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Monday, February 28

A Little Relief

It's been six whole weeks since the restaurant opened, and I've worked open to close every single day. It's a good thing we aren't open in the evening or I might have lost my mind! But, starting today - and only if we can pull it off - Chris (my business partner) and I are going to work staggered hours during the week. Chris will be at the restaurant from 5 AM until 11 AM and I will be there from 9 AM until 3 PM. Since the weekend is our busiest time, we will continue working open to close on those days.

I'm not throwing in the towel. I believe I can be more effective by working a 50 hour week instead of a 70 hour one. For the last six weeks I have left my house at 4 AM (it takes me an hour to get there) and usually arrive home some time around 5 PM...

Business is improving but we have a long way to go. Yesterday was crazy busy - in a two hour period we did nearly $800 in sales. The local newspaper featured a story about us on the front page of it's Saturday edition. Hopefully those new customers who read about us and tried us for the first time will start making our restaurant a regular eating choice.

Thursday, February 17

I thought I would share a couple of photos of the restaurant. We have three unique dining areas - the main dining room, which has 12 booths and 5 tables, the back dining room, which features a huge bar with cable TV and several oversized tables, and an upstairs dining room for private parties which will seat about 50 people. In all the fire marshall will allow us to have 186 people in the restaurant. It's a great space - lots of brick and natural light and high ceilings.

Wednesday, February 16

Recap: First Month at the Restaurant

On Thursday we will have been open a full month. It's been tough, but we are headed in the right direction.

  • Our sales are slowly improving, but are way lower than I anticipated. This is my biggest concern. It's hard to do anything without enough customers.
  • Labor costs are steadily declining. Today we are operating on a skeleton crew: one regular hourly employee, two waitresses working staggered shifts, me and my business partner. Our total labor cost will be about $65 today - I can live with that.
  • Food costs are also headed in the right direction but are still too high. Yesterday I completed an inventory and our food cost was 45% of sales. We need this to be under 28%. It is high because of overcooking and mistakes being made.
I am about to invest in some advertising. I can place a coupon in Val-Pak for the 20,000 homes nearest the restaurant for $489 per month. We are also posting fliers with our menu in various places and I send out a weekly email. The weather is also improving and that has to help sales as well.

We are still not out of danger of failing - that remains a high probability. But we've made huge improvements in the last 4 weeks.

Tuesday, February 8

My Frugal Miser - January Expenses: $3,259

My expenses for January were reasonable. I spent very little on food but a lot more on gas. I imagine this is my new reality now that I'm working in a restaurant.

January Expenses

$430 Auto ($202 for fuel, $228 Depreciation)
$1 Clothing
$71 Food (both groceries and eating out)
$10 Entertainment (movies, gambling, alcohol)
$113 Gifts Given
$185 Annual Homeowner's Association Dues
$190 Household (supplies, annual fire dues)
$100 Health Insurance
$0 Medical
$166 Interest on Debt (not including Mortgage Interest)
$0 Miscellaneous
$425 Mortgage Interest (primary residence)
$806 Mortgage Interest (rental properties)
$34 Personal Care
$0 Subscriptions
$492 Taxes
$237 Utilities
$0 Vacation

Total January Expenses : $3,259


  • I guess one advantage of working in a restaurant is that I don't spend much money on food. My food budget was dramatically reduced in January.
  • None of my other expenses were out of the ordinary in January.

Monday, February 7

My Frugal Miser - January Income: $7,573

January was a decent month - before we opened the restaurant we had allocated a pre-opening salary, but we deferred paying it until 2011 to avoid issuing W-2s. It doesn't look like I'll be taking much of a salary any time soon so January will be the exception, not the norm.

January Income
$957 Mystery Shopping*
$3,289 Rental Income
$3,000 Salary
$326 Other Sources
$7,573 Total Income for November
*I did virtually no mystery shopping in January; this represents payments made for work done in the past.


  • Rental income was lower than normal. I paid fire dues on 4 properties and had a couple of other irregular bills.
  • The category "Other Sources" includes non-recurring (or semi-recurring) income since I always seem to have a little something that doesn't fall into the other buckets.

Tuesday, February 1

Vehicles and the True Cost of Ownership: How Much is My Car Really Costing Me?

Even though my daily commute is almost 90 miles, it looks like I'm driving less than when I was mystery shopping full-time.

I determined that each mile I drive costs me $.0867 in depreciation. In January I drove 2,628 miles. My vehicle depreciation expense was $227.85.

This is the least amount of miles I've driven since I started keeping track back in March of last year. I drive to work 7 days a week. I suppose the takeaway from this is that mystery shopping entails a lot of driving.