The Secret to Restaurant Success, According to Chef Tim Love

The Secret to Restaurant Success, According to Chef Tim Love
See Gallery
The Secret to Restaurant Success, According to Chef Tim Love

Restaurateur Tim Love shares his insider secrets, including what makes a restaurant successful, what keeps him coming back to his favorite spots and how he navigates a new menu.

Image Credit: Getty Images

What makes a restaurant successful?

According to Tim Love, a restaurant's success depends on how well it manages its costs of operation. "You have 30 percent or below food cost, you have a below 20 percent labor cost, you've got a below 10 percent rent and you don't waste too much money on dumb stuff," Tim tells us, "and that leaves you about 20 percent left — that's what makes a restaurant successful."

Image Credit: Getty Images

What makes a restaurant fail?

"The opposite of that," declares Tim. It's tempting to blame food, service or atmosphere for a restaurant's demise, but Tim explains, "a restaurant is a combination of all those things and it can't be broken out... When you start to say one thing is better than the other... it really means that the restaurant is not doing its job."

Image Credit: Getty Images

What keeps Tim going back to certain restaurants?

"It's food first, in my opinion, always. But there's just something about the way certain restaurants feel and the way the service comes to you that just makes you want to be there. People come to restaurants for the food, clearly, but the rest of it has to deliver, and deliver in a way that you like," reveals Tim.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Not every restaurant is for every kind of person, and Tim stresses the importance of staying focused. "And if you're good at what you do, and you have authenticity to what you do, and there's a real reason behind why the food is happening the way it is and the restaurant feels, the restaurant is going to be successful," advises Tim. "Sometimes it takes a little longer than others, but if it's got a clear focus, the quality is there and the consistency is there, the restaurant will succeed."

Image Credit: Getty Images

How does Tim pick which restaurants to try and which to pass up on?

"First I go where somebody else is paying," jokes Tim. Joking aside, Tim likes to visit restaurants where someone is doing something new. Every time he goes to New York, he visits one of his two favorite restaurants and then tries three or four new places to eat.

Image Credit: Getty Images

"I go to [the] restaurant that I know is going to be good [and] that I'll have a solid lunch at. I'll enjoy myself, spend a couple hours, drink some good wine. Then I'm going to putter around in the evening time and check out what people are talking about and see why, because that's the whole point," shares Tim. "I always say the last thing you want is the trendy restaurant."

Image Credit: Getty Images

How does Tim navigate a new restaurant menu?

Tim recommends speaking with the servers first. "They see more food and more reactions than the chef does really," explains Tim. "So they know what people's reactions are to certain foods, and they tend to try a lot of it."

Image Credit: Getty Images

"I'll go through the menu [and] pick up [on] something that sounds the most unusual to me," says Tim. "I'll definitely order that." He also likes to check out the meat selection and their variation of a steak, and he will always order any wild game on the menu.

Image Credit: Getty Images

"I tend to start my meals with seafood and finish heavy with meats," reveals Tim. "That's just kind of my strategy."

Image Credit: Getty Images

What are Tim's favorite restaurants?

Tim's favorite restaurants include Lupa in New York and Animal in Los Angeles. "Those are a couple restaurants I always tend to hit when I'm in the cities," he reveals. He also loves Au Cheval in Chicago and City House in Nashville. "If you go to New Orleans, you can pretty much go to any one of John Besh's restaurants, and I like all of those," raves Tim.

Image Credit: New York Daily News Archive


Why do some restaurants succeed while others fail? We asked chef Tim Love, behind acclaimed restaurants like the Fort Worth, Texas-based White Elephant Saloon and the Woodshed Smokehouse, for his recipe for success.

For Tim, it boils down to the numbers. "You have 30 percent or below food cost, you have a below 20 percent labor cost [and] you've got a below 10 percent rent," explains Tim. With room in the budget for miscellaneous expenses, Tim says, "that leaves you about 20% left—that's what makes a restaurant successful." Ultimately, a restaurant has got to stay in the green, and a business savvy is essential.

The reason why a restaurant fails is not so cut and dry. Tim says it's tempting to blame one thing or another, from uninspired dishes to poor service, but breaking it down is not the answer.

Check out the slideshow above to discover why Tim Love believes some restaurants fail, what keeps him coming to back to his favorite places to eat, the smartest way to order off the menu and more restaurant insider secrets.

Then, find out 10 things you didn't know about the Western chef, learn the most difficult thing he's encountered in opening his own restaurants, get a behind-the-scenes look at his show Restaurant Startup and take a peek inside his home kitchen!

Read Full Story

Sign up for the Best Bites by AOL newsletter to get the most delicious recipes and hottest food trends delivered straight to your inbox every day.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.