Chris’Blog – Buying a Restaurant
I thought I would share my life as a chef and restaurateur whilst homebound, like all stories I should start at the beginning….
How do you find and buy a restaurant? It might seem odd talking about this right now, but just the thought of this sends hope and dreams and blind faith surging through my mind. You need to hold on to these things because you will need them later!
I would imagine every chef and would be restaurateur, holds the desire to open their own restaurant one day; and over time talking with friends and getting as much feedback from professionals, partners and family, you will know when it is time. This is when you have run the concept through in your head a thousand times, able to look your doubters in the eye and answer confidently, it will work.
Next is the location and business plan, how many seats? Style of food and service, opening hours, and a feel for the revenue the restaurant might achieve.
Then with a bank or business partner you need to be ready to be very honest with yourself and crunch the numbers. Jeff and I always remain optimistic about what we can do, but always brutally honest, you need to stick to reality. For instance, as a chef you will have a number of chefs in your mind you want to work with, or envisage a big spend on design, it’s no use simply stretching your forecast to make this fit, otherwise your venture will be short lived.
I remember the late, great Michel Roux Sr telling me when I was about 19, that you needed two things, a minimum of 70 seats, and a good helping of stubbornness if I was to succeed in my dream as a chef patron, still great words of advice today.
Looking for a site is one of the most exciting parts, they used to say, location, location, location, but many great restaurants have disproved this, does anyone remember the journey to El Bulli? Or even restaurants closer to home. If you are good, people will come.
My golden rule for finding a site is to wear out lots of shoe leather, keep walking the area, morning noon and night, you will see the landscape change. Can you imagine yourself working hard 24/7 here, it is very much like a house, can you visualise living there?
Like all things of desire, often you almost get to the finishing line, only to have your dream snatched away, and this has happened a number of times to us.
We also learnt a valuable lessons from the best restaurateurs in the business, Jeremy King, and Chris Corbin, who once told me that when looking at a business, there should be two questions you ask yourself.
1. Could we? This sees the professional rising in your breast and saying “Yes! We can do this, there are a few things not quite right, but we can overcome this” then the next question…
2. Should we do this? And this is the vital one, if you are doing it solely for money forget it, if you are doing it for ego forget it, it should always be for the right reasons, which are, bringing something to the community, opportunity for your team, creating a place for memories, in short it should be based on integrity and ethical reasons. Otherwise simply pass on this opportunity, it won’t ever be right.
Once you have found your site, contracts exchanged, critical path in place the fun begins, there is no feeling like opening your own place for thousands to enjoy, it makes all the blood sweat and tears worth it, the journey has begun!