Was your restaurant the first thing you thought about this morning when you woke up?
It should be, according to longtime Wenatchee restaurateur Pete Ezetta, who has learned the hard way that running a successful food business is about a lot more than cooking and recipes.
“People think that because their grandmother made the most wonderful fried chicken that if they opened up a place they’d be successful,” says Ezetta, owner of 22-year Wenatchee fast-foot icon EZ’s Burger Deluxe on North Wenatchee Avenue.
“But in the restaurant business, there are so many facets,” he said. “You have to buy product, prep product, train employees, all those operational things. It’s like an animal you have to take care of every day. When you wake up in the morning, the first think you have to think about is your restaurant, because it’s hungry. And you have to feed it.”
Ezetta opened his first restaurant in Wenatchee at age 21. It was a commercial success that ended in bankruptcy, he says, at the hand of an older and once-respected business partner who drained the restaurant’s earnings.
Ezetta says he also struggled when he opened a second EZ’s Burger Deluxe in Chelan. The economy was slumping, the seasonal market was totally different and, with some 40 miles separating the two businesses, he found it was too much work managing both. It was also a commercial success, but he ended up closing it.
“People don’t understand the commitment it takes, the time and the money to launch a business,” he said. “It’s the business of learning to run a business. Just look at the accounting aspects. Do you have a good grasp of accounting? That’s number one. Do you have an accountant who understands your type of business? Do you know how to borrow money for a business?”
Underfunding is one of the most common reasons why businesses of all kinds fail, according to area business consultants. Ezetta agrees.
Another, is underestimating the amount of work involved and carving out a unique niche for your products.
“You have to work it everyday,” he said. “You’ve got to have that survival mentality, and you have to be honest with yourself, knowing when you’re over your head and not being afraid to ask for help.”
He added, “The order of business at EZ’s is EZ’s comes first, and you come second. That’s the only way to do it, so you can make it work. It’s total demand, 24-7. So, having that wonderful fried chicken recipe? You may as well just pass it on to your family.”