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Should You Work a 70 Hour Week to Build a Successful Restaurant Empire?

By January 6, 2024January 9th, 2024No Comments

You Don’t Have to Work 70 Hours a Week to Build a Successful Restaurant Empire

By Monte Silva

My restaurant manager career started out as a very fast rise to the top. I was a GM for a Mexican restaurant within 2 years of my first manager position. 2 years later I was a GM for Wolfgang Puck. In just 4 short years I had gone from a rookie who didn’t know anything to running a restaurant for one of the greatest restaurateurs in America.

However, this sprint to the top took its toll on me with very heavy costs which included poor health and a divorce. At one point I was working over 90 hours a week running two restaurants as a GM. Imagine going through burnout the first four years of your career while you were still in your thirties. So, I did what any burned out manager does…. I moved to Las Vegas and went back to waiting tables. I saw I could make just as much if not more. Many of you may have a similar story to mine. But, then something happened……

When I re-emerged into management in Nashville I had to pretty much start over. The one thing I determined to do was figure out how to get back to a GM position and run a very successful restaurant without burning out again. After a couple of years I met my wife Anita. I pledged to myself I would never again prioritize a job over my personal life.

Over the last 15 years I have run successful high-end restaurants In Nashville and Tampa as well as high volume restaurants including Acme Feed & Seed (the 31st highest grossing restaurant in the country). And, more importantly, I did it while staying true to my commitment of being married, a dad, and working a 50-hour work week. I now am enjoying great work/life balance.

So, when people say you have to work a 70-hour work week to be successful. Don’t believe the lie. Tell them the New Norm doesn’t require that. I did it and I can help you do it as well.

Having a son has completely reprioritized this highly focused over-achiever.  I just want to sit with him and hold him or play football or soccer with him. Time seems to stand still when he is in the room. My time with my wife is also more precious. Not only is she the greatest woman in the world but, she is also the mother of our child and we spend even less time alone so our time is now even more precious.  Make sure the people you love get your best.  Give them your focussed time and attention when you are home.

Being great at what we do requires such focussed intensity. Our work is more of a sprint. This is impossible to maintain for a long period of time. Fortunately, I learned that early in my career. if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have made it through the last 25 year career marathon.

Here are 6 great tips to avoid burnout:

  1. Get enough sleep- This seems obvious but we think “hey weare in the food & beverage industry so why not go grab a drink (or 4) after work.”
  2. Organize your day- Each morning, write down your focus with the big things first. Divide your tasks into four categories: Urgent & Important- Urgent & Not Important- Not Urgent but Important or Not Urgent or Important. Then, do the urgent and important first, Do the important but not urgent second, delegate the urgent Not Important. Lastly, determine why the not urgent not important are on the list at all.
  3. Work in spurts- Try not to work on the same thing for more than an hour at a time. By changing up what you are working on you use different parts of your brain and you don’t get drained
  4. Delegate-Don’t do it all. We all need support. Also, delegate to grow your people so that you can maximize efficiency and lead your people better.
  5. Exercise-Nike motto “Just do it” Your body needs fuel just like your car does.
  6. Unplug to Replenish-You should take at least 1 day a week to clear your head. You should also take a vacation every 6 months. Replenishing is more about restoration of soul & mind than it is resting the body. This allows you to disconnect from the day to day and offers a refreshed perspective when you come back.

It’s critical that you focus on the right things and that you don’t waste time focused on things that really don’t matter. Steven Covey calls this focusing on the “Big Rocks”. What do I mean by “Big Rocks”? Have you ever had a stash contest where you threw rocks in the water to make the biggest splash you could? You want to pick the biggest rock that makes the biggest splash.

It’s the same when you are planning your day. You need to focus on the things that make the most impact first. Google Steven Covey Big Rocks and check out the video where he shows you why it’s important to do the biggest impact things first. Conversely, many people focus on the wrong things. I knew a Manager once who would measure the distance of each piece of silverware from the end of the table. He did this at every table. He said he did this to show his team how important attention to detail was. I thought he was an idiot! Who cares what the distance of the fork is from the edge of the table? Did it make the guest’s experience better? No. The guest could care less.

Focus your attention on the things that move the needle on your business. I did 21 years ago and it changed everything. I have had a marathon career where I not only crushed it, but I did it without sacrificing my family or my health.

Monte Silva


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