If you really want to be in the restaurant business or you’re trying to remember why you got into it in the first place, I feel your pain. It’s a tough business: tough to run and tough to make money. In my experience in working with thousands of restaurant owners over the last 16 years, I have seen a few common denominators in the most successful restaurant owners. There are quite a few things most of these successful restaurant owners do, systems they have or traits they all have in common, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to share three things you must have in place to be a successful restaurant owner. 

Whether you’ve been in business one year or 30, I have to take you back to basics. These three things that you must have in place answer the question, "Is this the business for me?"

Number one: passion. Oh my gosh, you better have a passion for this business. Creating hospitality, creating memories. If you want to be in the food business, your competition is as basic as a gas station. I’m assuming you’d like to rise above the quality of product offered at a gas station? As a restaurant owner, you want to create memories. You have to love hospitality. That’s taking care of guests, taking care of your employees, really just putting out the best experience possible. You have an opportunity to literally touch people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t have a passion for hospitality, you don’t belong in this business.

Number two: you must know your numbers. This is a wide spectrum. Let me just give you a brush stroke of what I mean on knowing your numbers. You have to have budgets. Create your targets so you know what success looks like in your business. You have to know your prime cost, the one number you must know to have any chance of making money. Last but not least, you need timely and accurate profit and loss statements. That way, when you take your budget, and your actual numbers, and you know they’re accurate, you can measure success, identify challenges and proactively manage your business. With this kind of information you can change and shape your future.

Number three: you have to have a clear vision of your concept. I cannot tell you how many people are ready to open a restaurant and they just don’t know. They don’t know what kind of restaurant they want to be, they don’t have an idea of what their menu is supposed to look like. How the hell do you build a restaurant if you don’t know your menu? It has to do with everything in your business: the decor you’ve chosen, the uniforms, the flatware, the price point, the quality of product and style of service. Everything comes down to your menu. If you don’t have a clear idea of your concept, how do you open a restaurant? Unfortunately, some people have opened a restaurant without a clear concept, and then have to reinvent themselves.

If you want to be a restaurant owner, you must have these three things: a desire—a passion—for hospitality, you have to know your numbers and you have to have a clear vision. If you’re missing any of these, all of them—even passion—can be learned and figured out. But with these three boxes checked, your chances of running a successful restaurant greatly improve.