Restaurateurs are, first and foremost, businessmen.
Kunkel shared one revelation: "A line out the door does not guarantee a profit." Understanding a balance sheet, on the other hand, might help. "I opened a restaurant . . . by basically pulling a Ponzi scheme on myself," he told the audience only half jokingly. The biggest amateur mistake is "not knowing all the costs that go into opening," Izard said. Or for that matter, the amount of work: "I have no other hobbies," Louis admitted. They all went by the wayside once she committed to opening her own restaurant.
Juggling more than one restaurant can be hugely complicated.
Izard, who has just opened a second spin-off restaurant, Little Goat, put this out there: "It's hard at restaurant number two, learning how to divide your head, when you can't do all the details. I don't know if I'll ever get to that point where I have more than two [restaurants]. I'm kind of a control freak." On the contrary, Besh pointed out that "to go from one to three restaurants is more difficult than to go from three to nine. You have to have managers that understand it, get it, and have the soul." To keep everything consistent across his Louisiana restaurants, Besh has implemented across-the-board rules. "You have to create a standardization of everything," he said. One way he does it is by sharing information with other similarly sized restaurant groups elsewhere in the country, like the Philadelphia-based Vetri Family or Chicago chef Paul Kahan's One Off Hospitality Group.
Local and sustainable is not always practical.
"Farm-to-table is not always possible," Kunkel admitted, explaining that there's a tightrope to walk between top-quality food and what the customer perceives to be a reasonable price point. "There is a balance between providing the absolute best product as a restaurant and . . . staying in business."