Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto has opened four restaurants in the past six months: Morimoto Doha in October, Morimoto Asia in Waikiki in February, Morimoto Dubai in March, and Momosan Waikiki in May. He stopped to chat with us at the National Restaurant Association’s annual restaurant show in Chicago on May 20. Here are his top tips for restaurateurs looking to expand.
While he’s well-known for his sense of humor on Iron Chef, Morimoto says this seriously: don’t try to expand unless you’re absolutely sure. “I’m not recommending these things,” he says. “If you have restaurants, maybe keep one or two, but it’s difficult. Three is more difficult—four or five, you need people, locations, money, and relationships. It’s a lot of headaches.”
If you have the right team, expansion is a different story. “This is very important,” Morimoto says. “If you have a staff you trust, you can do many restaurants, as much as you can—10, 20, 30, 40. I’m lucky, fortunately, I got the organization I have.”
The restaurant business is a people business, and finding good people is hard. Make sure you take the time to find the right ones. “It’s a lot—little by little, don’t rush,” Morimoto says.
Morimoto works with different chefs in each of his 16 restaurants and trusts them to interpret the menu with their own spin. He trusts his chefs, while he sits back in a guiding role. “I’m a producer, a conductor in the orchestra,” he says.
In the beginning, Morimoto would train every chef himself. Now, his corporate chef does that work. Hiring team members like this is a process that involves several interviews. One thing that doesn’t matter? A resume. “It’s not important, the resume—a resume is just information,” Morimoto says. He’s more interested in the person.