How to survive in the cutthroat restaurant industry

Where does Joe Bastianich go to eat and drink?
Where does Joe Bastianich go to eat and drink?

The 8th Street Wine Cellar has been a fixture in Manhattan's West Village for seven years. Joe Bastianich of CNBC's "Restaurant Startup" sat down with owner Jonny Cohen to discuss surviving as a restaurateur in a not-so-thriving economy.

Step one is creating a smart and achievable business plan. Cohen was already on board, as he had kept his bar small and put off expansion until the time was right.

"I think if you start off trying to build a trendy restaurant and make money at the same time, it's a kind of a flash in the pan," he said. "It's not going to last. I think people want to be able to go back to a place."

Bastianich agreed, saying that customers are naturally predisposed to coming back if they have a good experience.

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"They want to come back and have that same glass of wine," he said. "When they enjoy something… and you've changed it, they short circuit."

Step two is courting longevity. In the restaurant business that means sticking to your core plan.

"I think maybe less experienced restaurateurs ... feel like they have to always change everything," Bastianich said. "I think that that's a big mistake… Believe in your concept. Have a clear vision of what you're going to do. And then put it in a space that makes sense economically. And believe in what you're doing."

The last piece of the puzzle was supplied by Cohen, who said that creating a positive experience for each customer will help keep them coming back.

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It's the feeling that you have when you're in here," he said. "It's not just the great food. It's not just the great prices. It's, 'Gee, I feel really good in here. I feel like supporting them.' A lot of New York restaurants and bars get that wrong because they're just trying to turn the table or make the money. And you have to want the people to be there."

"Restaurant Startup" is on a quest to discover, invest in and launch America's next generation of epicurean superstars. Tune in Tuesdays at 10 pm ET/PT.