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Restaurant-Owning Episode

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"It's my theory that owning a restaurant is the kind of universal fantasy everyone ought to grow out of, sooner rather than later, or else you will be stuck with the restaurant. There are many problems that come with owning a restaurant, not the least of which is that you have to eat there all the time."
Nora Ephron, "My Life as a Meat Loaf", I Remember Nothing

Owning and managing a restaurant is a demanding job. Its operation requires people to expend considerable money, time, and effort—and even that, in most cases, won't be enough to keep it from failing. When a character on a TV show opens up or buys a restaurant, he or she usually does so thinking it will be fun and not taking into account the amount of money, work, red tape, and stress involved. This results in the character being quickly overwhelmed by his or her new responsibilities and comically blundering through a series of culinary and serving mishaps that make his or her inexperience in the food service industry apparent to the unfortunate customers. In most instances, the episode ends with the character closing or selling the restaurant and going back to whatever job they did previously.

Sub-Trope of Cooking Stories and New Job Episode. Compare Lemonade Stand Plot, where one or more characters starts their own lemonade stand.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Powerpuff Girls are suspicious when Mojo Jojo opens his own legitimate restaurant. They keep sabotaging it with their fear the food is tainted when it really isn't.

  • The Adventures of Stefón Rudel: One chapter in this self-published German sci-fi adventure novel revolves around Stefón founding a hotel with a beer garden and android employees.
  • Anthony Bourdain's book Kitchen Confidential tears into the kind of people who like cooking and believe owning a restaurant is a logical extension of those skills that will let them make money from their hobby.
    Unsurprisingly, a retired dentist who starts a restaurant for the sex, or to be told he's marvelous, is totally unprepared for the realities of the business. He's completely blindsided when the place doesn't start making money immediately. Under-capitalized, uneducated about the arcane requirements of new grease traps, frequent refrigeration repairs, unforeseen equipment replacement, when business drops, or fails to improve, he panics, starts looking for the quick fix. He thrashes around in an escalating state of agitation, tinkering with concept, menu, various marketing schemes. As the end draws near, these ideas are replaced by more immediately practical ones: closed on Sundays... cut back staff... shut down lunch.
    Naturally, as the operation becomes more schizophrenic — one week French, one week Italian — as the poor schmuck tries one thing after another like a rat trying to escape a burning building, the already elusive dining public begins to detect the unmistakable odor of uncertainty, fear and approaching death. And once that distinctive reek begins to waft into the dining room, he may as well lay out petri-dishes of anthrax spores as bar snacks, because there is no way the joint is gonna bounce back.
    It's remarkable how long some of these neophytes hang on after the clouds of doom gather around the place, paying for deliveries COD as if magic will happen — one good weekend, a good review, something will somehow save them. Like some unseen incubus, this evil cloud of failure can hang over a restaurant long after the operation has gone under, killing any who follow. The cumulative vibe of a history of failed restaurants can infect an address year after year, even in an otherwise bustling neighborhood. You can see it when passersby peer into the front window of the next operator; there's a scowl, a look of suspicion, as if they are afraid of contamination.
  • Mr. Men, Little Miss: At The Cafe involves Little Miss Chatterbox opening up a cafe. Unlike most examples, the cafe is a success despite some setbacks such as Mr. Worry being unable to run the kitchen and some of the waiters being incapable of doing their jobs like Mr. Forgetful forgetting orders and Mr. Rude insulting the customers.
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency: "The Handsome Man Deluxe Café" sees Mma Makutsi invest in the titular restaurant. Unfortunately, it all goes downhill starting from the point when the attorney handling the purchase installs his in-laws as the staff, none of which are remotely competent, and only the fact that a Supreme Chef relative of theirs handles the cooking keeps it from being an utter disaster, and to compound it, Mma Makutsi's Sitcom Archnemesis Violet Sephotho's new job for the episode is restaurant critic, and she all too happily tears into the restaurant. Fortunately matters are more or less resolved by the end.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm had a Restaurant-Owning Arc in Season 10 where Larry opens up a coffee-and-pastry "spite shop" to get back at Mocha Joe's coffee-and-pastry shop next door. Initially, the business is successful but, due to Larry's ill-conceived "innovations" like bolted-down tables to prevent wobbling, coffee warmers to keep coffee hot, and no-toilet bathrooms, it and his competitor's shop go up in flames at season's end.
  • On Frasier, Frasier's and Niles's attempt to open up an exclusive high-end eatery meets with typically disastrous results. Many episodes later, when Frasier and Niles try to share a psychiatry practice, Martin is about to say that this is the stupidest idea they've ever had, but after listing previous times they'd tried to go into business together, concludes that the restaurant idea was even stupider.
  • In the Good Luck Charlie episode, "Wentz's Weather Girls", Teddy convinces Harry Wentz to follow his dream of opening Denver's first weather-themed restaurant only for her and Ivy to get roped into wearing silly costumes as the restaurant's waitresses.
  • Herman's Head. While on holiday Herman buys a bar thinking it will provide great writing material for the book he wants to write, after being told that "the place virtually runs itself". This isn't the case of course, and he ends up selling it back to the owner at a much lower price than he bought it for. The owner then frankly admits that the bar isn't profitable, so he makes money selling it to naïve tourists.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street has a multi-episode story arc where Detectives Meldrick, Munch and Bayliss pool their resources to buy the Waterfront Bar, even though it's pointed out that drinking in a bar is very different from running one.
  • iCarly has "iOpen a Restaurant", where Gibby starts a restaurant in the school basement.
  • iCarly (2021) has Spencer purchase the Groovy Smoothie and revamping it into a new restaurant called Shay What? Unlike most examples, this one seems to stick.
  • An episode of I Love Lucy has Ricky deciding to go in the restaurant business with his wife and the Murtzes after getting tired of show business. Unfortunately, it ends in failure since the two couples couldn't work together.
  • Truth in Television as shown on Kitchen Nightmares, various times we see owners that outright said that they opened a restaurant because it "would be fun" or "to have something to do" thinking it would be a minor-effort business. Many times is shown that it is indeed minor effort, since there are no customers.
  • The Noddy Shop episode "Recipe For Learning" has the kids try to open their own pretend Mexican restaurant called The Shipwrecked Inn behind the shop. But since they lack experience with cooking Mexican food, it doesn't turn out as planned. Aunt Agatha offers to help by serving upside-down cake to the customers instead.
  • On the Seinfeld episode "The Cafe", Jerry suggests to struggling restaurant-owner Babu Bhatt that he change the eatery's cuisine to that of his home country, Pakistan. Babu takes Jerry's advice and after expending a large amount of money renovating the place, ends up drawing even fewer customers.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: In one episode Max decides to bring more money into the family sub station by serving Wizarding World patrons from the lair. This proves to be a good idea- such a good one, in fact, that Justin and Jerry get greedy and take over, running Max ragged and destroying the new business.

  • In Hello, from the Magic Tavern, co-hosts Chunt and Usidore decide to start a restaurant together called Chu-Chu's Chow. Lampshaded by Arnie, who points out that this sounds like something that would happen on a sitcom, and never works out. Sure enough, a few episodes later the restaurant is hemorrhaging money.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • The American Dad! episode "Stan's Food Restaurant" revolves around Stan wanting to start a restaurant centered around fun comfort foods, but Stan hits a snag when the bank denies him a loan. He turns to Roger, who gets a loan for the restaurant and is legally the owner but wants to start a traditional Thai restaurant instead. Roger eventually tries to compete with Stan's successful restaurant by starting his own right next door. Roger's restaurant goes under, and Roger burns it to the ground for the insurance money while also blowing up Stan's restaurant. Stan's first instinct is to beat up Roger in a fit of rage, but he pulls a gun and nervously tells him to calm down and just let the fire do its thing. Then the episode ends.
  • The latter half of the second season of Avatar: The Last Airbender sees Iroh and Zuko getting jobs as servers in a tea shop in Ba Sing Se, and working their way up to running their own tea house. Since Iroh is so passionate about tea — and so skilled at its preparation — their shop is actually very successful, but Zuko resents the peasant life that he views as beneath him. It eventually all comes to an end when Azula conquers the city. After the Grand Finale, Iroh moves back to Ba Sing Se and reopens, and the last scene of the series is the heroes celebrating there.
  • Bob's Burgers:
    • The whole show is about a family that runs a small restaurant, which is doing steady, if not remarkable, business. This trope comes into effect whenever they try to expand their services, like serving brunch or running a food truck. These are usually the work of Bob's impulsive wife Linda, and her poor planning, compounded by the kids' antics, usually means they're back to normal at episode's end.
    • In one episode, the new marketing stunt - a Pacific island theme - actually works, but is thwarted by Bob being a man of Honor Before Reason; he doesn't want to get more customers if they are attracted to the place just because of the gimmicks.
    • In the "Are You There Bob? It's Me Birthday" episode, Hugo the health inspector takes Bob on an inspection to show how important his job is. The restaurant they inspect is run by a former stockbroker who had no food service training and opened a wrap restaurant because he thought it would be fun and easy. Hugo finds violation after violation and marks the place with an F, then makes Bob eat one of the wraps, which makes him violently ill. The stockbroker doesn't seem to get the message, as he plans to start a sushi restaurant next.
    • In "Bob and Deliver", Bob turns the Home Ec class into a restaurant and it does incredibly well. So well it gets the attention of Caf-Co, the food company the school has a contract with, who force Bob to shut down the restaurant and he gets fired from teaching.
  • In Season 1 of Bojack Horseman, Bojack buys Elefante, the restaurant where he's eating, in an attempt to one-up Mr. Peanutbutter. However, because Bojack never gets involved in running the restaurant and the place continues to do well, this trope is mostly averted until season 3 when Bojack accidentally fires one of the waiters which leads to all but one of employees quitting, the kitchen going up in flames, and most of the customers leaving in a huff.
  • The Boondocks episode "The Itis" involves Ed Wuncler I converting a vegetarian restaurant he already owns into a soul food restaurant managed by Robert Freeman. The restaurant, now renamed as The Itis, serves ridiculously unhealthy, highly fattening African-American cuisine that causes obesity and poverty to skyrocket in the surrounding neighborhood. It turns out that this was all part of Wuncler's Evil Plan to devalue the neighborhood so much that he could afford to purchase a nearby public park at a significantly reduced price.
  • At the beginning of the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode, "Ed... Pass it on", Eddy turns his house into a restaurant called Ponce De La Eds. The food on the menu has references to the Eds' names, such as Ed Turkey Al-a-King, Double D Spaghetti, and Eddy Pizza. Ponce De La Eds suffered its fate when Ed served himself naked as a turkey to Jonny, thus scaring all the kids off and angering Eddy. However, no one asked for refunds, and Eddy still had the $1.00 bill Jimmy paid him, so this scam was one of the few that actually earned money. This was also one of the Eds' few scams that was intended to use actual food, albeit no prepared dish is seen.
  • Family Guy:
    • The "Saturated Fat Guy" episode has Peter starting a junk-food themed food truck in response to Lois' meager request for him to start eating a little healthier. The truck is successful, but Peter takes things too far by getting fatter and fatter off his own creations. Eventually, he's too large to exit the truck and has to be physically lifted out of the torn-off roof by a crane.
    • In the "No Meals on Wheels" episode, Lois gets her carpets pulled up when Peter won't stop shocking people with his footy pajamas. The Griffin family end up finding a valuable 16th Century Rhode Island Ship token worth thousands of dollars and end up becoming rich enough to start Peter's dream job of owning a restaurant called Big Pete's House of Munch. When business is slow, Joe Swanson decides to help Peter by inviting his friends over to eat there. Much to Peter's ire, Joe's friends aren't cops, but rather paraplegics, giving Big Pete's House of Munch the reputation of only being popular with handicapped people.
  • The Flintstones: Over their wives' objections, Fred and Barney open a drive-in restaurant without fully knowing the amount of time and money involved in its operation.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode, "Orson's Diner", Orson Pig needs to raise money to buy some new books, so he and Wade Duck decide to start their own diner after finding a book that says, "How to Start Your Own Restaurant". When Roy Rooster is their first customer, they tell him that if he orders something they can't fix, he can get free food from them for a month. Roy takes advantage of their policy and begins ordering strange and complicated foods, including an elephant foot sandwich with mustard - which indeed, they can't serve...because they're out of mustard.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: The girls run a restaurant in the episode "Puffylicious". When they fail miserably at it, it turns out it was all an elaborate prank that Kaz was playing on them.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: "Chez Beezy" sees Beezy end up with ownership of one of Miseryville's fanciest restaurants when the former chef quits after an argument with him.
  • In the KaBlam! episode, "Won't Stick to Most Dental Work", Henry leaves the show after a feud with June, and opens his own restaurant called Henry's House of KaBoom!. The restaurant is a massive success, but without a replacement co-host, June's career on KaBlam! begins to plummet. When June shows Henry a montage of the good times they had together, the two realize how much they miss each other, and Henry returns to the show.
  • King of the Hill: In the "Hanky Panky" and "High Anxiety" episodes, Peggy takes over running Sugarfoot's Barbecue and adds some "innovations" to the restaurant that prove unpopular with its customers and the owner, Buck Strickland.
    • "Trans-Fascism" several seasons later involves Buck roping Hank into working on an illegal food truck after Arlen bans trans-fats.
  • The The Looney Tunes Show episode, "Sunday Night Slice" shows the origin of how Pizzarriba came to be. When Gerardi's, Bugs and Daffy's favorite pizza restaurant closes down, Bugs buys it and decides to run it with the help of Daffy, Porky, Marvin the Martian, and Pete Puma. However, their attempts to run Gerardi's are a disaster, so Bugs enlists Speedy Gonzales' help, due to Speedy's lifelong dream to own a restaurant. Thanks to Speedy, Gerardi's is a success and Bugs not only gives Speedy ownership of it but also renames it Pizzarriba in his honor.
  • The Loud House: In the episode "Cooked!", the Loud family acquire an abandoned seafood restaurant and turn it into a family restaurant called Lynn's Table. On the day of the grand opening, a printing error leads to the kids coming up with their own promotions, but their lack of teamwork and crazy promos lead to an ultimate nightmare in the kitchen for Lynn Sr. The restaurant still survives though and actually becomes a recurring location, making it a rare aversion of the Status Quo Is God.
  • Muppet Babies (2018):
    • In "Best Pals Pizza Parlor Palace", Kermit and Fozzie decide to open their own pizza restaurant, but they can't agree on how to run it, as Kermit wants a fancy palace, but Fozzie wants a family fun parlor. They soon have to agree on what kind of pizza to make when Rizzo shows up to their restaurant.
    • In "Summer's Snow Cone Stop", Summer opens a snow cone restaurant, and her friends make changes to it that she doesn't like. Summer has to learn the importance of standing up for herself even if it means having to say "no" to her friends' ideas.
  • Phineas and Ferb has done this twice.
    • In "Chez Platypus", the boys open a restaurant called, well, Chez Platypus. As typical of the show, they become the most popular restaurant in town as soon as it's created, with almost the entire town lining up outside and both Doofenshmirtz and Candace going on dates there.
    • In Road Trip, the boys open a truck stop diner on top of the RV their parents had rented. The funniest part is that Candace discovers them and is ranting about how they are "So busted!", but she just picks up an apron and order pad when the customers start ordering food from her and she takes over as waitress without even realizing it until later.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the "Bart Sells His Soul" episode, Moe renovates his tavern into a family-friendly restaurant. However, he's too cheap to hire extra staff, and it soon fails when the stress of running the restaurant by himself and the incessant demands of child customers eventually cause Moe to snap and react with his characteristic surliness.
    • "Super Franchise Me" sees Marge opening up a sandwich shop, but it soon becomes more than they had hoped. Homer works so hard that he loses a few pants sizes, but the business starts to sink when Cletus and the Spuckler family open up the exact same franchise right across the street. This leads Marge to think of creative ways to get out of her contract so they can go back to their normal lives.
    • In "Bart Gets a Z", Bart manages to get Krabappel fired from Springfield Elementary by spiking her coffee with liquor and, feeling sorry for her, gives her a self-help book that makes Krabappel decide to open a cupcake store. When Bart goes to visit her in the third act, Krabappel is more depressed than before because a lot of competition boomed in between visits and now she's almost flat broke. This, and mentioning to Bart that her dream had always been to be a teacher (no matter what the self-help book (a Captain Ersatz of "The Question") says), makes Bart decide to come clean and get her re-hired.
  • Sitting Ducks: "Feeding Frenzy" has Ed, Oly, and Waddle open up a waffle establishment dubbed Waddle’s Waffles after they are banned from the Decoy Cafe for not paying off their tab. Eventually, the place gets so popular with the locals that the Decoy Cafe loses customers to the point where Ed threatens to buy the Decoy for storage, and rename the town to "Waffleville." Just when it looks like business is at an all-time high, the citizens discover that a secret ingredient in the waffles causes them to lose their feathers, which promptly puts Waddle’s restaurant out of business.
  • In the Sonic Boom episode, "Chez Amy", Amy is tired of Dave the Intern frequently getting her order wrong at Meh Burger, so she turns her house into a restaurant called Chez Amy, and hires Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Sticks as employees. This causes a rivalry with Meh Burger, and Dr. Eggman decides to help Amy win by destroying Meh Burger. This later leads Amy to hire Dave to work at Chez Amy, and thanks to Dave's lackluster service towards Eggman, Eggman destroying Chez Amy.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Played with in "Patty Hype". SpongeBob tries to sell Mr. Krabs on the idea of colored patties, which Krabs rejects as being too silly. SpongeBob then sells them on his own and becomes successful, making Mr. Krabs change his tune. He convinces SpongeBob to sell him the stand in exchange for getting the Krusty Krab. Unfortunately, Krabs now has to face hundreds of angry customers who have been turned bright colors by the patties.
    • Another episode, has SpongeBob turning his own household into a restaurant called SpongeBob's place, due to the customers loving him for making the Krabby Patties despite Mr. Krabs being the original inventor of the recipe.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Restaurant Wars", Steven decides to end the excessive competition between two restaurants by opening a new restaurant they'd have to compete with together. The food is good enough that they end their feud and beg Steven to quit, but Steven points out he doesn't have the time to keep running it.
  • In the Super Mario World episode, "King Scoopa Koopa", King Koopa opens up a fast-food restaurant called Scoopa Koopa's, and makes a lot of money from the cavepeople, Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi. Unfortunately, anyone who eats the Egg Scoopa Koopa sandwiches gets turned into a Chickadactyl, and this gives Koopa the idea to open a Fried Chickadactyl restaurant, using his own customers as the food. Since Mario and Princess Toadstool didn't eat any of the Egg Scoopa Koopa sandwiches due to the former not liking eggs and the latter not eating Koopa's food at all, it's up to them to shut down Scoopa Koopa's and save their friends.
  • In the TaleSpin episode, "Pizza Pie in the Sky", Baloo and Kit decide to turn Louie's nightclub into a pizza air delivery business called Pizza Pie in the Sky. The business gets an order for 200 pizzas, one of which has anchovies. When the irregular anchovies that Baloo and Kit get make Louie sick, Baloo and Kit are left to try and make the pizzas themselves. In the end, it is revealed that the delivery was for the Better Business seminar that Rebecca was attending, and Rebecca was the one who ordered the anchovy pizza. Baloo and Kit make $500.00 from the delivery, but are forced to pay $499.00 worth of fines to the Health Inspector for all the health and safety violations they racked up.

    Real Life 
  • Anthony Bourdain (a professional chef who's had to deal with them many times in his career) rails against these new owners in his book Kitchen Confidential, explaining that they have no idea how much work it is to run a restaurant and how there's infinitely more to it than just being good at cooking, such as managing cooks who hate each other, changing menus to get rid of nearly-expired food, dealing with health inspections, knowing how to unplug grease traps, etc. Often the restaurants end up failing due to entirely predictable circumstances (predictable by the staff, not the owners).
  • A 2005 Ohio State University study found that 60% of restaurants fail in the first year, and 80% do so in the first five years. An often given reason is an inexperienced or hands-off owner.


Video Example(s):


The Home Ec-staurant

Bob turns his home ec class into a restaurant called the "Home Ec-staurant", and it does pretty well. Unfortunately, it gets the attention of Caf-Co Food Services and Bob failed to notice his own daughter transferring to metal shop.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / RestaurantOwningEpisode

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