Guy Fieri began his love affair with food at a young age.
“My parents were hippies — in the bulgur wheat and granola kind of way,” he laughs. After continuously complaining about their choice of meals, Guy’s father challenged him to do better.
“I went to the butcher, picked out some beautiful steaks, came home and grilled them up. I’ve never been more nervous about something as I was presenting that steak to my dad,” he recalls. “But after he took a bite, he turned to me and said ‘That might be the best steak I’ve ever had.’ I knew right then what I was meant to do.”
After college, Fieri worked as a restaurant manager before starting his own restaurant in 1996. Ten years later, he began what would become a life-changing TV career, competing on and winning Next Food Network Star. Since that time, Guy has built a culinary empire, starring in five television shows — including Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — authoring six best-selling cookbooks, and opening over 63 restaurants around the world, from New York City to Dubai. His advice to aspiring restaurateurs?
“Every restaurant needs to find its niche and serve it well,” Fieri advises. “Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Listen to your team and your guests and home in on your sweet spot.”
According to a study about failed restaurants conducted by Ohio State University, 60 percent close or change ownership in the first year of business and 80 percent fail within five years. The big question is why?
“There are a lot of great restaurants that seem like slam dunks but ultimately die on the vine,” he says. There are countless reasons new businesses fail, but Fieri cautions that arrogance can be a restaurant’s kiss of death. “When an owner opens thinking that they can’t possibly fail, that’s when your guard goes down. I know how fickle the business is. Go into a new place like you’re entitled to success and you can count your days.”
From social media marketing to online and mobile ordering, technology can play a significant role in helping new restaurants grow. But for Fieri, the foundation of a business’ success comes down to service and staff.
“Everybody has access to technology, but it’s you and your team that has to make a connection with guests, not a piece of technology,” he states. “My team members are the most important part of the kitchen. Get me a good crew and they will knock out an amazing meal on a car hood. Great team members far outshine any one piece of equipment.”
While his fast-paced career shows no sign of slowing down, for Guy, family still comes first.
“I spend a lot of time working on restaurants, shooting TV and writing books, but at the end of the day, the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to be was a great dad, husband and son,” he says. “My family is my top priority. Without them, I couldn’t do the rest of it.”