220: Chef James Clary | 4 Areas You MUST Master Before Owning a Restaurant

thHailing from Springfield, MO James has worked in restaurants for over 35 years and has trained numerous servers, bartenders, and dining room managers. His first hospitality lessons learned simply by observing his parents hosting parties. At 16 his dream to one day owns his own restaurant began to take shape. At the age of 21,  he was hired as a general manager by one of his mentors with the purpose to learn how to run a restaurant. By the age of 26, he achieved his dream and opened his first restaurant. Always known for his charity work, his restaurant, Clary’s, was named the Small Business of the Year by the National Philanthropic Association. James is also the author of Servers Sales Training (restaurants Secrets to Success) 

Show notes…

Today’s Sponsor

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Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.

“You’re only as good as the next meal you serve.”

What’s Your Purpose, or Your “WHY”?

“I sincerely believe that “hospitality” courses through my veins. It is in my very soul. I don’t want to seem overly dramatic, but this is how I feel. I’ve never done this for the money. I do it for the simple pleasure I get when someone tells me how much they enjoyed whatever it was that I provided for them”

Your “It” Factors

  • Tenacity.
  • Always learning.
  • Insatiable desire to please.
  • dedicated.
  • Passionate.

Career Challenge or Failure

  • Chef Clary opened a restaurant that didn’t meet his personal reputation.
  • He made the decision to open a value added restaurant, instead of a fine dining restaurant; which is what he was known for. He had created such high expectations for his work with his previous 2 restaurants, that when he focused on value instead of quality, he fell way below his guest’s expectations.
  • Ultimately, he opened his third restaurant with the intent to make money, not to fulfill his passion.
  • Make decisions based off what your customers perceive to be your personal brand.

 Knowledge bombs

1. What advice do you have for funding a restaurant?

  • Buy a space where a restaurant previously existed. You’ll spend about 10% of what you would have to spend if you did the entire build out from scratch.
  • Look into SBA loans.
  • Scale. Start small, get proof of concept and expand over time.
  • Do the research and get the facts.

2. Success is so dependent on your people. What’s your advice on hiring, managing and retaining people?

  • Hire for attitude, train for skill.
  • Ask personal questions during the interview.
  • Train your staff and give them the tools to be successful.


3. What are some current challenges or industry challenges you see coming?

  • Dealing with a generation of employees who are accustomed to getting a trophy just for showing up.
  • Government regulation and politics. Hire professionals like CPA’s and lawyers.

4. Recommended book and Resources

7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Turning Terrible into Terrific

Wealth Without Risk

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Servers Sales Training (Restaurants; Secrets to Success Book 1) <— Chef James Clary’s Book!


Everyday is Saturday

CLICK  HERE to get a FREE audio version of this Book

5. With all the knowledge you have now if you could go back in time and give your past self one piece of business advice, What would it be and why?

Don’t focus on reach, or influencing as many people as possible with your restaurant. Instead, focus on impact, or influencing one person at a time, as deeply as possible.

Additional Resources Mentioned:

Earn Your Trophy


Lessons From Sonny


Attitude interview



Contact Info

Website: TheRestaurantGuru.net

Email: James@theresaurantguru.net


Thanks for Listening!

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Huge thanks to Chef James Clary for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!