Thierry Rautureau on Starting a Restaurant

November 28, 2008

image Urban Spoon’s Blog interviews Chef Thierry Rautureau of Seattle’s Rover’s Restaurant on what it takes to start (and maintain) a successful restaurant. 

Years ago, my friend Kevin and I set out to write a screenplay (which we successfully completed, thank you).  Because we wanted to do it right, we read books on how to write screenplays.  The first page of one book said:

Ask yourself this question: do you want to write a screenplay or do you want to have written a screenplay?

After starting two businesses myself, I’ve always kept this in mind.  If you are going to start a business, in this case a restaurant, you have you really be into it. You can’t do it because you want the goal, you have to be invested in the work.

For restaurants, it can’t just be a business – the margins are too low, the competition too fierce, the prices too variable, and the market too uncertain.

Even if you can build good processes to control some of the costs, patrons are fickle and will only continue to come if you are truly compelling.

The urban spoon article says:

According to Thierry, only if your compulsion is so great, so irresistible, so frankly neurotic that nothing else will satisfy. Only then should you actually start a restaurant. This way, you will either prevail or the physical and economic punishment of the restaurant business will eventually "eliminate the bug".

Scary?  Maybe.  But it highlights something very important about the restaurant business.  It is a business based on passion.  Controlling costs and getting more patrons may keep the lights on, but passion brings in the people and is your fuel.

image Are there restaurants that operate purely as businesses?  Certainly.  Thierry’s words aren’t aimed at them.  They are aimed at the local owner operators who are their business.  We could name big names, but more important they’re people like Aissa at Saley Crepes and Peter Buza’s extended family at Kauai Family Restaurant. Restaurateurs whose brand is their identity and whose passion is their product.


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