It's not normal to be so obsessed with food, but that's what you have to have to be in this business--obsessed. It's too difficult in too many ways to own a restaurant unless you possess a deep, undying passion for eating and feeding people. What's hard about it? The hours, for one thing. They're long, they're nights, and they include weekends and holidays. Forget about regular dinners at home. Forget about being there for Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Christmas Eve. Those are busy, busy days. Working when most of the rest of the world is off at home is hard. And as hard as it is on you, it's harder on your family. Because even though you don't really want to work at night--you kind of do, and your family knows this.

Being passionate about something is like having a mistress you're always half wanting to take off and be with, which hurts the people closest to you (not that I've had a mistress myself; I'm just speculating). A lot of passionate people--driven people--are hard to live with, and their families take the hit. Many of my restaurant friends have gotten divorced, including me. You have to find a strong significant other who understands the nature of the business. I didn't get it right the first time, but luckily, I did the second.

Unless you love food and serving people, you're not going to want to make the constant sacrifices, and if you don't, you will not succeed at this business. It's passion that sustains you through the long hours, the snowstorms, the recessions, the fear that you can't make it, and if you have made it, the fear that you'll lose it. I'm always advising people to find their passion, because despite all the hardships of this business, I don't think of what I do every day as work; I think of it as fun. And if you're really lucky, you'll feel passionate about business as well as eating, because the numbers have to add up or you can't serve the food you love.

Look at restaurants that have made it over a long period, and you'll find that their owners are almost always men and women who think about food, eating, and business an unnatural amount of time. On the flip side, so many places go out of business because their owners don't have their hearts and souls in it. I see it over and over again. I have to laugh when I hear that somebody wants to open a restaurant when they retire--as though it's an easy thing to do when you don't really have to work anymore. You can't open a restaurant because you want to have a place where your friends can have drinks and dinner. Ever wonder what the story is behind those places that close before it seems they've even opened? Now you know.

If you're thinking of starting a restaurant, you need to sit down and ask yourself: "Do I really have what it takes to succeed? Do I love food and making money enough to make these things my life?"