How to Build a Restaurant Empire

So you’ve created a wildly successful restaurant, and you’re just beginning to have some semblance of stability and free time again. Is it time to expand and build another location? At last night’s Culintro panel on restaurant expansion, three prominent chefs tackled that question and more. Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese), Andy Ricker (Pok Pok) and Michael White (Marea, Ai Fiori, Osteria Morini, Nicoletta) collectively shared their insights and mused on why anyone would decide to “go do the hardest thing in the world–open a restaurant in New York.”

After all, opening and running a restaurant is asking for unexpected kinks and surprises every day. “You wake up in the morning wondering if today is the day you get your ass handed to you,” Ricker noted wryly. “The job is basically problem solving. It’s being able to grasp a whole lot of things happening at once.” That global vision is what makes a chef and restauranteur. “It’s not just cooking–you’ve got to know about electricity, basic engineering, and when something breaks, you can’t call someone because he’ll come three hours later and you need it fixed now.” Bowien agreed and offered some optimism: “All the challenges–if you can just power through them, it’ll work out. When we were getting reviewed by the New York Times, I was flying back from Copenhagen, and just after I landed, someone texted to say the New York Times is here…and so is the health department. I was having a heart attack! But you just have to power through it all.”

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