The Sage Advice Andrew Zimmern Has For Rookie Restaurant Owners

In his eighth AMA ("Ask Me Anything") segment on his Substack newsletter, Spilled MilkAndrew Zimmern dished out some serious advice for new restaurant owners. Hoping to get some tips from the chef and TV host regarding restaurant management and budgeting, a fan named "Wade" asked, "What's your advice for new restaurant owners during times when prices on everything are soaring?"

Before supplying his advice, Zimmern prefaced his answer with current events, referencing multiple causes of skyrocketing food prices. Off the bat, he mentioned the Ukrainian-Russian war and its effects on domestic food costs. The "Bizarre Foods" star then proceeded to talk about the pandemic's apparent toll on food supply and demand. As the Gothamist reported in March 2021, the NYC Hospitality Alliance showed that restaurant revenue had plummeted, from both the lack of customers and staffing shortages. In July 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that much of the country's food purchases decreased from restaurants and hotels, and increased in grocery stores. And in February 2022, the National Restaurant Association stated that the industry's "recovery is officially moving in reverse."

Invest in a smaller menu and to be transparent

Within this Spilled Milk AMA, Zimmern served up his advice on how to navigate this new, expensive market. His solution for combatting high food prices: "limit menu" and to "limit number of employees." He also suggested not cutting back on hours and to make a point to maintain a smooth flow of conversation between the restaurant's management and its customers. This includes explaining why menu prices have gone up, including gas prices and family situations.

However, the celebrity chef also cautioned that certain restaurants will be affected differently. He provided the example of a pizza restaurant being able to more easily handle the rising expenses, due to the fact that its ingredients are much cheaper than the actual cost of the dish. However, not all businesses have that luxury.

Zimmern noted that this discussion has been happening amongst an independent restaurant coalition and how the industry's prices have been largely shaken in the last few decades. The best that new restaurant owners can do is to learn how to invest in a smaller menu and to be transparent with their customers.