Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Setting up on your own? You might want to read this...

Phase 1 - Having a vision

I recently bought my first pub restaurant and teamed up with Purity brewery to launch a new bar concept.  It adds a couple of new hats to my portfolio and certainly keeps me busy.  On one day last week I was at The Cross in Kenilworth at 9am, at Simpsons for 2pm then in interviews for Purity Bar and Kitchen staff until 10pm. I get a huge kick out of all my projects, from talking walls with builders, discussing Champagne with suppliers to addressing HR issues - variety is the spice of life!

I’ve worked damn hard to achieve what I have and I’ve learnt plenty along the way. I’m hoping that sharing some of my own experiences might motivate a few fellow chef entrepreneurs to succeed in their solo ventures.

Not a week goes by without a new high profile restaurant opening and I most definitely understand why chefs want to run their own show.  However, in reality it takes more than great cooking to run a successful operation. Setting up your own restaurant requires heaps of admin, patience and determination and to be in with a chance you need to be very clear about why you are doing it. Your vision about what you are going to do and what it will bring are essential to your business plan and will impact your decisions at every stage of the journey.

My reasons for setting up my first restaurant were to make money and to be in charge. Starting off in my own gave me a sense of freedom, a fantastic feeling of the shackles being removed and the reassurance that I didn’t have to answer to any more idiots! My goal ‘to make money’ helped to inform decisions such as the size of the site (I wanted at least 50 covers) to how much initial investment I would need.

I truly believe that if you get the basics right, the restaurant will grow and it helps to accept that you don’t need to have it all to begin with. In my first restaurant I bought everything second hand except for the chairs because I couldn’t find any I liked.  Likewise, my ambition wasn’t to serve the best food in the world but to be good enough to keep the customers coming and to make a profit. I made sure that we had a great, well trained team who understood our vision and in turn passed the restaurant’s values onto our customers.

It might not be brain surgery but as a chef you don’t necessarily have the skills or the experience to address all the challenges that you’ll be faced with.  This is when your contacts, family and friends will come into their own; from finding a location to making introductions to the right suppliers.  A good network really is priceless and having the right people around you will help you to transform your vision into a reality.

Next month I’ll be sharing my thoughts on striking a deal and finding the best location - watch this space.

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