How Restaurateurs Avoid the Perils of Owning the Only Company They’ve Ever Known

Sitting in the dining room of one of my clients, we tried to figure out what this super-successful business leader had in common with some of my other clients.

Then it hit me – he had never worked in a company he didn’t own!

I’ve been running my business for almost 30 years, and it surprised me just how many of my clients’ names I could rattle off who were in this club: people who own and run a company that is the only one they’ve ever worked in.

Or the only one where they’ve served in a leadership position.

That is both the best and worst thing that ever happened to them and their companies.

The Hidden High Cost of Club Membership


Turns out that club is not so exclusive. 

But there is a hidden high cost to membership.

You can start with one restaurant and build that to a successful independent multi-unit organization like the ones I advise.

Or you can take over your family business – the one where you washed dishes at age 14.

People who do this have incredible companies with a strong feeling of heritage, pride, lifelong commitment, and an encyclopedic knowledge of what makes their restaurants work (or not work).

What they don’t have is a great understanding about how other companies do things. They live off the grid, but don’t know it.

The fact that these people tend to promote from within compounds the issue – unless they talk to their peers, join their local restaurant association, spend a lot of time researching best practices, or work with me or another advisor.

What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You


It is exciting and inspirational to see how well these great, successful, profitable companies prosper while missing one or two pieces essential to the way the industry works now.

Maybe they don’t quantify their culture.

Maybe they don’t sell at the table.

Maybe they don’t talk to their guests.

Maybe they don’t have a P&L that is accurate and organized correctly.

Maybe they don’t have a bonus plan that works for them.

That’s a lot of maybes – and there are more.

The (seemingly magical) trick I perform when working with these people is to catapult their organizations forward with twin turbo momentum.

This happens when we add new pieces to an already-successful restaurant company.

Over to you. Are a member of this club? Do you know someone who is? How will you reach outside to take advantage of all the industry knows about running an outstanding restaurant company in the 21st century?