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Running a Restaurant/Remotely Controlling an Overseas Business

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Question
Good day,

I just got an opportunity of taking over a small restaurant business as part of a debt settlement from a defaulting client.

The restaurant(about 20 people capacity) is in a totally different country which is 6 hours away by plane. The restaurant is operational as we are speaking with decent cashflow and income. I flew over to check the restaurant as a "Mystery shopper" and to examine the surrounding area along with potential opportunities and they all seem positive. In the event that I take over the business, I will be responsible for the rent, salaries and the typical restaurant expenses such as food ingredients, cutleries and cleaning equipment. I would have immediately jumped over this idea had this restaurant been in the city that I am living in; but as you can imagine, the idea of being 6 hours away by plane and in a different country with no one really to blindly trust is making me quite apprehensive. I am seeking your opinion in how to control/manage this business from a different country knowing that I can visit the restaurant for two days every month.

My worries are; cheating employees, controlling the cash flow, maintaining the standards and quality, maintaining the cleanliness, both intentional and unintentional damage to the business and reputation.

Few things to keep in mind; I will be initially locked in a 3-year rent contract, it will require a very small capital for simple decoration and I can have very trusted family members be there during the initial stage of setting up and opening for the first month or two.

Thank you for your feedback.

Yazan A.

Answer
Hello Yazan, Thank you for the question. You did not indicate the type of restaurant or the country in question, but it seems as if this might be your first restaurant foray.

If that is the case, I would look to sell the business rather than try and control it from far away. The restaurant industry has many examples of individuals who have eventually “made it” even though they started with minimal experience. However, they immersed themselves in running the business and eventually became experts. If you cannot be physically present – all of your actions will be reactions and successful restaurants are proactive in nature. How customers are greeted, welcomed and served must be adjusted “on the fly” as well as your product quality, cleanliness and community involvement. An “insiders” truism about our industry is that there will be mistakes – how quickly and how elegantly you recover from those mistakes goes a long way in determining repeat business. If you are six hours away you put yourself at a disadvantage in that arena.

Yes, you can find many examples of restaurants that are not owner operated and are managed from great distances, but they have established business systems (see franchise) in place and your concerns about “employees, cash flow, standards and reputation” would indicate that this is not the case for this business. Most of the above mentioned business systems are the result of trial and error over time and again you are at a disadvantage if you try and accomplish this without being there on a daily basis.

If you are fixed upon the idea of owning this business - you might start by bringing in a partner who will be there – who knows the restaurant business, the “ins and outs” of that community and will have an actual interest in insuring a long term success.

Best of luck in your endeavors!

Running a Restaurant

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Chase LeBlanc

Expertise

I am the author of the new book, HIGH IMPACT HOSPITALITY: Upgrade Your Purpose, Performance and Profits!http://amzn.to/guebkx I am also the founder and CEO of Leadagers LLC http://leadagers.com/ (leaders who manage, managers who lead, "leed/i/jers") a hospitality industry consultancy. Our primary focus is in upgrading the purpose, performance and profits of restaurants, bars, food & beverage outlets and/or nightclubs. We have expertise in operations, start-ups, training, in-house leadership development and positive customer service experiences. 720.269.9537

Experience

My 30+ year hospitality career started as owner/operator of a nightclub development and management company. After successfully selling that business, I led within a variety of national and global operations as General Manager and multi-unit Regional Manager and I have also served corporations as Vice President and President. My extremely broad range of experiences includes leading training stores, entertainment complexes, fine dining establishments, high-volume theme restaurants, quick-service restaurants, dance/night clubs, comedy clubs, college taverns, dueling piano bars, pizzerias, high-volume sport’s bars, live music showrooms, retail stores and gift shops, fast-food concessions, catering/banquet facilities and high-volume arcades.

Publications
"Staffing Doctor" columnist for Hotel F&B Magazine http://www.hotelfandb.com/blog/?p=819#more-819 Top 10 - FastCasual.com http://www.fastcasual.com/article/140233/Top-10-ways-to-motivate-your-managers Core Hospitality - Quick Serve Leader - http://quickserveleader.com/article/making-hospitality-core-your-restaurant-brand-expert-corner Wise Words - Inside F&B http://insidefandb.com/2012/01/wise-words/ And have been a featured blogger for FohBoh.com In addition to my new book High Impact Hospitality,http://amzn.to/guebkx I have been a contributing writer for and/or my properties have been featured in Cheers, F&B, Food Service News, Hot Spots America, Military Club & Hospitality, Nation’s Restaurant News, Night Club & Bar and Top Shelf.

Education/Credentials
Attended the University of Colorado for three years and left to open my first nightclub at the age of 21.

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