Industry Trends

10 Restaurateurs Advice to Their Younger Selves

By Jackie Prange

Restaurateur smiling
Photograph of debbie hill

“The most difficult part of running a restaurant is finding dependable and hard working employees. I always make sure to call their references before hiring.  Make sure you’re calling previous managers, not their friends or co-workers. I know we’re limited in what we can ask, but I’ve found that if you ask, “Would you hire them back again?” and they hesitate, that means there was an issue.”
 – Debbie Hill Thomas Hill Organics, Paso Robles, CA

Photograph of pedro leon

“When I opened my own restaurant, I was very focused on French food. Unfortunately the concept didn’t take off as I’d hoped.  A lot of people in my neighborhood understand French food, but my concept was too much. I had to learn to adjust to my customers, my guests. A lot of people will enter this industry with an idea and be hell bent on sticking to it. But at the end of the day, it’s not what YOU want. Yes, you pay the bills, but if your guests are asking for something and you’re not adjusting to give it to them, that’s when you’ll start to fail.”
Pedro Leon @ Kiss My FrenchNew York, NY

Photograph of dennis tay

“One thing I wish I knew when I started out in the industry is that balance is everything. Not just when it comes to food, but also when it comes to living. I started cooking late, so I chose to fully commit myself to the industry to get where I wanted to be faster. I sacrificed my entire previous life  to become a chef.  My relationships with family and friends suffered, and so did my mental and physical health. I wish I knew when to slow down and when to say no back then. I missed out on so much that really matters. I’m not even close to there yet, but I’m finally learning how to balance my work and personal life. By doing so, everything is brighter and always moving in a positive direction.” 
– Dennis Tay DaiLo, Toronto, ON

Photograph of erica trabulsi

“Take care of your physical health. Cooking and running a kitchen is HARD physical work. You’re on your feet for 14+ hours a day, stirring, whisking, chopping, kneading doughs, carrying 50-pound bags of potatoes and rice up the stairs, exposed to hot oil and boiling water… it’s rough. Don’t underestimate the power of yoga and exercise on your days off. Your body will thank you in the years to come.”
– Erica Trabulsi @ TouchBistro: Support TechnicianToronto, ON

Photograph of vivek hans

Don’t fall in love with your menu. Instead be prepared to adapt to your market and then ensure consistency to secure repeat customers. ”
– Vivek Hans Vah Cafe, Riyadh, SA

Photograph of mikha diaz

“Don’t make decisions based on fear when they should be based on vision. I would like my younger self to have faith in the process and operate from a place of vision, rather than a place of fear, and to show herself the same kind of care and attention to individual needs that she showed to her team members and her guests.”
– Mikha Diaz @ Les Arceaux, Berkeley, CA 

Photograph of josh hillinger

“Being able to admit when you’re wrong shows true strength and a sense of honesty, integrity, and vulnerability.  Regardless of the position you hold in an organization, it’s important to remember we’re all human, we make mistakes, and we’re not always right. If a leader is always ‘right,’ they are not a true leader.”
– Josh Hillinger Steam Whistle Brewing, Toronto, ON 

Photograph of josie rudderham

“Don’t change a thing. Every struggle, every setback, every time you screamed into the dark – it was worth it. Entrepreneurship is a series of challenges looking for creative solutions, so the more adversity you’ve encountered on the way up, the easier it is to shrug it off the panic and get down to business. Learn from other people’s mistakes before they become yours.” 
– Josie Rudderham Cake and Loaf Bakery, Hamilton, ON

Photograph of harry dimitriadis

“Concept matters, details matter, product matters – but people matter more. In our industry there are only two groups of people: the people who come through the doors and the people who keep them coming through the doors. Seek great people, spend time on them and with them with a common goal, and focus on creating great experiences. Keep people who come from a place of energy and enthusiasm. Do not keep people who don’t understand the vision and don’t respect the process.”
– Harry Dimitriadis Jameson’s Pub, Calgary, AB

Photograph of melanie splatt

“People matter more than process or product. Hiring, training, trusting, and mentoring your staff is the most important use of your time and energy. Hire slow, fire fast. Trust staff to own the process and the product, but set clear expectations and vision, and give them enough leeway to allow them to fail gently. Don’t assume they have the same experience and wisdom as you, so share it often.”
– Melanie Splatt TouchBistro: Product Manager, Toronto, ON 

Photo of Jackie Prange
by Jackie Prange

Jackie was a Content Marketing Specialist and Social Media strategist at TouchBistro before moving into business development role. She covered the latest food, dining, and technology trends for the restaurant industry. A lover of all things coffee, Jackie’s hobbies include breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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