Are we there yet? How to not flip over houses and impossible restaurants

By From page A7 | November 07, 2012

I don’t know if most people fantasize about owning a bar or restaurant, but my husband and I have shared this vision for many years.

This sketchy idea is compounded by the fact that we’ve lived in college towns for the past 15 years, which really complicates owning a bar or nice restaurant. Serving liquor in a town that is highly populated by underage yet wanna-be drinkers is troublesome; and having a nice restaurant with a clientele who lives for all-you-can-eat and happy hour freebies is a poor business plan for newbies.

On top of that, my husband suffers from the delusion that all customers would act like we do in bars and restaurants. They would always be jovial and social, never starting fights or getting falling-down drunk; they would eschew dining and dashing, and under no circumstances would they claim to find phantom bugs in their food.

Side note, my husband also laments that he never became a medical doctor for some of the same reasons … he imagines all patients being like he is, following doctor’s orders with grace and precision, not coming in with crazy home remedies they found on www.crazyhomeremedies.com.

Anyway, I know on a cerebral level that owning a restaurant is really hard work — much, much harder than it looks when you are there as a customer, enjoying the ambience and appetizers. So I’ve taken to watching “Restaurant Impossible” as a cautionary tale.

Have you seen this show? It’s on the Food Network, explained as such: “Turning around a failing restaurant is a daunting challenge under the best of circumstances. Attempting to do it in just two days with only $10,000 may be impossible. But chef Robert Irvine is ready to take on the challenge. He’ll channel MacGyver and use a lot of muscle to rescue these desperate places from complete collapse.”

Desperate, collapse and impossible … how do I get me some of that?

I have our DVR set to grab any and all “Restaurant Impossible” episodes as aversion therapy for myself. Case after case shows a family restaurant that previously made an obscene amount of money; the recession, the owners say, has left them in dire straits. Many struggling restaurateurs have had to take out second and third mortgages on their homes, cash in all their savings, and pull their kids out of college to help run the failing business.

You know what they say … “Want to make a million dollars? Start with 2 million and open a restaurant.”

Thankfully, this show has done a lot to curb my restaurant-owning desires. Watching families work 18 hours a day, argue, cry, worry and grow to hate each other — all while going broke — has helped me see that having a restaurant is a terrible idea for my family and me.

I’ve recently started recording all shows about house-flipping for the same reason. Before I overdosed on these buying and selling home improvement shows, I dreamed of becoming a mini real estate mogul. In my uninformed state I rationalized that my love of before-and-after projects was enough to carry out this dream.

And my husband is handy, so think of the great skills our kids would learn as they were primed to take over this business! With just a little start-up money, we could own half of Davis in the next decade! What could possibly go wrong?

Oh so many things, it turns out. A big thanks to HGTV for showing me all the ways contractor problems, hidden electrical and plumbing issues, and budget overages can ruin lives.

So on to the next dream … I haven’t decided yet between becoming a toddler pageant coordinator or a gold miner in Alaska, but my DVR will show me the way.

— Tanya Perez is an associate editor at The Enterprise. Her column publishes every other week on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Reach her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya

Tanya Perez

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