Friday, April 24, 2009

Yes, You Can Start a Restaurant in a Down Economy...

But why in the world would you want to?

So you're thinking about opening a restaurant. The allure of fame and fortune seduces you, your love of food drives you, and you want to heat up your life in an exciting industry. That's all fine and well--just as long as you make sure the flame isn't turned up too high. Even in a healthy economy, the restaurant failure rate tells a grim tale, but in a recession, the industry is even more unforgiving. Expensive food spoils, labor costs are high, restaurant-goers are harder to come by, restaurants close and life goes on.

But we also know we're talking to a special breed of people: entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have the drive to go against the grain and the nerve to try their luck in such a ruthless industry. We're not saying don't do it. We're just saying to equip yourself with the right tools or you might just find yourself at the bottom of the food chain. To help you get started, we reached out to a handful of industry experts and food entrepreneurs and compiled the perfect recipe for starting a restaurant or food business in a down economy.

Start with a Dose of Reality
Though you may be anxious to start stirring up business, you can't afford to skip this one step: building a solid foundation. "The biggest thing to avoid is 'Polaroid Syndrome'--here's me in my restaurant, here's me with my chef,'" warns Clark Wolf, founder and president of Clark Wolf Co., a food, restaurant and hospitality consulting firm. "That's not what this is. This is something very different and a lot more work."

Starting a restaurant requires in-depth knowledge about much more than just food. It's also about marketing, financing and people skills. Even if you're not single-handedly equipped with all that know-how, it's not necessarily a deal-breaker. "Take [on] a working partner, someone who's as equally involved in the business as you but brings something different to the table," advises Marilyn Schlossbach, a restaurateur and consultant who has been involved in the industry for more than 20 years.

Possessing the right knowledge is only part of the equation; having sufficient capital comprises the rest. "Historically, people have heard that undercapitalization is the No. 1 cause for failure in business," Wolf says. "It has never been truer. You really need to know not just how much money you need to open the restaurant, but also where the rest of it is coming from." Have enough capital to endure the first six months, Wolf advises, as well as an additional source of capital to get your business through several months after that.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


If you have trouble getting your kids to eat their vegetables, try this recipe.
Not only will they eat their carrots, they'll ask for more.

(Serves 8)

2 pounds carrots, chopped
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with
1 Tablespoon white sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash. To the carrots add melted butter, white sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla extract and eggs. Mix well and transfer to a 2 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature

Friday, April 3, 2009

Can You Trust a Skinny Chef?

Chefs Cook up a Weight-loss Solution

By Kelly Carter, Special for USA TODAY

Kristi Ritchey bought into the stereotypical chef image — rotund belly, chin to spare — for a while. She started cooking when she was 16, went to culinary school and nine years later ballooned to 260 pounds and wore a size 26.
"Everyone says 'Don't trust a skinny chef,' " says Ritchey, 27, executive chef at Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop in Beverly Hills. "Well, you know what? I also don't like being a chef people stared at and wondered if I ate their meal. It was becoming very uncomfortable."

And unhealthy: Ritchey's wake-up call came when a prep cook rushed her to the emergency room. Now down to 150 pounds on her 5-foot-7 frame, Ritchey is among a new wave of U.S. chefs proving that size is not indicative of their talent. Not only are some losing significant weight, but their emphasis on healthier living is reflected in their menus — which means their customers reap the benefits as well.

Since losing more than 90 pounds, including 60 on an 800-calorie-a-day liquid diet, Kevin Hickey, executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, has "definitely added on (healthier) dishes," including a frittata made with egg whites, turkey, tofu, asparagus, low-fat mozzarella and tomato sauce.

He uses cream and butter sparingly. Instead of pan-searing his whitefish, Hickey cooks it in a stew with white beans. The liquid diet has helped him in the kitchen, where chefs agree the No. 1 rule is to taste.

"But I don't have to swallow it," Hickey says.