If You Want to Succeed in a Restaurant Venture, Follow the Advice in "Restaurant Success By The Numbers"

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Level-headed, business-minded entrepreneurs who want to succeed in the restaurant business today, should read Restaurant Success by the Numbers.

For more than 20 years I’ve been married to a (successful but now retired) chef and restaurateur, and I can confidently say that if more owners paid attention to all the important factors in this book, more restaurants would succeed.
Roger Fields’ book is heavy on reality.
The truth is, the restaurant business is fun (if you know what you’re doing). It can also be profitable. It’s always demanding and it can be disastrous. This book offers practical information to help “realistic dreamers” plan, finance, open and successfully bring their dream to fruition.
The author claims that the “book is not only instructional and informative, it’s also entertaining. It’s not just for people who have dreams of owning their own restaurant;” he says, “it’s also for people who simply want the inside scoop on what it really takes to plan, design, staff, open and run a successful restaurant” (p xvi).
Restaurant Success By The Numbers is an Excellent book:

  • It has great instruction and information;
  • gives actual inside scoop;
  • gives thorough and accurate coverage of  all aspects necessary for success;
  • it’s logically organized; 
  • and it applies to all restaurant concepts, including drive-through or eat-in fast food, takeout-and-delivery, food trucks, wait-staffed casual or fine dining, soup-and-sandwich lunch counters,  diners, or bakeries.

It is, however, not entertaining. Why should it be? (Maybe the publisher’s marketing team came up with that “also entertaining” nonsense?)
There are  times in life when we need to put aside our desire to be entertained, and do thorough good work. Opening and managing a restaurant is one of those times, unless you have oodles of money to fritter away.
If this book is too boring for you to read from cover to cover; then don’t open a restaurant! Running a restaurant includes boring stuff like budgeting, costing, excessive planning, procuring business and tax licenses, dealing with city, state, and federal bureaucracy, and there’s lots of math involved. All that stuff is crucial for long-term success.
There’s valuable, accurate information here, and the cover design is clever without being distracting or cutesy, but I do wish that Mr. Fields had given specific references for the facts and figures he cites in the introduction. It would have made his argument (that the restaurant business has a bright and profitable future) much stronger.
And guess what? Roger Fields is one author who managed to land a traditional publishing contract without playing the fame game. No blog, no Goodreads or Amazon author page. No Facebook page; no Twitter account. What’s up with that?
So when are you going to open your restaurant? or
Do you think the notion that we have to be “also entertained” is sometimes inappropriate? or
Maybe everything everybody is saying about how to land a traditional publishing contract is hogwash?
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

16 thoughts on “If You Want to Succeed in a Restaurant Venture, Follow the Advice in "Restaurant Success By The Numbers"”

  1. You make an interesting point about entertainment Tracy. When I read things for my day job (or when I studied for it), I don’t expect entertainment. On the other hand, when I read something about writing, I do expect an element of enjoyment – but I think perhaps that’s because writing is my love, while the day job is just that. If owning a restaurant was my thing, perhaps even the non-entertaining aspects would engage me because it was what I desperately wanted to do.

    1. Right–we can be engaged, even when we’re not being entertained.
      Now you’ve got me thinking — do I expect entertainment when reading about writing? Writing/Language/Literature is what I DO, and I don’t necessarily expect to be entertained. But I find that when writing (about writing) isn’t on some level entertaining — or at least clever (and cleverness is, to me, entertaining), I find that it’s not skillful, and therefore not worth much of my time or attention.

  2. Maybe somebody confused the word entertainment with a joy to read as hinted at by Andrea above.
    Let’s face it, I’ve read ‘how to books’ that have made me willing to do almost anything else than continue reading even one more word. It is a joy to read a book that is laid out logically, written out in layman’s terms and easy to follow. Could this be true of this particular book?
    Diana xo

    1. I would say its progression is logical. But I wouldn’t say its a joy to read. It’s kind of like digging and digging for buried treasure until your back aches.
      The joy comes when you find the gold. I think reading this book would be similar to that experience. The joy comes when you apply the principles and find that because you did, your restaurant makes money.

  3. I don’t think I’ll ever own a restaurant, Tracy, though for awhile we were tempted to buy a Bed and Breakfast in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, before we came to our senses.
    But you write such interesting reviews that I just had to jump right in. Well done.

    1. I almost wish you hadn’t come to your senses. I love Eureka Springs! I’ve spent a good amount of time there, and even set my first novel there.
      No, the novel is not available. I wrote it under a pseudonym and I’m glad I did. It was my first novel, and has some really big flaws, but I was young, and I learned from the experience.

  4. “Also entertaining” must, as you say, be some weird marketing ploy. For anyone wanting to be informed on a serious issue, surely “also entertaining” is the last thing on their mind?

    1. Exactly — and, the notion that anyone should read this book for entertainment, is ridiculous.
      It strikes me as exactly the kind of marketing ploy I despise, in that it only leads to disappointment. A false promise, in other words. That’s just wrong to do.
      But, I don’t fault the other. I’m aware of how the marketing team influences the final product. They have the last say, and if the author doesn’t comply, they won’t work to sell his/her book.

  5. There’s no way I’d open a restaurant. My one son-in-law was a chef and left the business because it was so stressful. I know how hard my friends work who own a restaurant. A favorite place of ours recently closed and the owner went to work in another state in his brother’s restaurant … while his family remained here. It is a tough life. On the plus side, we have a friend who has a successful restaurant (Dinosaur’s Bar-B-Q) and his products are sold across the U.S. He also works his butt off, but we’re delighted he does so well.
    My hat’s off to Roger Fields and others who can land a publishing contract without playing the game. May I be so fortunate some day. 😉

    1. Ken keeps threatening to open another restaurant. I’m not sure yet, where that will go. It is a stressful business, but he seems to thrive on what other people consider stressful.
      I’ll echo the “may you be so fortunate some day.” 🙂

  6. Loved your advice that if someone finds this book too boring to read, they shouldn’t open a restaurant! I have absolutely zero aspirations to open a restaurant and won’t be seeking out this book, but if I happen upon it I’d like to browse through it for a glimpse behind the scenes.

    1. Behind the scenes, you’ll find a lot of work and a lot of math.
      I think the people who succeed are not merely those who like to cook and serve food, but also those who like to play “business,” the kind, who as children, lusted after adding machines and briefcases. 🙂

  7. As the chief cook and washer-upper in my house I can honestly state that a chance to let someone else take over the duties os one of the best pleasures life has to offer. I do have the greatest of sympathy, though, for all those in that industry. How many times have I seen unreasonable patrons completely disrespecting restaurant staff, complaining about both food and service that seemed, to me, to be just fine. You are right. It is a difficult job, one that takes great skill (both business and culinary) and patience.
    As for the “making it fun” comment. I am completely in agreement. In my profession–education–I get this all the time. Demands to make it fun generally result in watering down the content and the message along with engaging in activities that are nowhere near as effective as the could be. More and more I am realizing that the single most powerful motivator for success is success itself. There is perhaps no greater satisfaction than the one that comes from doing your best work.

    1. Spot on.
      I think the current vogue of bringing “entertainment” into the classroom warps the teaching/learning encounter, putting the responsibility mostly on the teacher, when it actually should, in my opinion, be placed at least 60% on the shoulders of the learner to do the work of learning. Yes, that’s just my opinion, but I’m convinced it’s a good one.
      I have always found great satisfaction in learning or mastering something new. And it never happened because a teacher performed Shakespeare, did stand-up comedy, or played games. The best teachers were the ones who challenged me to own the material.

  8. You got me thinking here, about the reason books are written. I suppose the three reasons are information, stories to be told, and entertainment. Obviously the book you refer to falls into the first category of receiving information and one should not expect to be ‘entertained’ as such. I wonder about the second. Are we actually entertained when we read a novel (a story)? I don’t think we necessarily are. Often we read such books for relaxation and this is not strictly ‘entertainment’. What exactly is ‘entertainment’?

    1. Good question.
      Publishers and market analysts put novels and stories into the “entertainment” category, but for me, the kinds of novels I read falls under “entertainment” only in the same way that cooking falls under “entertainment.” Yes, it’s something I enjoy, but mostly I cook meals and read stories for psychological/spiritual nourishment and refreshment.
      Entertainment is something that tickles me, without my having to work for it. It’s mostly passive, an activity of “watching/observing.” It’s rarely my chosen way to pass time.

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