detail-oriented owner is the CEO and founder of LGO Hospitality. “Our owner [of LGO Hospitality] took a master class in learning how to install and use large music processors because we use .flac files instead of .mp3 files to ensure a better quality sound, and we partner with a Los Angeles DJ who curates playlists for each restaurant,” says Totten.
We hate when our employees are just standing around
Not only does it look bad to customers when employees are just standing around or looking at their phones, but it irks restaurant owners, too. “In the restaurant industry there’s always something for the employees to be doing,” says Lombardi. “If they’re not dealing with customers, they could be restocking beers, wines, wiping down menus—every little thing helps. I strive to make sure my employees aren’t ever so bored that they feel the need to reach for their phones.” (Here’s why you should never, ever pepper your food in restaurants.)
Food spoilage is a huge issue
Most of the time, restaurant owners make sure to buy extra of, well, everything. Since the restaurant industry is a very hit-or-miss business, some days could be slam-packed and others could be very slow. However, those slow days are what causes food to spoil, which in turn, is like throwing money down the gutter. “I rely on my workers to make sure we don’t spoil a lot because that’s a big financial loss,” Lombardi says. “That’s why we love catering orders so much. We know exactly how much food to make and when to make it.” (Here are some secrets restaurants use to make you eat more.)
Please give us a chance to fix our mistakes
“As owners, we take the brunt of the mistakes—and rightly so,” says Lombardi. Not every dining experience will be perfect, but if something is really bothering you, absolutely ask to speak to the owner to see if it can be fixed. “[It irks me when] guests choose to air grievances on social media rather than approach management who will bend over backward to make a guest happy,” says Goldberg. “We strive for perfection but know we won’t always hit it. We are humbly ready to correct any mistakes.”
Our family, friends, and favorite customers get special treatment
Restaurant owners make (most of) their own rules. In other words, if you spark up a conversation with the owner, they might offer you a drink (or two) on the house. The same goes for family and friends. “A free drink, coffee, or dessert here and there might make its way to some of our favorite people,” says Lombardi. (Don’t miss these 11 ways to save money when eating out.)