It’s one thing to run a restaurant with a business partner, but it’s another thing entirely to run a restaurant with your significant other. The practice has long been a tradition for husband-and-wife teams in Europe, with the husband typically cooking while the wife runs the dining room (and watches the cash register), though sometimes the other way around, as well. Such arrangements have never been as common in America, for whatever reasons, but today more and more couples are opening restaurants together — and in a lot of ways it makes perfect sense. They get to spend a lot of time together (which would be difficult were only one of them in the restaurant industry), can communicate on a different wavelength than other business partners, and can share in each other’s successes.
It’s not always a walk in the park, though. The hours are long, the job is stressful, and sometimes the line between personal and professional life can be blurred. In the end, though, one thing is for certain: running a restaurant with your significant other can be incredibly rewarding.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we rounded up 9 restaurants that are run by couples, and we were able to speak with some of the owners themselves and ask them about what it’s like to run a restaurant with their mate.
They all had unique stories to tell and individual challenges, but there were a some overriding secrets to success: the power of good communication, knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and having trust in one another. And while there are plenty of challenges, nobody we spoke with had any regrets.
Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau, Honey Salt
No couple has done more to transform the dining scene in Las Vegas than Kim Canteenwalla and Elizabeth Blau. They’ve both been in the industry for more than 25 years, and in 2002 they co-founded Blau & Associates, which is one of the country’s top restaurant development companies. In Las Vegas, Blau and Canteenwalla run their own restaurants, Honey Salt, a neighborhood hotspot that opened in 2012, and the recently-opened Made LV, and they also run Simon Restaurant & Lounge with chef Kerry Simon and Buddy V’s with Buddy Valastro. Andiron Steak & Sea, a new restaurant in the master-planned community of Summerlin, near Las Vegas, is also in the works.
George Germon and Johanne Killeen, Al Forno
One of America’s best Italian restaurants (and named the best casual restaurant in the world by the International Herald-Tribune), Providence, Rhode Island’s Al Forno was opened in 1980 by the husband-and-wife-duo George Germon and Johanne Killeen, who continue to run the restaurant today. The couple fell in love with Italian cuisine while living and working in Italy, Johanne toiling in a small restaurant outside of Florence and George teaching sculpting in Rome, and went on to open the renowned restaurant, which is perhaps most famous for introducing grilled pizza to the United States. “We take turns being chef and sous-chef,” Germon told RI Monthly. “I can begin a dish, and she’ll finish it.”