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13 Restaurant Owners Share Their Secrets to Success

Ever dream of opening your own eatery? For the book 'Restaurant Owners Uncorked,' entrepreneurs share their tips for creating a successful business.

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Trust your investors

“You have to think long term when you choose your investors. It’s like marrying into a family. They have to trust you explicitly. And vice versa.” —Dave Query, Big Red F Restaurant Group: Boulder, Colorado. Find more tips like these in the books Restaurant Owners Uncorked and Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Part II.

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Value your employees

“You’ll never have happy customers unless you have happy employees. Focus first and foremost on your employees. Treat them well, and treat them with respect.” —Keith Paul, A Good Egg Dining Group: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Check out these 57 secrets your restaurant waiter isn’t telling you.

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Aim low at first

“If you are going to raise money, start your pitches with your worst prospects. By the time you get to your best prospects, you are going to have a much better presentation, and a much better deal.” —Scott Maitland, Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery: Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This is how successful people end their workday.

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Believe in yourself

“You have to have that attitude of saying that failure is not even close to being an option. It’s amazing how your body and your mind will respond if you think that way.” —Matt Frey, Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream: Carmel, Indiana.

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Find your niche

“Be great at a few things, not average at a lot of things.” —Phil Roberts, Parasole Restaurant Group: Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Miniature people: Worker working on the orange peel to clean it using for creativity , artwork business concept.wisudaboonta/Shutterstock

Work hard

“Be ready to work when everybody else is playing.” —Phil Roberts, Parasole Restaurant Group: Minneapolis, Minnesota. Find out what a celebrity chef looks for in a restaurant.

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Don’t let complicated plans bog you down

“Keep your business simple if you want to expand.” —Jon Myerow, Tria: Philadelphia.

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Travel and food concept. Two traveler miniature figures walking on whole wheat bread with copyspace.Montri Thipsorn/Shutterstock

Understand the challenges

“Being a business owner is a very lonely road.” —Jon Myerow, Tria: Philadelphia.

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Good business starts with good hires

“The biggest competition is not for customers. It’s for staff. If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow.” —Jon Myerow, Tria, Philadelphia. Make sure you know these 10 CEO secrets for launching a million-dollar startup.

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Start small

“If you spend lots of money to get started, you are that much closer to failure. If you can do it really lean, your risk is much lower.” —Mic Heynekamp, Socorro Springs Restaurant & Brewery: Socorro, New Mexico, and Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery: Buena Vista, Colorado.

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Two miniature figures of chefs or cooks on a wooden spoon over a textured metal background in a concept of catering and food preparationPhotology1971/Shutterstock

Don’t share too much

“Fifty/fifty partnerships don’t work. Own more than 50 percent of your business so you always have the final say.” —Chester Kroeger, Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill: Destin, Florida.

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Get support

“Do what you’re good at and find others to fill your gaps. Interdependence, rather than independence, is incredibly freeing.” —Joe Johnston, Joe’s Real BBQ, Liberty Market, and Joe’s Farm Grill: Gilbert, Arizona.

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Focus on your plan

“A solid business plan demonstrates to investors that you have put in the time and effort and thought to make the investment low risk on their part.” —Joe Johnston, Joe’s Real BBQ, Liberty Market, and Joe’s Farm Grill: Gilbert, Arizona. Every restaurant owner and customer should learn these 13 secret tricks hiding in restaurant menus.

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Don’t take it personally

“Take your ego out of the equation. At the end of the day, it’s a business. If you approach it through your ego, you’ll fail.” —Emad Yacoub, Glowbal Restaurant Group: Vancouver, British Colombia.

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Build a solid foundation

“Don’t expand too quickly or you could destroy your entire business.” —Chip Bair, Beau Jo’s: Denver, Colorado. Memorize these 16 money tips from the world’s most successful people.

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Realize there’s no one right way

“Just like you think your baby is cuter than all of the others, no one is going to operate your business the same way you would.” —Kevin Doherty, Emmit’s Irish Pub & Eatery: Chicago.

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Miniature figure of a sommelier or wine expert standing on a cork looking at a bottle in his hand for pairings at a restaurantPhotology1971/Shutterstock

Know the good and bad

“No matter how well you know your potential business partner personally, make sure you know what he/she is like on the heat of battle.” —Jim Parker, Red Hat on the River: Irvington, New York. Don’t miss these other 24 things restaurant owners wish they could tell you.