In the restaurant space, it can be difficult for younger entrepreneurs to make a name for themselves and keep up with the decades of experience that so many industry veterans have. Jumping into owning a business right out of college or early in a career path is daunting and isn’t exactly what everyone dreams of, but don’t count out that there are still plenty of ways to thrive and grow your business into an empire despite your young age.
Below are three tips for aspiring young restaurateurs:
Become the Leader
Growing up, everyone has a role model. When you become a business owner, you’re responsible for all aspects of the business and its success, which means that you now need to become the role model for your employees. Being a role model and leader is twofold—there’s the passion side and the ‘putting in the work’ side.
Creating a good environment by being honest, kind, and transparent will make people want to help your business be successful. Show employees your passion for why and how you’re keeping the business running smoothly beyond simply selling a product for profits. You want your team to understand that they’re not working for you, but with you. Help paint that bigger picture for them – not only are they ringing people up at the register or making sandwiches in the kitchen, they have a role in people’s days. They bring them laughter, joy, and the opportunity to take a break from their work day, all while also playing an even greater role in the community.
Additionally, you can’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty and working at the ground-level of your business—whether that’s running the register or doing dishes – there’s no task above you. It’s important to not only know the way, but show the way. We like being very hands-on in the restaurant to help set our employees up for success. If they can run the business better than we can, that’s a good thing for us and for their development.
Never Stop Learning
In today’s world, there are so many different ways to learn and so many different leaders in the industry to learn from. Find mentors who have more experience than you and lean in. While it maybe uncomfortable to be vulnerable, you’ll gain invaluable knowledge that will help you in the long-run.
Accept that you do not know everything, and develop a hunger to learn. Whether it be online courses, taking on a smaller or more hands-on role to learn the ropes of the industry you are entering, or even doing extensive outside research—learn as much as you can.
Start small—maybe try out a marketing strategy that you are not doing now, but could easily implement, and get to know the markets that your business is growing into to match what the community is looking for. Keep up with community events and involve your business where you can to grow your knowledge of the area and the people you are serving. Knowledge is one of the most important skills young entrepreneurs can have, whether they’re opening their first or 15th location.
Be Confident in Your Decisions & Strategy
A big misconception when it comes to young people entering entrepreneurship and the workforce in general is that we do not know what we are doing, we lack experience, and will do a poor job. This is an unfortunate myth, and it’s important to put your pride and ego aside despite what you assume others may be thinking. It takes giving all you have to be successful, but it also takes confidence with each move you make to show yourself and those around you that you’re in the right place and a powerhouse entrepreneur.
Don’t let others’ perceptions of you, your age, and your business stunt your goals. Make sure to find a strong support system that believes in you and wants to see you thrive, and keep those people in your corner as you do.
Allison (28-years-old) and Bo (30-years-old) Bradford are the proud owners of Chicken Salad Chick in LaGrange, Georgia, and among the youngest franchise owners in the system. Allison can remember dining at the first Chicken Salad Chick in 2008, while visiting Auburn. By the time she attended Auburn University, she had established herself at the campus restaurant as a regular and ultimately became a marketing intern for the brand. After graduation, Bradford joined Chicken Salad Chick as a corporate trainer and transitioned into a role as community marketing manager in 2017. Following her 6-year career with the brand, Allison and her husband, Bo, made their mark as franchise owners, opening in August 2021.