Busy chefs at work in the restaurant kitchen

Owning a restaurant is almost always more than a full-time position – and that’s with only one location. Many restaurateurs own more than one establishment, which can easily overextend even the most organized, dedicated individual.

So, in a perfect world, what aspects of the job would restaurateurs wish away? And, since that may never happen, what are the concrete steps they’re taking today to free up time for what matters most to them?

Tim Niver, co-owner of Saint Dinette and Mucci’s Italian in St. Paul, Minnesota, is also currently working on opening a new restaurant in Minneapolis. With two buzzing, successful restaurants vying for his time and preparations for a third well underway, Niver’s time is stretched to the limit.

“It’s mainly an issue to keep balance for family all the time,” he says. “I leave home at 11:00 a.m. or noon and get home at 11:00 p.m. or midnight. It’s a grind I chose, but that doesn’t minimize the risk for the family unit.”

Professional kitchen interior, crock on stove, toned image restaurant

Niver says he not only needs more time for his family, but that finding a moment of alone time is next to impossible.

“I find that after dealing with all the interpersonal interactions over the course of a normal day, I need quiet. Physical activity is also difficult. Our eating and sleeping schedules aside, trying to find a moment to work on ourselves is truly difficult,” he says. “The nature of our work is physical, but it’s repetitive motion, so there’s no real gain out of my 10,000 steps a day.”

‘When we have less time, we’re spending more money to be happy.’ – Carrie Summer, co-owner of Chef Shack

On the other hand, Mike Sherwood, owner of Pizza Nea in northeast Minneapolis, wishes he had more time for work-related tasks, like paperwork, or that he had more room in his budget to have someone do it for him.

“Quickbooks, data entry, book work, filing – wish I had time to get it done so I could have more time to be creative,” Sherwood says.

He says he’d like to use extra free time to come up with more innovative pizzas for the restaurant’s seasonal board. It’s something he already does, but not as often as he would prefer.

While Sherwood doesn’t see an immediate solution to his professional time crunch, Niver says he “forces time,” quiet time and family time, by making small moments matter.

“Make conversations and connections with family, even if it’s only a moment,” Niver says. “Write notes and leave them for your loved ones. I FaceTime my kids during the days I’m not home. Use today’s technology to help.”

Carrie Summer, co-owner of the acclaimed Chef Shack food truck and Chef Shack Ranch, both in Minneapolis, and Chef Shack in Bay City, Wisconsin, says she finally feels she has found a balance between her life and her booming businesses.

Chef preparing sweet croissant in the pastry shop laboratory. Industrial concept about food restaurant

“Everything has a season. The food trucks are busy from May to October, [and] the Minneapolis restaurant is the headquarters for all the food truck stuff. The restaurant is busier in the fall and winter, which kind of evens out. It’s not so slamming in the summertime,” she says. “We do Friday and Saturday night dinner and Sunday brunch at the Bay City restaurant from the end of April through New Year’s Eve. We open the doors just 15 hours per week there. We have time all week to enjoy the property and tend to our gardens.”

‘I leave home at 11:00 a.m. or noon and get home at 11:00 p.m. or midnight. It’s a grind I chose.’ – Saint Dinette and Mucci’s Italian Co-Owner Tim Niver

Summer and her partner also recently downsized their home and now live closer to their restaurant in Minneapolis, so they can walk to work.

“When we have less time, we’re spending more money to be happy, and we really wanted to flip that,” she said. “We’re 10 years ahead of our schedule in downsizing our living arrangements, cutting living expenses, driving less. That’s been a big lifestyle change for us. Total bonus!”

But still, Summer is still on the hunt for just the right chef de cuisine to help free up her time for consulting, traveling, speaking and even teaching. Having more time to dive into their service and wine program would be ideal, she says.

“As entrepreneurs, we love what we do. We’re obsessed with our businesses and we do work a little each day,” Summer says. “Now that we live closer, I’m doing a little bit each day instead of 12-hour days. I’m spreading it out, and I love that.”


Join the conversation! What would you like to take off your plate? What have you done to start the process?

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Lynne owns Social Visibility Consulting where she is a writer, content strategist and social media specialist working with businesses and consumer brands. She has a degree in journalism and more than 15 years of experience creating and sharing stories. Lynne is on an endless quest for restaurants around the world with unique takes on simple food.