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Old 07-18-2012, 01:45 PM   #51
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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The idea of trailers is they are much less of a sunk cost and have none of the hassles of employees until you are reasonably successful. You'll need much less volume to be successful and can pivot a lot easier.

Still might be a bad idea, and he needs to learn a lot more before actually doing it, but for a noob, food trailers >>>> restaurants. If the food trailer takes off, you can always turn it into a restaurant with more trailers to serve the old business if demand is sufficient.
Yeah this doesn't sound completely insane. At the end of the day the food industry has a well worn path to success: just like every other business. It only seems like that's not the case. I think the reason so many people get into it despite having negligible odds of success is that the barriers to entry are really low.

Opening a successful restaurant starts years and years before the doors actually open with the owner learning the ropes working for other people. There is no licensing process to be qualified to open a restaurant, and that's a good thing. Basically you go to work at a restaurant in the kitchen/front of house at the age of 18 and bust your ass 10 hours a day for a solid decade. You can also go to culinary school and go the chef route (which involves working for other people for again... at least 3-5 years learning the ropes). Regardless the biggest hurdle to opening a restaurant isn't capital (because if you're a great bet to open a restaurant financing will mob you)... It's expertise. It's just such a tremendously hard business.
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Old 07-18-2012, 04:32 PM   #52
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

This isn't what this thread is about, but if you really wanna make a lot of money in the restaurant business, you should get a place that sells a lot of alcohol/turns into a bar or something after dinner-hours.

I somewhat like the idea of a food trailer, though. Place it around drunk people, and you will be sure to sell a lot of kebabs.

It's pretty hilarious that you somehow think eating greasy (albeit tasty) kebabs goes hand in hand with being educated (but this might be because I live in hipster Europe with kebab places everywhere and not some random midwestern town).
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Old 07-18-2012, 05:52 PM   #53
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

I've worked in multiple restaurants in my 20s while going to college. One fine dining, a bar/restaurant, a dumpy one, etc.

It's incredibly hard. Even the bad places aren't easy. It's stressful, I've seen fights break out all the time. Customers are terrible to deal with. It can be cyclical. Bad weather can be crushing.

I'm telling you, it's beyond difficult, I'd almost agree "suicidal" is the right term. Unless you have done it before or have some serious expert consultation going on, the chances of success are very very small.
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Old 07-18-2012, 06:08 PM   #54
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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I've worked in multiple restaurants in my 20s while going to college. One fine dining, a bar/restaurant, a dumpy one, etc.

It's incredibly hard. Even the bad places aren't easy. It's stressful, I've seen fights break out all the time. Customers are terrible to deal with. It can be cyclical. Bad weather can be crushing.

I'm telling you, it's beyond difficult, I'd almost agree "suicidal" is the right term. Unless you have done it before or have some serious expert consultation going on, the chances of success are very very small.
I seriously think I'd rather own a number of lotto tickets with a purchase price equal to the investment required to open a restaurant rather than own the restaurant. I've told my wife (this was a long time ago when a friend of hers tried to get us to invest in his new restaurant... now failed ldo) that if I ever say that I want to open a restaurant I want to be committed to a mental institution... Because clearly the wiring up there has a serious short.
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Old 07-18-2012, 06:49 PM   #55
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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I think the message that you shouldn't commit significant amounts of money to extremely risky ventures that you have no experience in is quite good and appropriate. It's not a large jump to say to someone if you have never traded commodity futures you shouldn't drop $100k+ into a trading account to have a go at it... Seems like a pretty analogous situation to me.
Actually, when you decide to gamble it up trading commodity futures at least you have a quick out. You can liquidate your holdings and close the account in a day or two.

But when you start your restaurant, you can't just walk away on Friday. You have leases, inventory, equimpent, outstanding wages to pay, notice to give. You will get 50% for your month old oven if you are lucky.
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Old 07-18-2012, 08:24 PM   #56
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

Food Truck/ Trailer is def the way to go if you can. So much less overhead and being able to change your location with ease is something that every business owner from the beginning of time has wished for.

However, I don't tend to like restaurants as good investments. There's a LOT of them. The problem is that a decent number of people love to cook and dream of opening there own spot. This means that a lot of people are willing to do it even if it is not he most +ev investment. In any industry, this leads to a saturated market that is not a good place to maximize your investment. I think of vineyards in much the same way. The way you make good money in business is by doing something that no one else wants/thinks of doing, not by doing what everyone dreams of. In order to make that work, you have to come up with something really special.
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Old 07-18-2012, 09:22 PM   #57
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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The way you make good money in business is by doing something that no one else wants/thinks of doing, not by doing what everyone dreams of. In order to make that work, you have to come up with something really special.
If you want to become a billionaire, yeah, you have to do something special no one else has done before. Chances are that you will fail 99% of the time, though.

If you want to become a millionaire, you should go with proven business ideas that have a very high chance of success. Cities are full of burger and pizza places not because all the chefs out there want to make burgers and pizza, but because it's a formulaic business with verifiable demand, and predictable returns. In contrast, the weird concept restaurants seem to be hot one month and closed the next.
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Old 07-18-2012, 11:52 PM   #58
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

Jesus, no one else is allowed to say how terrible or hard it is to start a successful restaurant in this thread again....unless you have a real world story to share about a first hand experience with it.

We get it.
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:29 AM   #59
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

Although bored socials arguments seem a bit harsh, I agree with him most of the way.
I began working in restaurants when I was 15. I was part of a somewhat famous restaurant as it was expanding.
The restaurant went from having 3 delivery drivers on the weekend to 8 drivers. The boss/manager really knew how to keep **** running managing employees, carrying himself well with customers from catering parties and advertising etc...
Definitely learned a lot from my Italian boss. 2-3 years later I managed a Turkish restaurant for a friend as a fillin, his other guy suddenly quit or something. In my tenure, his revenues nearly doubled and I really wanted to buy the restaurant from him but was in college at the time and parents were really against it.
There were some things that I would argue with him about. Like he was really stupid when it came to the restaurant business and being good with customers.
for example : I would always preach to him the importance of a great atmosphere, that he needed to bring in American television or ESPN to have people watching sports at his restaurants. Instead he would put Turkish television all day.
- He would be extremely too nice to customers to the point where it got annoying and almost looked desperate.
-He would shoot down ideas of putting nicer signs, newer menus, flyers.

I wound up leaving the job at end of the summer as school was starting. He sold the store 2 months later

Moral of the story is, if you Start a restaurant, you should probably have at least 2-3 years under your built and by that I mean know all the ins and outs from making food to folding napkins or you better have a real good manager that really wants you to succeed
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Old 07-19-2012, 01:11 AM   #60
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

My initial thinking was to do a total hole in the wall type place for walk-in/walk-out with a few tables in front of the counter and a bar running against one of the walls with some stools and if there is room, some tables outside. this is super common for Chinese restaurants. i would not be doing any decorating at all, besides plastering menus and stuff like that about the food on the walls. menu would be beef/chicken gyros, and then already prepared/food court ready to go style Indian curries and rice. this would be cooked in the restaurant although also possible to just cook in my home and bring into the restaurant, it is not like cooking curries is terribly hard work. they would be frozen/fridged and reheated. i could probably get away with just finding a decent pita bread supplier for the gyros. then i would need to just have certain veggies/toppings cut and sauces prepared.

not sure why i would need $2m or 5 years experience for this.
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Old 07-19-2012, 01:17 AM   #61
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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However, I don't tend to like restaurants as good investments. There's a LOT of them. The problem is that a decent number of people love to cook and dream of opening there own spot. This means that a lot of people are willing to do it even if it is not he most +ev investment. In any industry, this leads to a saturated market that is not a good place to maximize your investment. I think of vineyards in much the same way. The way you make good money in business is by doing something that no one else wants/thinks of doing, not by doing what everyone dreams of. In order to make that work, you have to come up with something really special.
but wtf are you supposed to do in 2012 unless you are a computer geek that nobody has done before? at least i am trying to offer something that does not exist in this market, like the type of REAL food you see on Drive In Diners and Dives. I would be thrilled if someone opened this type of place around here for gyros/Indian curries but i might be in the minority.
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Old 07-19-2012, 01:21 AM   #62
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

food trucks are expensive, no?
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Old 07-19-2012, 07:59 AM   #63
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

The OP just said that he doesn't see how running a small hole in the wall restaurant could be hard work, and mentioned what he's seen on a TV show. OP you're watching the wrong TV show... Get netflix and watch the British seasons of Kitchen Nightmares.

And please realize that cooking/running/being there at a restaurant is insanely hard work. I used to go to a chinese take out place (like you're describing) all the time and would occasionally chat with the owner. That guy was there open to close 7 days a week. That ended up being 70 hours a week or something.
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Old 07-19-2012, 11:57 AM   #64
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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Originally Posted by CaliBobby View Post
My initial thinking was to do a total hole in the wall type place for walk-in/walk-out with a few tables in front of the counter and a bar running against one of the walls with some stools and if there is room, some tables outside. this is super common for Chinese restaurants. i would not be doing any decorating at all, besides plastering menus and stuff like that about the food on the walls. menu would be beef/chicken gyros, and then already prepared/food court ready to go style Indian curries and rice. this would be cooked in the restaurant although also possible to just cook in my home and bring into the restaurant, it is not like cooking curries is terribly hard work. they would be frozen/fridged and reheated. i could probably get away with just finding a decent pita bread supplier for the gyros. then i would need to just have certain veggies/toppings cut and sauces prepared.

not sure why i would need $2m or 5 years experience for this.
my experience is on the limited side since i never really owned a restaurant. worked in 4 different ones (none hole in the walls, all were medium sized), got in on of them a few months after opening so i saw what people went through early on. i'm also the son of restaurant owners, so i have some perspective on the home life (and i did get some feel for ownership/management).


you may not need 5 years experience but it sure as heck won't hurt, and more likely, it'll really help. even the hole in the wall might have 3-4 people working there. 2 out front, 2 in the kitchen. if you can't do the 2 most specialized jobs in the place you describe (make drinks and cook) it'll be rough when someone doesn't show up to work. your employees will also tend to listen to you more and grumble less when you ask/tell them to do things (they understand that you're expectations of them aren't stupid). it'll also give you contacts for people who can fill in at the restauant in a bind, give the names of good distributors and repairmen. and as others have said it is harder than it looks, having experience helps prepare you for just the stresses of it.

cooking curries, buying pitas, cutting some meat might not be hard (well cutting meat properly can be dangerous, seen quite a few people in emergency rooms) when serving yourself or your family, but now your doing it for a lot more people. been to a lot of places for thanksgiving and i've seen a lot of stressed out hosts, this is worse. customers tend to come in rushes. some aren't very patient and often don't realize that you have other customers to deal with. your staff might not be experienced enough to handle the stress so now they're stressing you out too (or they're sick, or just in a bad mood). and during that rush you're dishwasher breaks, and the health inspector comes, and you run out of change for the register. it's a bit extreme, but i've seen it happen, and there's a lot more things that can go wrong than what i listed. unexpected things occur daily. and if you're the boss, chances are everyone will be looking to you to deal with the problems, all the while customers need serving, checks need to be processed, food needs to keep going out.

as for the money you need, it's more than just startup costs. you're not a celebrity chef, you probably won't get much business right away (even with a huge investment in promotion, a lot of your business will still come from the wait for someone else to try it first people) depending on location of course (but places with heavy traffic also come with much higher rent) so even with a quality product you very likely will lose money for the year or so (and that includes not being paid a salary for the time you, and your family put in) until enough people give you a shot. if you have enough money set aside you can hang in there till business picks up (worst case you'll need to be able to cover rent, insurance, wages, permits, utilities and licenses out of pocket). but sometimes even with a good product you'll have to shut down. 3 of the restaurants i worked in failed. 2 of them were a quality product with experienced people working there. business got better every month. bosses just ran out of money

by the way, i never encountered it since all the cooking and prep was done on site everywhere i worked, so i don't know, but the health department might have issues with you serving food that was made at home since they didn't inspect your home. if you decide to take the plunge, keep that in mind
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:10 PM   #65
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

for some restaurants that just get by, even that 70 hours is low (even if you only open 6 days a week which you might not be able to afford). there at 10:30 so you can start serving 11:30. close the kitchen 9:30 and leave 10. 30 minutes at the distributor or bank every morning (i really think i'm underestimating). that's a 12 hour day. and it assumes that you have time to do the books during the downtime between lunch and dinner rushes. on a busy day, all your downtime gets taken up by food and table prep (cutting, chopping, napkin folding, emergency run to the grocery store). so sometimes you add an hour at home doing the books.

when you make it big someone else can do a lot of this for you, but not that many make it big, and i would say even less start out big
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:11 PM   #66
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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food trucks are expensive, no?
Compared to a restaurant? Not even close. If you are asking this question, you basically are dead in the water. You are flushing any money you invest in your idea straight down the toilet. I'd invest in OrangePages man before you. At least his money sink has a smaller capacity for failure.
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:24 PM   #67
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

You don't have to theorize. You don't have to hypothesize. You don't have to make guesses as to whether an ethnic restaurant would work in your town.

Do they have town festivals, first fridays, swap meets, farmers markets, etc.?

If so, open a booth during a couple of those events and serve your ethnic recipes. Try shawarma one week. Indian food the next week. Filipino food the week after that.

Nothing beats real time responses and feedback from real people. Test. Test. Test. Let the market tell you what they are willing to pay for. Read the book "the Lean Startup" and get started with your "MVPs". Then "pivot."
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:25 PM   #68
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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Is there any money in this? These towns seem to have only Americanized Chinese food and of course the usual fast food chains and some local diners. We have no experience but were thinking to start a restaurant. There would be no competition. Ideas are Shawarma and/or Indian Food.

Are only educated people living in a city interested in eating delicious ethnic food?

It is interesting that nobody has actually mentioned what this stuff is and what ethnic food it is. (Doner / Donair)
I laugh because I sell boxes and one of my customers buys boxes to put his product in. The company is called Great Gyros.. it is Greek and he also asked me to see if I could source the plastic cones that the meat is placed into when it is processed. I know meat as well, (family was in the meat packing industry for 50 years) The meat is put into a silent cutter and blended with spices and binders.. it is.. poured into a plastic cone with a rigid cardboard tube in the middle and cooled until the binder sets. The company also makes and sells the Two doner standup rotisseries.
There are enough Greek and Persian (he says this is very popular Persian food) restaurants in my town that he just sells them a few cases of the 10kg cones every week. The restaurants are like Greek/Persian Fast food.. similar to a pizza slice shop. Walk in, buy a pita pocket/wrap, fill it with meat, and other fillings.. walk out and eat it on the go.
To make the meat (on the cones) as an individual is like making your own sausage. It is very hard to get set up for the first run.
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:27 PM   #69
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

http://www.greatgyros.com/http://
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:31 PM   #70
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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It is interesting that nobody has actually mentioned what this stuff is and what ethnic food it is. (Doner / Donair)
I laugh because I sell boxes and one of my customers buys boxes to put his product in. The company is called Great Gyros.. it is Greek and he also asked me to see if I could source the plastic cones that the meat is placed into when it is processed. I know meat as well, (family was in the meat packing industry for 50 years) The meat is put into a silent cutter and blended with spices and binders.. it is.. poured into a plastic cone with a rigid cardboard tube in the middle and cooled until the binder sets. The company also makes and sells the Two doner standup rotisseries.
There are enough Greek and Persian (he says this is very popular Persian food) restaurants in my town that he just sells them a few cases of the 10kg cones every week. The restaurants are like Greek/Persian Fast food.. similar to a pizza slice shop. Walk in, buy a pita pocket/wrap, fill it with meat, and other fillings.. walk out and eat it on the go.
To make the meat (on the cones) as an individual is like making your own sausage. It is very hard to get set up for the first run.
Kronos makes it easy for anyone to go into the shawarma/gyros business.

I'm actually thinking of fusioning it like: "shawarma burritos" or "shawarma rice bowls".
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Old 07-19-2012, 01:40 PM   #71
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

This thread is a gold mine for insights on running restaurants.
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Old 07-19-2012, 01:44 PM   #72
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Is there any money in this? These towns seem to have only Americanized Chinese food and of course the usual fast food chains and some local diners. We have no experience but were thinking to start a restaurant. There would be no competition. Ideas are Shawarma and/or Indian Food.

Are only educated people living in a city interested in eating delicious ethnic food?

Generally people want to see an Indian preparing their Indian food, Thai people preparing their Thai food, Mexicans preparing Mexican food...it adds to the authentic feel. I woul think Thai is a safer choice it's more established on the west coast it seems. Also if you're going to open a restaurant, work in one for at least 6 months prior. Don't rush your opening and don't expect a profit in the first 5 years
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Old 07-19-2012, 02:41 PM   #73
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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Originally Posted by CaliBobby View Post
but wtf are you supposed to do in 2012 unless you are a computer geek that nobody has done before? at least i am trying to offer something that does not exist in this market, like the type of REAL food you see on Drive In Diners and Dives. I would be thrilled if someone opened this type of place around here for gyros/Indian curries but i might be in the minority.
There are a million that have not been done before. I'm not saying invent a whole new industry. I'm saying add/change something about a standard model. Since we're talking food, look at chipotle. Yea, burritos have been done before, but chipotle did it differently. They provided a customers with a new experience.

Most people that have restaurants are just buying themselves a <100k a year job that they love doing. They are not making an actual investment. They do it cause they love it.


@dc_publius
You shouldn't be expecting to make huge returns off of a burger joint though. The market is generally saturated. The only edge you have is if you are actually good at running a business, which few people are. If you can't provide customers with something different, or save costs in some new way then you really can't expect above average returns, especially in the saturated restaurant business.

My main point is that there is more money in something that people don't really want to do (ex. garbage collection) than in something that many people love (ex. own a good restaurant.) That is a fairly standard business concept imo.
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Old 07-19-2012, 02:45 PM   #74
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

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We have no experience but were thinking to start a restaurant.
/thread
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Old 07-19-2012, 03:08 PM   #75
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Re: Ethnic food in a small white town

Wow! I can't believe I'm about to post in a thread where it appears that I actually have more experience than any of the other posters. If you have no experience in the restaurant business - DO NOT OPEN ONE! If you are young and have the money to burn, go ahead. You certainly wouldn't be the first inexperienced individual to start a successful restaurant business, but you would be one of the FEW. Another poster said that you would have to work around 70 hours a week as an owner, well, go ahead and add another 70 hours and that would be a more accurate number. Go ahead and buy yourself a nice cot to setup in your office. Profit is not measured in dollars, it's measured in pennies. Save every teaspoon of product, soda pop is a huge money maker, keep track of labor costs...I'm going to stop rambling now. Work at a couple of restaurants, take a couple of years, and then make your decision. Good Luck, OP. You're gonna need it....
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