Pick up a newspaper these days and you’ll be informed that yet another high profile restaurant has gone bust. However for every high profile casualty, there are numerous smaller players that go to the wall without so much as a mention.
But a shiver of dread has reverberated throughout the hospitality industry as it comes to terms with news of the North Group demise. If a high profile operator such as this can fail. What does it say for the rest of the industry? Are we just seeing the tip of the iceberg as far as restaurant closures is concerned? Or is this particular closure simply the result of poor management?
Ask a young chef what they would like to achieve in their future and ‘opening their own place’ is usually the response. For many chefs, investing years working and gaining experience in numerous kitchens of note is the most conventional method toward fulfilling that dream. Yet this experience, though highly valued, does not automatically guarantee the business acumen to run a successful restaurant or café.
For numerous chefs the accountant or business strategist is an anathema, a harbinger of doom at the worst and a culler of creativity at the least. It seems that the advice of these fiscally learned people is oft interpreted as trying to meddle with the chefs’ vision to the point where the menu is in fact shaped by their informed overview. This is a very challenging situation that many chefs find themselves deliberating.
Do I go with the safe option? Everyone likes a chicken Caesar so it makes sense to put that on the menu. The accountant smiles contentedly.
I haven’t worked for x amount of years and pushed myself hard in order to put a bloody chicken Caesar on my menu. The accountant looks anxious.
My point is: Is the safe choice always the best one?
If you are an innovator the answer has to be a resounding no. What would Melbourne’s culinary landscape resemble today without visionaries like Donlevy, Stephanie & Mietta to pave the way?
This is a prime motivator for many aspiring restaurant and café owners. Set the trend, be a game changer, leave an indelible mark.
The problem is for every genius that strikes out on the path of individualism and makes it a success there are countless others who do not have the skills, contacts, drive and it must be said, luck and good timing to reach the lofty heights of achievement. Throw in an economic downturn, rising produce and labour costs and the balancing act becomes even more acute.
This is where business advice is essential.
It would be a dull world indeed if all the menu choices offered were from one homogenized list, approved by accounting central but surely a reality check now and again might just keep the grim reaper from the door?
It’s a sad day when a hospitality venture shuts and someone’s hopes come crashing down but spare a thought for the many suppliers and staff that lose as well. Many suppliers carrying large debts often don’t recover themselves from a restaurant or group failure and this is a news story that you don’t often read about.
When it comes to hospitality ventures we don’t seem to apply the same scathing judgement that we usually reserve for banks and big companies who go bust due to mismanagement.
It might be convenient to dismiss such failed ventures as ‘victims of the times’ or ‘they were ahead of the curve’ but this is trivialising the impact that such closures have on many other people.
Each business has a duty to make money and hospitality businesses are no different. This duty extends not only to the operators, but equally to the staff and the suppliers. The problem is we seem to blur the line of this conventional expectation when it comes to food businesses and this way of thinking really needs to change or we’ll have even more restaurants going under.