09 January 2012

Lessons for the Virgin Restaurateur (Part 2) : The Navigator

There are  a huge number of people out here who are dying to give up their jobs to start a restaurant in London, a bar in NY, a beach shack in Goa, a coffee shop in Hackney…..

And you must do it. It is one of the most fun and creative things you could do. No doubt you will approach the project with the fearlessness and exuberance of a young puppy. You will have fresh new ideas that no battle hardened veteran will dream of dreaming. But it is out of a marriage of fresh ideas and old fashioned experience that a successful restaurant is born and thrives.

Because when you hit turbulence, and lets face it you will hit turbulence, you want an experienced hand to help you navigate. Because they have seen it before. In fact they will probably see the turbulence coming before it breaks.

I am a big fan of two young brands – Byron and Pod  - that look like they will go on to become institutions in London. They aren’t doing anything revolutionary.  The first serves proper burgers, and the second is a variant of Pret – just healthier and a little more interesting.  Simple concepts, an improvement on the existing order, but executed brilliantly.  Behind both of these brands lies the seasoned hand of Pizza Express & Pret veterans.

Restaurants are a special animal. The principles are simple (good food, good service, good prices, good location), but their operations are complex. Find yourself an experienced navigator to get them to buy into your vision.  Someone who you will listen to, but not follow slavishly. And get them on board early.

We Didn't.