Need some serious personal input please.

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Thread: Need some serious personal input please.

  1. #1
    Member Array Jenkums86's Avatar
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    Need some serious personal input please.

    OK hopefully this is the right place for this, its a serious subject for me and on a personal matter I guess but has nothing to do with carrying or guns at all.

    A little about me first of all I guess. I am a 24 year old cook or "chef" I guess though I'm not fond of the title. I graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in VT and have been working in the food industry since I was a sophomore in high school, so about 8 years now or so. I love cooking it is my passion and what I enjoy doing for work as well as pleasure. In the last couple of years I have grown more and more weary and tired of all the crap in the majority of restaurants, especially in my area. Incompetent workers lazy superiors a general sense of ignorance is rewarded with promotions. And I'm sure this applies to more than just the culinary field. Anyways, I have been getting more and more sick of it and quit my last two jobs going back to the place I'm at now which I helped open and have been working at off and on for a couple of years now. But even it is not what I'm looking for. While out working at my last job at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa OK I had a beautiful little girl with my lovely wife. She was born 3 months premature and weighed only 1lb 15oz, adding more to my growing stress from a job I hated. Lost all my friends down there and was basically abandoned with no friends or family so we moved back home here to Northern Maine. I have a family now that I need to support and get so we can move out of my parents house and what I'm making now just isn't cutting it. She's a massage therapist and since she just got started is not getting many clients yet, so overall we're struggling.

    Now where all of this was leading us is after my schooling and experience which included learning about restaurant management and food costing as well as practice in actually running a kitchen I want to get away from the crap and try starting my own restaurant. Now I know my little synopsis is hardly enough to base my life changing decision on but I'm just looking for some input here I have been doing a lot of stalking on these threads and know there are a lot of smart people on here. So with the economy, gas prices, small local population, and young age is it a wise decision to try this? Or with my confidence, experience, passion, and lack of anything like my idea for my restaurant and huge love for it everywhere, be enough for this to be a good idea?

    Restaurant Idea is a down home simple barbecue restaurant, simple no frills but delicious food that appeals to just about everyone. There is no BBQ anywhere up here in northern Maine unless you count the ribs at Ruby Tuesdays.......and I don't lol. Its very much a country small close knit community kind of area I think BBQ would do well in.

    However I am very broke right now and still in debt from college, but on the other side if my business does well that could be a good reason to do it as well. If it is something I decide to do I might talk to the owner of the restaurant I'm at now and see if he would consider making it a "sister restaurant" to his and get an investment in it for advertisement and maybe share in profits. Other than that I wouldn't know how to get money for a project like this considering I have a very poor credit score.

    So any and all advice and discussions are welcome and appreciated, remember just looking for some friendly input not definite decision makers for me.

    Thanks everyone!

    Jenkums

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  3. #2
    VIP Member Array PAcanis's Avatar
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    I don't know how you could finance this on your own with a poor credit score. And speaking as someone who started a business from scratch in a small, close-knit community, they are tough eggs to crack. Very clicky. I would suggest finding an established diner or restaurant to work in with the possibility of future purchase from its owner. Maybe an older owner, kids don't want to take over, looking to retire soon or cut back his hours... something like that. I have no idea how you would locate such a place though. Maybe trade magazines? Quite an undertaking without a few more years under your belt.

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    Member Array Jenkums86's Avatar
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    well the egg is cracked no problem there lol this is the community I basically was raised in whole life. My whole family is from here at least back to great grandparents and I know almost everyone and they all love me. But I would have to agree about financing the place, which is what I pretty much knew I just want to do it so badly Im sick and tired of working in places that arent up to my standards, I dunno maybe I should just lower my standards and suck it up and be a mindless working peon. As far as the place your talking about Im already working at it lol. I helped open this place about 2 years ago and been working here off and on. The owners opened it with intentions of just getting a good restaurant open in our town, since there wasnt one unless you count Subway, and then sell it. I was originally the person they wanted to sell to but I ruined that thinking I found something "bigger and better" out in OK. now the new guy running the kitchen wants to buy it, which I have to say makes sense hes a lot older with a lot more experience just without the passion for food I have.

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    "I dunno maybe I should just lower my standards and suck it up and be a mindless working peon."

    Don't ever do that.

    Try cooking up a batch of your best and most phenomenal ribs and take a few in to each of the successful restaurant owners in your area.
    Possibly a taste of some amazingly delicious BBQ ribs will create you a willing investor.

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    VIP Member Array NC Bullseye's Avatar
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    Dreams are what makes us go forward. Just be very aware that starting a totally new endeavor is far more taxing and stressful than working for someone else. This very thing has ended many marriages. You stand to loose everything if the new biz goes belly up. If the biz belongs to someone else, at least you can gather your wits and go looking elsewhere.

    Go for the brass ring, just make sure you don't fall off your horse doing it. Times are tough but if you work on your situation and get to where you're at least even you'll stand a far better chance of selling an idea to others.

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    Interesting and somewhat common dilemma and I don't think I can do more than make a couple of comments to show you how things might go.

    My son has a friend who did all of the above schooling and experience and opened a "fancy" French Restaurant. I'm talking 100 bucks a meal before drinks. He did however happen to have lots of parental support to assist making the investment and taking the chance. I do not know if he survived this recession, but probably he did as catering to the better off tends to give a little cushion from a recession.

    My son also has a different friend. This person was raised poor. He at one time was literally starving to the point where my son
    (yeah I know he shouldn't have done this legally) gave him his dorm meal ticket so he could get some food. A decade later and I do not know how, he opened up a BBQ stand in a parking lot. No permanent building. Just got permission to use a corner of the lot. With ZERO prior experience in the food industry, and only a very good recipe, he rapidly grew his business and started to make a great deal of money. He was able to move to a more permanent structure and at one time was doing so well he tried to talk my son into joining him as a partner.

    Now, here's the deal. Absolutely no one knows the future. And only you know if you have a great recipe.

    NEVER GIVE UP!!!!

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    Distinguished Member Array Ghettokracker71's Avatar
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    First and foremost-I hope all works out with your daughter, and family situation. I can imagine the stress, and financial burden alone could cause more marital strife. So hang in there.

    I agree with QKshooter-DONOT LOWER YOU STANDARDS. You may never raise them back up again, and could result in more long term stress/crappy jobs.

    I don't own my own business, and have never tried to. I do know people who have done it both successfully, and unsuccessfully. The one thing they all told me was what a huge risk it was to start it.

    I also agree that looking for an investor is a good idea-but could backfire if things go sour with them.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    Another thing I would try to do if I was in your shoes- See if you can ask the owner(s) of successful establishments how they did it. Things they did to make it work, and see if they have any advice for someone looking to start their own business? (Is that possible?)


    "To blame a gun for a mans decision is to foolishly attribute free will to an inanimate object"- Colion Noir.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghettokracker71 View Post
    Another thing I would try to do if I was in your shoes- See if you can ask the owner(s) of successful establishments how they did it. Things they did to make it work, and see if they have any advice for someone looking to start their own business? (Is that possible?)
    This is a great idea, contacting someone whose been there, and if the OP would send me a PM, I will try to find out if the guy who grew a successful BBQ business from nothing would be willing to exchange some e-mails with him.

    OP, send me an e-mail and I'll ask my son to pass it along to the guy with the BBQ place. He obviously knows what to do, in an intuitive way, as he had no education past HS, and no special education in hospitality or culinary schools. He just had to find a way to support himself and got a good idea, a good location, and a good recipe.

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    VIP Member Array jbum's Avatar
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    I am a 30 year vet in the industry and currently own a company that does work for restaurants. My advice is in this economy don't do it people don't realize how slim the profit margins are in the hospitality industry and food cost are going through the roof right now. If you would like to talk more about it shoot me a pm and I'll give you my phone #.

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    OK, a couple of thoughts, and I think I can offer some valid input based on real-world experience from friends and family. My sister and brother in law own a restaurant in a New Hampshire college town. One of her standard lines is: "Want to make a million in the restaurant business? Start with TWO million."
    Lenders view restaurants as very risky and are very reluctant to lend serious money. My sister put together a good business plan, actually got a loan on the real estate (business + cottage), put in over $50K of her own money, and bought a restaurant that had been closed a couple of years. Even with financing, though, they were under-capitalized from the start - the bane of all small start-up businesses. That was Problem 1. Problem 2 - establishing a new business when no one in the area knew who they were. Advance advertising is a must - print media is good (think coupons), radio is best, internet might be OK but it's a crap shoot for a new place without a following. So, be prepared for your first year to operate at a loss until your market learns who you are (back to the under-capitalization problem). Not just "meager profit," I said a LOSS.

    Next, Problem 3: location, location, location. Sister's restaurant is in a college town, but - actually about 5 miles OUT of town (although on a state highway). So, no reliable drive-by traffic when there's a home game or it's Parents' Weekend. Also, they are neither near a ski resort or on the way to one. They recently started a new restaurant in the center of town and generated far better traffic due to location, but the recession hurt them overall and they closed the new place after 15 months. The point is, though - location is key while you're building a reputation.

    Problem 4: getting reliable help. You're not going to get a college kid to wash dishes for a quarter over minimum wage, You're going to get a local boozer with no driver's license and whose wages are garnished for child support. The kitchen help you'll hire are maybe one step better off (they might still have a license). You will have 5 girls as waitresses, and all but one will have availability that changes every week. The one reliable one is the one that none of the other girls will like. Invariably some will try to take food home and/or eat for free or bring their kids or boyfriends in so they can eat for free.

    Problem 5: generating a menu that your market like. Ribs sound great! But you might be better off trying catfish and hush puppies in Northern New England. Ribs are a lot more specialized than, say, pizza. My sister's local competition actually built an outdoor open pit for cooking ribs, just offered them in the "picnic weather" months, and shut it down after a couple of seasons for lack of steady customers. It was a novelty at first, but it didn't play to the local clientele. My brother-in-law put a couple really nice "fine dining" items in the menu, like veal marsala, but - they were duds. Meatloaf, chicken pot pies, roast beef sell in that market.

    Now for the bright side. Build your business with a limited menu that you do well and you can sell without all the involvement and hassle of a restaurant. Make a name for yourself at local county fairs - maybe sell from something like a hot dog cart. Offer to cater events... get your name out that way. When you outgrow your mom's kitchen, maybe strike a deal to use a local church's kitchen for a fee. A good friend (sadly deceased) built a marvelously profitable business just that way, and she catered dinners for the rich & famous in northern NJ (notably for 'retired' ex-president Nixon when the Kissingers came to visit). Sally made it worth her church's while to use their kitchen until she could afford to put professional equipment in her own kitchen at home. Also - as a disclaimer - her husband had a substantial job and Sally's income wasn't a family necessity - but she was driven to build her business, and she did.

    My sister and BIL also recognize the profitability of catering, the fly in the ointment being that it's hit or miss. But back to the notion of building your reputation on a niche or narrow product range that you are exceptionally good at... get that working for you, market your product intensely, then build on your success.

    And, as others have said, follow that dream! Good luck.
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  12. #11
    Member Array Jenkums86's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the advice everyone and even though I pretty much already know its not something Ill be able to do in the near future I keep dreaming and getting this attitude of "dang it
    Im gunna do this now!!" lol. I realise all the risks believe me, over 80% of new restaurants fail in the first year and over 90% of all restaurants fail over-all...thats a huge risk! even if you do make it in this business the food cost margin your looking for best case scenario is only 30% and usually around 45% at most places not to mention a huge overhead at all times not to mention the massive start-up costs. I realize as someone said banks look at restaurants as very high risk businesses and couple that with my low credit score and Ive got basically no shot. However, the up-side is that the restaurant Im at is an established well liked business in this area and Ive got means for more than plenty of friendly advice (not to mention tough love!) lol. but I know this business, in school I had to make a business plan for a class and to pass it had to be solid enough to actually get a real world loan if taken to a bank and I passed that with flying colors. Also I have been working on my BBQ recipes a LOT at home investing a lot of money in them and their pretty damn good lol. Im getting my own 6 x 4 foot smoker in the next week or so (guy I work with had it given to him by his father in law and he has no interest in using it so hes giving it to me.) so I might go the route of trying to do a kind of at home catering thing and maybe sell out of the back of my van in parking lots (after some research on that I have no idea about legalities on that kind of thing.) I appreciate all the advice and encouragement everyone and Im always open for talking and just shooting the crap! Oh and if anyone is ever in Northern Aroostook County Maine and I get a place going stop by and the meal is on me!

  13. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenkums86 View Post
    T Oh and if anyone is ever in Northern Aroostook County Maine and I get a place going stop by and the meal is on me!
    Just look for the line of hungry people with bulges under their shirts...
    Smitty
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    Distinguished Member Array INccwchris's Avatar
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    If there is no BBQ joint in your area and it is something there is alot of demand for I would go for it. Keep the menu small, most places try to do everything and end up not able to make anything taste good. Stick to a few specialty dishes and you will be ok. I would also suggest doing some market research in a local paper. Go door to door and tell people you are doing market research for an organization you make up and you will be able to get a general idea of who and how big your customer base will be
    "The value you put on the lost will be determined by the sacrifice you are willing to make to seek them until they are found."

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    Distinguished Member Array CT-Mike's Avatar
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    I have to agree with what gasmitty said above. Get yourself one of the commercial trailer mounted pits and start selling your product at fairs, horse pulls, etc. Have business cards to hand out to generate business catering family gatherings, parties, etc.

    Build up a good clientele base this way with a minimal cash outlay on your part, and then parlay that into a brick and mortar business.
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    It's tough to find a place that does squirrel and red eye gravy right.

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