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why bother?

There are restaurants I go to where I'm left with the thought, Why bother running a restaurant if you don't know what you're doing?! It being such a tough business, with so much competition, why would you set yourself up for failure by being badly understaffed and giving bad service, and/or putting out food that you MUST KNOW is not good? How long do you think you're going to get away with an inferior product?

I'm speaking somewhat rhetorically here. Just had a few clunkers recently that left me scratching my head...

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  1. Because you just know that there will be a great sale on whatever from Sysco next week. Then you can upscale your viands while protecting the bottom line. The problem is that next week never comes.

    And most people are happy with mediocrity. When was the last time you saw liver or kidneys as the special of the day?

    1 Reply

      "most people are happy with mediocrity. When was the last time you saw liver or kidneys as the special of the day?"

      I don't see the connection here.

    2. And many is the time I have wondered this also.
      I'm not sure on what board this should be on to get the attention it deserves

      1. Nobody starts any business with the thought that they are incompetent. They think they can do it and, if they have any experience in the field, feel they will not make the mistakes they saw their collegues or former boss make.

        There are a lot of moving parts in a restaurant and even if you can get the menu right and the venue right, you are at the mercy of vendors, and most of all peoples personalities. That includes staff and customers. And the show must go on no matter who didn't show up or what raw materials didn't show or were poor quality, or were screwed up in prep.

        Let's face it, there are crummy plumbers, electricians, dentists, investment counselors, and...restaurant owners and "chefs".

        10 Replies
        1. re: collardman

          I'm speaking mostly of places I go to in a pinch, for something quick near the office, near where I have an appointment, where the food is OK...but it's utter chaos every time! Short-tempered waitstaff, customers grousing, kitchen yelling at each other. I always shake my head figuratively, wondering if they'll ever get it right...

          1. re: sanglier

            Turnover is the biggest problem. With the increase in the number of restaurants comes competition to hire the best and brightest. Unfortunately there aren’t enough qualified people to go around. The employees treat ownership like they can get a job anywhere else. It’s like they’re doing you a favor by showing up. That’s why I decided to sell. Restaurants are not something you can do on your own. You need good help. I got sick of pampering the staff.

            1. re: sanglier

              "Something quick near the office" is relying on local office worker foot traffic. If there's only a few places to go to within a few minute walk from the office, they have a captive audience, regardless of how bad the food/service is.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                Every office isn't in a highly trafficked area with loads of workers. Mine is in the middle of nowhere, your premise doesn't apply here.

                1. re: sanglier

                  Read my comments again - if there are only a FEW places to go, there's a captive audience. I specifically mentioned foot traffic, but it can still include driving traffic.

                  It does still apply if there are only 3 places you drive to from the office, where to find another 15 restaurants to go to, you'd have to drive another 10-15 minutes.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I guess I'm just not absorbing the point you're making. Every restaurant is by SOMETHING that would explain people coming in. My broader point is, how do restaurants that perpetually get it wrong stay open for any length of time.

                    1. re: sanglier

                      If there is a lack of competition in a particular area, a place may not have the motivation to change.
                      For a time I worked in a small industrial park. Our lunch choices were the downstairs cafe, a 5-10 minute drive for fast food, or pricey delivery. With most employees given only 1/2 hour for a meal break, that cafe did (and still does) very well, though I felt it's offerings were sub-par and overpriced for the quality.

              2. re: sanglier

                Good lord, that sounds like the restaurant I just left a few months back! After enough of the BS that went on there at that restaurant(boy do I have some stories), the boss's daughter was the straw that broke the camel's back. She had no management authority and was just a server, yet she took it upon herself to rip into us when the restaurant got busy instead of buckling down and helping out. Before I left at the end of my shift, I let them know I was leaving that day. I normally don't quit a job on short notice, but I knew that I had become miserable there and because of that, it was time for me to leave. Thankfully, my second job(which was the career path I was pursuing) had a full time position open up just a few short days later.

                EDIT: This reply was to the post about the restaurant being utter chaos, employees yelling at each other, customers grousing, etc.

            2. It often seems to me that people who open restaurants have knowledge/experience/training in running a restaurant yet know nothing about the actual food. Or, conversely, they are great with food but don't have a talent for running a restaurant. It is a magic formula to master both.

              1. People are always telling my husband and me "Oh you cook such great food, you should open a restaurant." Luckily, we know people in the business and have never been taken in by those accolades. Unfortunately, there are lots of folks who go into the business without knowing what they are really getting into. Food can be the problem, but so can menu, location, design, service and a whole lot of other things---money, time, ego, commitment. There is one place in my town that is failing because the food is airline quality and the owner thinks guests should come to him. Another was created by someone never in the business and the food is no good. If they went onto Yelp they would see the terrible reviews but since their friends keep saying "great place" they seem forever lost....and they will close.

                1 Reply
                1. re: escondido123

                  Ah, this rings true. I recall a tiny one-man pizza place that tried to start up maybe 3 years ago.

                  Location: lousy, tucked into a stripmall, behind TGIF.
                  Decor: nonexistent. Freshly painted all white; bargain-basement chairs/tables; hand-lettered signs.
                  Kitchen: poorly setup for workflow. Looked like how his home kitchen probably worked.
                  Service: Nicest guy. Took forever. No idea of difference between relaxed home cooking and production kitchen.
                  Food: woody crust. Too-sweet sauce. Average cheese. Poor overall blend.

                  He shared that he loved pizza-making and that his friends had encouraged him. You could smell the doom walking in; once we were in, had to order so as not to humiliate him. He lasted maybe 2 months.

                2. If they stay in business, they're doing something right -- regardless of how incompetent you might think they are.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    There are restaurants that are in business today but they're getting behind in bills, not meeting payroll and will soon be out of business. I have seen more then one take down a lot of people with their incompetence which took time to become clear.

                  2. There is a "homestyle" restaurant in the area where I lived for many years. We ate there twice, and realized that the food was simply awful Reheated stuff. When you receive food you know you could cook better, and would have bought better quality to begin with, you know this place is a clunker. But it does big business! Lots of elder folk go there, for one thing. I guess they know their market. But really its awful food.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: sueatmo

                      I live in Montana most of the year, you're describing half of the restaruants here/there.

                      1. re: sueatmo

                        "When you receive food you know you could cook better, and would have bought better quality to begin with, you know this place is a clunker."

                        You've just described the vast majority of restaurants in the country.

                        1. re: MGZ

                          This is so true and very sad. People go in droves to crappy restaurants and then call people who have higher standards snobs. Very frustrating for those of us who just want fresh, well-prepared food.

                          1. re: sandylc

                            Agree. Fresh and well-prepared food is all I want--but often don't get.

                            Perhaps the fresh part is the problem. To get the same fresh food every day of the year, you have to rely on a big supplier with access to the same foods year round. Which might explain the reliance of mid range restaurants on broccoli as a side.

                        2. re: sueatmo

                          I have to figure that simply awful reheated stuff IS "homestyle" for many people.

                          1. re: Fydeaux

                            Probably that is true. Unfortunately. I also think many, many people love starch in almost any form. Even if the menu offering is subpar, pouring a little gravy over it, or serving it with sweet cornbread or frying it, will satisfy an awfully lot of people.

                        3. I think the answer probably falls into one of two basic categories.

                          Firstly, the owners were enamoured with the idea of running a restaurant and didnt really appreciate what was needed. I ended up having an "exchange of views" with an owner after I posted on a review site (the one that might advise you about your trip). He simply wouldnt accept that his place wasnt all that good.

                          Secondly, the owners don't care about how shite the place really is. A common problem in touristy areas, and the like, where repeat business is not that important.

                          1. Profit before product. It works for all the chains out there, why can't it work for everyone who wants to make a buck? Hell, even a lot of 'hounds figure out a way to rationalize supporting such endeavors, even if it's only "because my ________ wanted to go there" . . . .

                            1. I've been a retail entepreneur for over 40 years. There are so many times I have been baffled in restaurants and other retail businesses where I think to myself: "What are they thinking?"
                              So many businesses out here on the East End of Long Island are "Hobbies" in my opinion. Only open during the busy Summer season and closed for the Winter when the "trust fund babies" head off to St Martin etc..

                              1. We have recently dined at three such restaurants, and we both thought, "Hey, Gordon Ramsay should come here with "Kitchen Nightmares," as the folk were nice, but had no clue."


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Well, at least the folks were nice to you. Do the businesses have a lot of repeat customers? If not, perhaps you should write a letter to the owner/s.

                                  Or you could post a review in Yelp.

                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                    The folk at two were nice, and really trying.

                                    The third, well I nearly had to chase the chef with a cleaver - just bad, bad, bad.


                                2. I generally prefer to go out to restaurants that cook food that is something I wouldn't cook for myself at home, or can't cook as well as the eating out version, or are very time consuming or annoying to cook. I tend to avoid restaurants that cook food I could make myself, better and of higher quality ingredients than what they serve.

                                  But, I am a better cook than a lot of people, and have a much wider repertoire of styles, and I enjoy cooking.

                                  I know lots of people who hate to cook, or who can't cook, or who don't have cooking facilites at home. If what you're used to eating is heat to serve meals, pasta with jarred tomato sauce, frozen pizza, with Lipton's Noodles and sauce as your "home cooked" option, then some of those crappy restaurants end up looking pretty decent.

                                  Some restaurants aren't very good, but get by because their location is good, or they have little competition, or they have longer hours than other places (if Dennys is the only thing open when you want a restaurant at midnight, that's where you go).