THE FOOD DREAMERS

Public News (Houston) - - FRONT PAGE - by Matt Ver­non

We all eat. Most of us have eaten at restau­rants. Some of us have dreamed of own­ing our own restau­rant. This is about those peo­ple. The dreamers.

Many of our fore­fa­thers came here in search of the Amer­i­can dream. Some wanted to own their own busi­ness; some wanted to be their own boss. Some had a dream of be­ing able to pas­sion­ately cre­ate menus and dishes that were in­cred­i­ble and de­li­cious.

How­ever, it is very hard to open a restau­rant. It is even harder to own and op­er­ate one. Hous­ton cur­rently has over 11,000 restau­rants. I have read this city has more restau­rants per capita than any other city in the world, and 60% of small, in­de­pen­dent restau­rants close within the first year. Lo­ca­tion means every­thing, but a great lo­ca­tion costs money, lots of money. In ad­di­tion, a busi­ness owner must con­sider build out, kitchen equip­ment, staffing is­sues, vendors, and per­mits. They must get build­ing per­mits, Fire Mar­shall per­mits, cer­tifi­cate of oc­cu­pancy per­mits, alarm per­mits, sales tax per­mits, food han­dler per­mits, etc, etc. Prospec­tive restau­rant own­ers must have a lot of money to in­vest and be will­ing to sur­vive with­out any in­come for well over a year.

Restau­rant own­ers must al­ways be at their restau­rant. It is their pas­sion. It takes all their time. They must be will­ing and able to do every­thing. They han­dle pub­lic re­la­tions, mar­ket­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing, pay sales tax, ac­counts re­ceiv­able, cook­ing, wait­ing ta­bles, wash­ing dishes and clean­ing bath­rooms. They must pay at­ten­tion to every de­tail, know what is go­ing on ev­ery­where and must be able to adapt at a mo­ments no­tice.

De­spite the chal­lenges and headaches, many in our area have opened restau­rants. In­cred­i­ble fam­ily owned and op­er­ated mom and pop eater­ies. Many have taken their dream and be­lieved in them­selves enough to turn their dreams into re­al­ity. They have be­come role mod­els of mine. The Amer­i­can dream still lives and there are many, many ex­am­ples of it in this North Hous­ton area. I love sto­ries of beat­ing the odds, sto­ries of per­sis­tence and sto­ries of mouth-wa­ter­ing, suc­cu­lent food. We have plenty of those sto­ries to choose from all around us.

In the past three years I have owned two Ital­ian restau­rants and an Ital­ian food truck.

I know the chal­lenges, the pit­falls, the heartaches and the joy of own­ing a restau­rant. How­ever, this is not about me. This about you, about all of us, es­pe­cially the dreamers in our midst who pave the way for oth­ers. This is about the Amer­i­can dream!

Matt Ver­non

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