Every restaurateur in New Mexico knows running a restaurant requires a tremendous amount of hard work and discipline. The hours are long and grueling. As in any small business,  many owners split their time between cooking, accounting and recruiting the right staff. How can a restaurant win in this highly competitive industry? Zagat offers some insights  from ten different chefs -10 rules for running a restaurant.

Rule No. 1: Streamline

Josh Grinker, Chef/Co-Owner, Kings County Imperial and Stone Park Café, Brooklyn, New York

“A restaurant is a factory and a retail store built into one operation. It’s often a lot for one or two people to handle and details can be overlooked, which then leads to either inconsistencies in the product or in managerial oversights that affect the bottom line. To mitigate these problems it is important to streamline as much as possible and to develop systems that make sense; every restaurant is different and will have different ways of approaching this.

Rule No. 2: Don’t Get Distracted

Johanna Ware, Chef-Owner, Smallwares, Portland, Oregon

“The biggest challenge I find is wearing so many hats at every moment of the day. The worst part about that is that it pulls me away from the kitchen, which is where my heart is, so I get frustrated. I basically throw my to-do list out the window within the first hour of my day because so many new issues come up at every second. But no matter what those issues are, I still have to ensure the quality of my food and service. I know that sounds obvious, but people have to enjoy their experience and want to tell their friends about it. It is the best free PR you can get.”

Rule No. 3: Stick To Your Guns

Katy Kindred, Co-Owner/Sommelier, Kindred, Davidson, North Carolina

“You simply can’t be everything to everyone. In our business there are a lot of failed attempts, which is scary. But one thing is for sure — assuming you have your ducks in a row with accounting, staffing, legal and all the things that go along with any small business — your ‘concept’ is going to work or it’s not. You have to decide what you’re going to do and stick to it, because even if it’s not working, changing who you are and what you’re about midcourse sends all the wrong signals and will put any restaurant in a death spiral. That is huge.”

More Tips for Success

Rule No. 4: Stay Consistent

Kevin Nashan, Chef-Owner, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., St. Louis, MO

“It’s all a challenge, but staying consistent is probably the biggest because there are so many moveable parts. You have to almost be possessed about making people happy, which really means doing whatever possible to make that happen.”

Rule No. 5: Pay Attention to the “Boring” Stuff

Rob Weland, Chef-Owner, Garrison, Washington, DC (pictured above)

“There’s so much you need to do: the menu, wine list, bar program and striking the right tone in the front of the house. Then there’s all the stuff that’s way behind the scenes that customers don’t see. But they are so important because without them, even if you have the best food and service in the world, the place isn’t going to function. I’m talking about the legal foundation of the business, the banking, the finances, insurance, bookkeeping, payroll, HR, setting up your utilities accounts so you have electricity and gas — all the things they don’t teach you in cooking school. You take that for granted when you work for a hotel or restaurant group because it’s all built in and someone else deals with it. When you’re an indie restaurant, you’ve got to do it all.”

Rule No. 6: It’s Always About the Guest

Aileen V. Reilly, Co-Owner, Beast + Bottle, Denver, CO

“The most important thing to remember is that the guests keeps your doors open, not your ego. We strive every day to create something that both staff and guests can believe in.”

Rule No. 7: Surround Yourself with the Right People

Cameron Grant, Chef-Owner, Osteria Langhe, Chicago, IL (pictured above)

“Working with people is never easy, and no one is perfect. Building a team of folks who all have the passion for the same goal is not easy. My partner Aldo and I share that energy for everything that goes into Osteria Langhe. I have had a really hard time finding people who are willing to work in our small, hot, unglamorous kitchen. I am really happy with my team now, but it did not come easy. My chef de cuisine, Ryan Baffa, and sous-chef, Mark Becker, opened with me, and all three of us worked together for a couple years before this project. No matter what happened in that kitchen, the three of us got it done. In this business you have to continue to train your assets. Sometimes it’s better to say goodbye, but investing time in an employee who is willing to learn and shares a passion for the common goal is priceless. It’s how good restaurants survive.”

Rule No. 8: Don’t Be Cheap

Danny Serfer, Chef-Owner, Blue Collar and Mignonette, Miami, FL

“Buy the best you can afford in terms of food, materials and, most importantly, staff. The first two are obvious; the latter is the most important. Having great people who feel secure helps them provide great food and service and that translates into long-term repeat guests. As an owner I have to realize I can’t do everything and be on-site all the time, so I have to allow my people to do their jobs without micro-managing. If I have hired good people, trained them well and treat them right than I have much less to worry about.”

Rule No. 9: Set Aside a Stash of Extra Cash

Leah Cohen, Chef-Owner, Pig and Khao, New York, NY (pictured at top)

“There are always going to be things that put you behind your launch date, which all cost money. The more realistic you are with your projected opening, the better it is in the end. For someone trying to open a small restaurant on a limited budget, make sure you have ‘burn’ money for the first few months when you are still trying to figure everything out. When we first opened we definitely didn’t have enough money set aside and were not as busy as we had anticipated. It was a struggle in the beginning, but you live and you learn.”

Rule No. 10: Find Balance

Zach Meloy, Chef-Owner, Better Half, Atlanta, GA (pictured above)

“Drawing a line between the restaurant and home is a challenge for me, especially because my wife and mother-in-law are integral parts of Better Half’s team. We started the restaurant from a supper club we based out of our house, and family and work have always been interwoven. It’s especially important to find that balance now, with our second baby on the way. In starting small, we’ve continually tried to figure out how to make something out of nothing. We’ve been forced into being creative in order to achieve our goals, and because of that, we take little for granted. Every tiny bit matters.”

Get the full article from Zagat here.