I wrote this in 2017 just after I started working online. Publishing it here for some posterity purposes — and maybe it will help someone else!
I’d wanted to own my own restaurant for years. Sure, the vision of it changed over time, but it’s something that’s always been a dream of mine.
I remember sitting with my friends and talking about Amanda’s Place – the diner I would someday open up. We’d have Sri Lankan curry nights, and poutine, and after hours parties. There’d be laughter, and happiness, and endless chat with customers who became friends. The food we’d make would be out of this world delicious and it would be talked about cities over.
See, that place would have been amazing.
The reality was a bit different to the dream.
Going in, I knew it would be hard — but it was way harder than I ever expected. I’m a hard worker; I know how to work hard and put every effort in.
But, sometimes it isn’t enough. Circumstances change, things don’t go quite as planned.
I had a business partner who, at the time, was my best friend. But it was kind of like I was running the place on my own. The biggest takeaway about opening a business from this experience is to, if you go in with a partner, make sure you can rely on them 100%.
And make sure you get everything in writing, so that everyone is held accountable if things go south.
I learned a lot in the nearly two years of running my own restaurant. But, oof, I wish I’d known a lot more at the beginning. If I could do it all again… number 1, I wouldn’t, but number 2 – I’d do so much, so differently.
I wish that we hadn’t bought so much bulk product at first. Starting small and then buying in what we needed would have been better.
Roadworks affect business. Labour affects business when it needs to be done again, and again, and you have to close your doors. The public won’t do what they say they will.
“Open late nights, we’ll come!” No, they won’t. And you’ll be open so many more hours and have to hire so many more staff to cover the time. So that’s more money you’ll be out.
“Start doing deliveries, we’ll get a takeaway!” No, they won’t. You’ll give them a million opportunities to order from you through the day and at night and when it comes down to it, they just won’t.
“Why don’t you have a salad bar? Well – we did have a salad bar and we ended up throwing half the salad away and losing money on it, so we stopped it. “Oh, no! Bring it back, we want salad. We want to be healthy!” ….no, they don’t. No, you don’t! I’ve never seen so much food be wasted.
Have those hard conversations.
Listen to your boyfriend. He doesn’t express it well all the time but he does genuinely have your best interests at heart.
Don’t be afraid to talk to people about how you aren’t meeting your bills. How no matter how hard you’re trying, what you’re implementing, what you’re doing to try to drive up sales – sometimes it’s just not enough.
If people aren’t going to come through the door, you’re not going to hit the massive overheads that you have. Start up costs are HUGE. Bigger than you think they’re going to be. WAY bigger. You can business plan til the cows come home but things change… and not always for the better.
Also, don’t listen to weird sales guys selling you something that’s not a requirement yet. If it’s not a legal requirement yet, just chill on it. You probably don’t need it. There – saved you £1500 right off the bat.
Have a marketing budget right from the start. This is so important and something that we never even considered. How did we not consider this?!
Keep your overheads low. As low as you possibly can, unless you can be 100% guaranteed to hit the ground running.
So, why am I glad that I failed?
Because I was miserable. Nothing was working. I was fighting with my business partner, fighting with my boyfriend. I was so unhappy with my situation and I just didn’t know how to get out of it.
My restaurant didn’t end the way I would have wanted it to. We got to the point where we knew it was going to close. I wish we’d been able to say good-bye and have a proper closing down – give notice. Instead, it was taken out of our hands.
Good grief, I was embarrassed. I’ve never been more embarrassed in my entire life. I would go so far as to say I was completely humiliated. I cut ties with nearly everyone I knew in that town for fear they would make fun of me. I just couldn’t look at them. It took nearly a year for me to be comfortable walking downtown…. And even now, sometimes I get anxious about it.
So, yeah. I’m glad I failed because I just couldn’t do it anymore.
But I’m also glad it happened.
I’m glad I had the experience of opening my own business on such a large scale. I know it’s something I never want to do again, but I’ve done it. I don’t have to wonder anymore.
I learned a lot. I learned how to build an audience. How to interact better with people (still a learning curve haha but I’m getting there). How to cook on a huge scale. How to prep veggies REALLY fast. How to write badass applications. How to win awards. How to manage a small, close knit team of the best damn people in the world.
And above all else – I learned that I’m strong. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for! And I’m capable of doing great things. Things that are massive and crazy and successful.
In business, they always tell you to imagine the worst case scenario. Well, for me, the worst case scenario happened, and it wasn’t the end of the world.
So here’s to going after your dreams, failing, but coming out on top.
It’s okay to fail. You’ll be stronger because of it.