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How To Explain Running A Restaurant to Someone Who Knows Nothing About It

There are many people who dream of running their own restaurant, bakery, pizzeria, or food truck. And the job does sound nice – you love to cook or bake, and everyone tells you your food is delicious, so what could be better than making food and getting paid for it? That’s living the dream at its finest.

Only … it doesn’t work like that. Any restaurateur will tell you that the “dream” is a bit different from reality. There are often a lot of facets of running a business that they didn’t know about or didn’t account for until they were already involved. 

A restaurant owner is in the office every day, from well before opening to well after closing. They are chefs, bakers, food artists, servers, hosts, mechanics, bookkeepers, phone operators, order takers, dishwashers, cleaners, bartenders, mediators, and cashiers. By nature, they must be able to do almost anything whenever it’s necessary.

Of course, due to changing societal norms, many restaurants are cutting their hours, but even then, restaurants are open an average of 16 hours per day, 6 days per week. In addition, profit margins are, on average, somewhere in the 3-5 percent window.

So the hours are long and the pay is low … but the rewards are high, when seeing the satisfaction on the faces of those who come in.

Here are some comments from restaurant owners we’ve spoken to:

“As an owner, I was in the office in my restaurant this morning cutting fish – that’s how busy we’ve been – which I enjoy doing; it’s just not what I was planning on doing.”
-Tony from Virginia

All too often, running a restaurant involves a lot of management and decision making that are totally separate from the work in the kitchen. In fact, many owners find themselves having to hire either a chef or a manager to make up for the fact that all of that work is hard and takes a long time. It’s nearly impossible to do it all on your own. Or, even worse, you end up doing it all, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

“I was noticing that my team was expending a lot of time on the phone taking orders that can easily be taken online.”
– Marcelo from California

A restaurant owner has to notice what’s taking up most of employees’ time and how to free up that time for work that’s more useful overall to business. You have to find solutions, streamline processes, and improve working conditions. In this case, Marcelo automated his phone system with Reachify, which greatly freed up his staff. Find out more here.

“Employees would just not show up. They would just not come in, and you’ve got someone 6 or 7 hours into a shift whose shift is now over and there’s no one to take over … you have to close.”
-Archie from California

Restaurant owners have to pick up the slack whenever an employee drops the ball, even if it’s inadvertent. It’s about making hard decisions when the stakes are high. 

“I’ve heard stores are the toughest, because it’s hard to find staffing and it’s hard to find people to be able to go.”
-Giovanni from Maine

Everyone is struggling with staffing issues in the hospitality industry right now, and statistically that seems unlikely to change any time soon. Restaurant owners struggle every day with trying to find enough people so they can keep their doors open. 


Running a restaurant is a lot of really, really hard work. Most people don’t really grasp the sheer amount of tiring work that goes into the food they take for granted every time they eat out. It’s not easy, but it has its own reward, which all successful restaurateurs find worth it.

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