Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Road Less Traveled...

The Road Less Traveled

It’s at times like these that I’m remembering a poem written by Robert Frost – “The Road Not Taken”.  Here is a portion of that poem…basically, the last stanza:

The Road Not Taken
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

Why do I feel this way at times? – well, let me tell you…

As you know, I’m in the process of starting up my own restaurant and when I say ‘starting’, it’s from the ground up…including concept.  Well, ok, not ‘literally’ the ground up, but close enough.  I’m located in the brand new Zion’s Bank Financial Center building, so the actual building itself is there and in place.  The space that I’m occupying is, for the most part, just a shell.  I’ve got four walls, a floor and ceiling – what more could a guy ask for.  I also have HVAC, Power, Gas, Water, and Sewage connections.  Now when you think about it, that’s actually quite a bit and helps out tremendously cost wise (vs. brand new construction from the dirt up).

However…and this is where the ‘road less traveled’ comes in to play.  What I have listed above on what my space currently is, it means that I must build EVERYTHING…as in booths, kitchen, interior walls, bathrooms, dishroom…everything, everything, everything.  So as I got to thinking about it, and then thinking about restaurants in general and the perceived “high” failure rate of restaurants, my belief is that most ‘independent’ restaurant owners tend to go into some type of ‘existing’ space.

Now, let me back up just a bit…’perceived high failure rate of restaurants’.  I kind of say that sarcastically but then again, there is a bit of truth to that statement.  Here is ‘more’ of the truth of the matter…yes, many restaurants do fail – no doubt about it.  However, it isn’t quite as high as the ‘90%’ rate that many would have you believe.  In truth, it’s more like 65%-75%.  Is that still high? – unfortunately, yes.  Why is it so high though – here’s my theory…who wants to open a hardware store, or a retail store, or a used car lot (or brand new dealership), or a grocery store, or a……well, we could state a lot of other types of stores.  There are more people that open a restaurant than almost any other type of store.  Many of those people don’t have any experience in the industry at all – they just want to open and own a restaurant.  Being a good cook at home or enjoying going to restaurants does not translate into being a successful restaurant owner.  Now, when people go into existing locations…locations where other restaurants have been before and didn’t make it…well, because another restaurant had been in that location and failed, the incoming restaurant already has everything in place that they need.  So other than some remodeling and such, costs for them are not as nearly expensive as a new construction startup.

So, back to ‘my’ topic – the road less traveled.  I don’t think that there are too many ‘independent’ restaurants that are going into ‘brand new spaces’ such as mine.  Most independent restaurants are going into existing structures, where they have more than just the four walls, a floor, a ceiling, HVAC, Water, and everything else I mentioned.  What they have that I don’t have are hoods, some equipment, lights, bathrooms…basically, with very little effort (well, ok, more than just a ‘little’) they can open their doors for business.  Me? – did I mention already that I need to build ‘everything’?  Also, not only do I need to build ‘everything’, but ‘everything’ needs to be built according to code…codes that are in place ‘today’ and not codes of 2 years, 5 years, 10 years ago.

The road less traveled…I find myself wondering at times if I should have looked for an existing location.  It may have made my life a bit easier (maybe) and it certainly would have been a little better on my pocketbook.  Still, as Robert Frost put it in his poem, “…And that has made all the difference.” – Taking the road less traveled can be a great thing…difficult yes, but a great thing.  I’ve got great support, I have what I believe is a great concept, I have the skills and experience to take on this project…it’s just a lot of work to get where I want to be.  Will it be worth it?  I agree with Robert Frost – “…And that has made all the difference.”.


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