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Kevin Rathbun tells how to start a restaurant

By Matt Kempner

Kevin Rathbun, 51, is the owner of a string of intown Atlanta restaurants: Rathbun’s, Krog Bar, Kevin Rathbun Steak and KR SteakBar. His business, a decade old this spring, garners nearly $10 million in annual sales, he says.

Rathbun’s advice on starting a restaurant:

  • Customers come second. Employees come first. If they aren’t happy, the customer won’t be.
  • Hire nice people. You can train up on other skills, but you can’t train nice.
  • Keep combined rent, taxes and utility costs under 10 percent (preferably under 6 percent) of projected revenue.
  • Negotiate lower escalators in your lease (the automatic percentage that the rent increases annually). Keep it to 3 percent or less. Understand the escalator’s impact or you’ll be out of business.

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