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How the busiest restaurateurs do it all

Between brokering deals, managing employees, pleasing customers and weathering the ups and downs of running a business—or multiple businesses—in an uncertain and challenging economy, running restaurants is not for the feeble. Over the past year we’ve talked to a number of industry leaders, and here how some of the busiest of the busy say they stay sane.

Roy Choi

Author, chef, restaurateur (Kogi BBQ taco truck; Loco’l, coming in 2015)

Mise en place just doesn’t apply to your prep on your station, it applies to the way you approach your life. We can bend time if we want to, because time doesn’t exist the way that you think it does. So, if you prioritize and organize and have discipline, you can stretch things, and you can focus your energies and then make things important that you don’t think you have time for. For me, it’s really about organization, discipline, mise en place, focusing my energies and making it important. You’ll be very surprised at how much time you can find for something, even if you’re already busy. … That’s why we made the announcement [about Loco’l a year before its set to open.] By making the announcement, we made it important in our life; we made it something we have to strive for. Just like five o’clock you open for service; you may be 10 hours behind but you’ve got to open at five o’clock. So it just comes down to being able to focus, multitask and attack.

Kerry Diamond

Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo Food; co-founder Cherry Bombe magazine; restaurateur (Wilma Jean, Nightingale 9 and Canteen, all in Brooklyn, N.Y.) and judge for Restaurant Business’ 2014 Clean Plate Awards

“I do need a full night’s sleep … Who are these magical people who get by on five hours? Anyways, what I love about each [role] is actually the same thing. It’s about getting the mix right: the right mix of people, ideas and content. It’s trusting your ideas and finding the right partners to execute everything—much harder than it sounds, but it’s really magical when it all comes together … The most important thing is not to beat yourself up. No one can do it all. If you don’t get to something, you don’t get to it. (As told to Barneys New York’s The Window)

Steve DeSutter

CEO, Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky’s, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Carvel and McAlister’s Deli)

For DeSutter, a typical business day runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at which point he’ll spend time with his wife of 40 years. The night ends with some time at his home computer for “wrapup or cleanup or free thinking.” On weekends, “I’m okay with some downtime,” he says.

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