Do you dream of someday owning and managing a restaurant? If so, then you’ll benefit from some prior experience in the hospitality industry as well as some formal education in this exciting field. Even with the right education and training, however, there are some personality traits and skills that only the most successful restaurateurs tend to possess. By developing these qualities as you embark on your formal degree program, you’ll be positioned to run a successful fine dining establishment down the road.
WHAT IS A RESTAURATEUR?
Before we go any further, we should take the time to define what a restaurateur is and what this kind of work entails. Generally speaking, a restaurateur is simply a restaurant manager, owner, or both. When a restaurateur is also the chef of an establishment, they may be referred to as a chef proprietor.
Depending on the size and scope of the restaurant, a restaurateur may handle tasks such as keeping inventory of ingredients and supplies, training staff members, completing payroll, and even working in the kitchen when the need arises. A restaurateur or restaurant owner is responsible for all aspects of a food establishment, keeping it running smoothly and optimizing the guest experience.
Top Qualities of a Successful Restaurateur
If you’re interested in a career serving up gourmet cuisine as a restaurateur, there are some personality traits and qualities you’ll want to start honing now to succeed in your future gastronomic business ventures.
1. TIME MANAGEMENT
At any given time, a restaurateur may have dozens of tasks to attend to. This is where strong time management skills can make all the difference, setting a successful chef restaurateur apart from the rest. One of the most important skills to have in time management is the ability to prioritize and delegate. This means completing the most pressing tasks first, as well as delegating tasks to others to get everything done well and in a timely manner.
2. HIGH ENERGY
There’s no way around it: Successful restaurateurs possess abundant amounts of energy. Their personalities are often described as “energetic,” “bubbly,” and sometimes even “overbearing.” This is because the best restaurateurs have such a strong passion for their work that it translates into over-the-top levels of energy and excitement.
This comes in handy, too, because the long hours and busy work of a restaurateur demand high energy. This isn’t exactly a skill that you can develop overnight if you don’t already have it, but you can focus on maximizing your own energy levels through habits like getting enough sleep, exercising, and staying in generally good health.
Restaurateurs also have some of the most creative minds out there. From coming up with restaurant concepts that have never been seen before to brainstorming new takes on classic recipes, restaurateurs are bursting with innovation. They are constantly brainstorming and finding ways to refresh old ideas—and they are rarely complacent with where they are. If you’re the type of person who is always in search of the next big idea, then you might have what it takes to be a restaurateur.
Working as a restaurateur or restaurant manager comes with its fair share of obstacles and challenges. From dealing with staffing issues to overcoming issues with productivity, a great restaurateur will have strong problem-solving skills that can be applied to overcome just about any challenge that comes their way.
Versatility and adaptability are skills that a great restaurateur needs to be successful in the hospitality field. In this line of work, you never know what kind of curveball might be thrown your way. Think about the restaurant owners who were smart enough to move to carry-out and delivery services during the peak of COVID-19 lockdowns. This level of adaptability could be the difference between a successful restaurant operation and one that’s closed within a few years.
Excellent communication skills are at the heart of any successful restaurateur. This means not only being able to communicate clearly to employees (such as servers, chefs, and line cooks) but also communicating on a professional level. Networking in the culinary field is a must for restaurateurs who want to advance their careers; in some cases, learning a language other than English may also come in handy. For example, an aspiring restaurateur looking to open a French restaurant may benefit from learning French and, of course, traveling to France to explore the culinary culture there.
At the end of the day, a restaurateur must serve as a confident and capable leader. After all, everyone working in the restaurant will ultimately turn to the restaurateur for leadership and guidance. Ideally, a restaurateur will have some formal education or experience working in a leadership role, whether as a business manager or supervisor.
No aspiring restaurateur can expect to find success in the hospitality field without a healthy amount of passion for food service and the culinary arts. This simply isn’t the type of field you can expect to get into and thrive in without a true appreciation and passion for the type of work involved. If you don’t feel strongly about fine dining and the food service industry, it may be time to cut your losses and explore other career prospects.
9. STRONG BUSINESS ACUMEN
Ultimately, a restaurateur is a business owner who must understand the basic principles of running a successful business. It can be easy to get caught up in the logistics of creating recipes and innovative dishes, but a restaurant is a business at the end of the day. A strong sense of business acumen means understanding things like profits, losses, and revenue—as well as what it takes to keep a restaurant running smoothly and profitably.
10. CONTINUOUS LEARNER
If you’re the type of person who is a lifelong learner and continuously growing, then a career as a restaurant manager may be right for you. Due to the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the hospitality industry, the best restaurateurs accept the fact that there is always more to learn, with ever-evolving culinary trends to explore and new skills to acquire.
11. HYGIENE AND FOOD SAFETY AWARENESS
Maintaining good hygiene and food safety are two crucial aspects of running a restaurant. Successful restaurant managers understand this and have a strong knowledge of current food safety regulations and best practices in addition to the implications and possible repercussions. With this in mind, an aspiring restaurateur must prioritize the importance of proper hygiene and food safety awareness in their work, setting aside the time and resources to ensure that employees receive extensive training in this area.
A career as a restaurateur isn’t for the faint-hearted. Competition in the culinary arts and food service industry is fierce, with an estimated 60 percent of new restaurants failing within the first year of business. With this in mind, successful restaurateurs must be resilient and unafraid to fail. In fact, some of the most successful and well-known restaurateurs in the industry only got where they are because they persisted when their first ventures failed.
Considering the hectic pace of running a restaurant, a restaurateur would do well to focus on sharpening their organizational skills. After all, there is a reason Michelin star restaurants place such a strong emphasis on “mise en place” which refers to the practice of having everything in its place and maintaining a well-run kitchen. Being neat and organized can help you juggle numerous tasks and responsibilities at once without sacrificing quality.
You can’t expect to have a successful restaurant without repeat customers. You can’t beat the word-of-mouth-free marketing that is a happy customer who recommends your restaurant to family and friends. With that said, successful restaurateurs need to be hyper-focused on the wants and needs of their target customers. This means taking the time to truly get to know their customer base, finding out what they expect in a great restaurant, and striving to provide an experience that exceeds those expectations every time.
15. STRONG WORK ETHIC
Motivation is another key to success in the restaurant industry. A strong work ethic will keep you going and empower you to overcome challenges. You can focus on building your work ethic while you’re in school, and these efforts will carry over as you prepare to launch your first restaurant and beyond.
16. FINANCIAL DISCIPLINE
Running any successful business, even a restaurant, requires a great deal of financial discipline and responsibility. Consider, for example, that the average cost to open a restaurant can be around $375,500. How can a restaurateur come up with that kind of money? Most won’t be able to pay for these start-up costs out of their own pockets, so they’ll need to apply for business loans, grants, and other forms of financing. From there, they’ll also need to have a plan in place for paying back any business loans in a timely manner. All of this requires a great deal of financial discipline and planning—skills that not everyone has but everybody can learn.
17. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Some of the best restaurants thrive because they foster a strong sense of community. Ideally, then, a great restaurateur will focus on community engagement in their own lives; this can extend to how they run their restaurants down the road. For example, a restaurateur may opt to donate unused food and ingredients to a local shelter, or they may get their restaurant involved in a charitable cause. Regardless, a strong focus on community engagement and commitment to giving back will serve any aspiring restaurateur well.
LET JWU PREPARE YOU FOR A REWARDING CAREER IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
A career as a restaurateur can be as rewarding as it is challenging. While the industry is competitive, aspiring restaurateurs with the qualities we’ve outlined above will stand the best chances for long-term success as a culinary entrepreneur.
Likewise, the right degree program can help you sharpen many of these skills while providing the formal training and education that you need to succeed. At JWU, we’re proud to offer degrees in culinary arts and food service management as well as hospitality management (both associate and bachelor’s degrees) to help you kickstart your career. For more information about completing your degree online, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].