And she’s proud of the product her restaurant delivers to the table. Restauration grows about 30 percent of its food on 950 square feet (the restaurant owns the lot and it’s farmed specifically for it). Tanner also gets many vegetables and products from local farmers and vendors.
As for the negatives, besides the slight drop in income? There’s the cost of everything in California—from rent to workers comp, and minimum wage, she says. “Our profit margins are certainly smaller than I’d like,” she says, “so you try to be creative with your labor.” She tries not to overstaff the restaurant, and keeps a sharp eye on overtime.
At the end of the day, Tanner has no regrets about working for herself. “The more you put in, the more you get back,” she says. “And seeing people happy in the restaurant and knowing that’s because of you feels good.”
Hitting the Big Time
Lisabet Summa is a restaurant owner, but on a different scale to Tanner. Since 1996 she has been one of the partners of Big Time Restaurant Group in West Palm Beach, Florida, which owns 14 restaurants and six concepts with more coming this year.
When Big Time first approached Summa, she was working as a chef. The offer made her put on her forward-thinking hat. “I told them I had a job and I wanted to be a partner,” she says.
“Looking back now, 20 years later, I realize how formative that arrangement was,” she says. “I tell young people now how important it is to get things set in stone. You need to think about where you want to go in your career.”
Summa has never regretted her move, although her life has changed significantly. While she worked mostly as a chef for Big Time for the first decade, she now spends more time in the corporate offices, and is in at least one restaurant every day.
Now she works on everything from kitchen design to training materials and overseeing all of the staff. “It’s part of my job to make sure everyone else is successful,” she says. Any cooking she does is for training, development and restaurant openings. These days, she says, she cooks more for pleasure at home than she does for Big Time.