Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What type of restaurateur/café/food business owner are you?

Restaurateur you say? I like the sound of that more than food + beverage curator
The Empire builder
Not content with a single outlet to showcase their style of hospitality, these moguls are intent on having a beachhead in every city, town or village with their ubiquitous brand. They are the catalyst toward a homogeny of eating and serving styles and an enemy of diversity.

The Mum + Dad show
Battlers, often immigrants specialising in ethnic foods. From the cheap n cheerful school of hospitality. Oft overlooked by the guides and food arbiters unless of course they intend on doing a bi-yearly retro piece celebrating unsung heroes etc.

The rabbit in the headlights
So shit scared of putting a foot wrong, they’ll quickly hand over all the decisions about décor, food, bev and staff recruitment to their accountant who’ll veto every decision. ‘Frozen chips are cheaper’, Chicken Caesar salad sells better or doing stock audits after every single service. Frequent abusers of the 'Menu by committee' approach.

The waiter + the chef
Buddies who speak the same language at the start. Often worked together in other establishments where they both felt they were under-appreciated and they talents overlooked. Some of these pairing can and do work but many find the reality of having a mate as a business partner can go south very quickly. Those snide underhanded comments about their former employer were fun back then but hard to adjust to with their own staff and themselves.

The idealist
Sadly these idealists are the type of operators who keep the people making For Lease signs very rich ‘I just want to open a place that gathers its food and drink from within 20kms of the CBD’ I’m sorry but foraged foods from Melbourne’s night cart lanes is not appealing. ‘You know a little local eatery, the kind of place that I’d go to if I lived here’ I don’t think that rustic Italian in a high priority for the Housing Commission tenants near-bye. ‘I don’t want to be ageist, I want all aged people working here’ I’m sorry but unless you are the Hopetoun Tea rooms most people don’t want to be served by their Grandma or Granddad.

The ever present
The difference in appearance to these people and their staff is shocking. First thing you notice is that they look like they don’t sleep, ever. Deep recessed dull eyes encircled by dark saggy rings under them. They’ll save money by doing the laundry themselves, taking rubbish to the tip, ironing all the uniforms, buying cheap soft drinks on special at Cash n Carry, sent staff home early on a quiet-ish night and step into their sections. They’ll always be the first to arrive and the last to leave and have a whiff of the martyr about them.

The chef-hater
They people despise chefs with a passion and what makes it even worse for them is that they need them. They bristle whenever the chef gets a mention in a review, but neglect to refer to the owner, them. Paydays are the worst as they see tonnes of cash end up in the chef’s pocket, even though they’re the ones who’ve risked everything to get their place running.

The never there
The only evidence that these people are the owners of a business is their name as licensee above the door. In fact some long term-staff keep a photo of their boss so they might recognize them if the happen to darken the doorstep. Often all communication is done by phone, text or email.

The environmentalist
Everything is local, organic, bio-degradable, sustainable, ethical, natural, fair-trade, roof-top apiary, kitchen garden, water tanks, re-claimed fit-out materials, salvaged items, reticulated water, re-usable bottles, op-shop cutlery and even recycled waiters aprons, Phew! ‘What’s that? You want us to take your order? Don’t you think we’ve got enough to do!?

The franchisee
‘Sure I used to be in Tyre Retail but the principles are the same right?’ Err no.

We just do our own thing and hope people 'get us' operator
This mob are keen to 'school us' in technique and product which can border on the condecending and at times high farce. They tread a fine between' Emporers new clothes' syndrome and genuine novelty and its a divisive one at best. One mans 'I went there and all I got was some lemony wine and a burnt carrrot' is always anothers 'It literally took my breath away, the audacity, the high wire act of genius without a net'.

The copycat
Every design and restaurant concept from every book ever published on the subject has been scoured and appropriated by this type of operator. Ever flicked through a book seen a picture of a successful restaurant say in New York, London or Paris and thought gee that’s looks similar to the big joint at Southbank? Hmmm

The family run show
These often start up as the Mum + Dad show but often the next gen end up working there usually for a pittance. Other staff are exposed to all that pent up family angst and are unfairly roped in to take sides which never ends well as blood is always thicker than water.

The egotist
The name of the joint is a dead giveaway if it has the name of the proprietor in it. Usually something like ‘Casa della Rocco’ ‘Chez Marguerite’ or ‘Branstons on Pickle’.
Faded and yellowing past reviews adorn the sad windows and collecting dust are pictures of the owner with C list celebrities, disgraced politicians and former sporting greats.

The vanity project
Usually backed by wealthy family to indulge them and get them out of their legitimate business affairs. No expense is spared on the fit out, advertising, wages etc. The soft opening parties are extravagant and memorable for their largesse but the fun times turn sour when customers are expected to pay, preferring to stay away in droves.

The dinner party host/hostess
‘So we had just finished a fabulous truffle stuffed Camembert and the remains of yet another bottle of Bolly when I thought: I could do this for a living!’
Crikey the eighties were responsible for many conversations like this one materializing into real ventures by operators who actually believed they had the bona fides to run a hospo business.

The cooking show contestee
OK they got voted out in the second round by who could ever forget that golden TV moment when they broke down after they read out- loud the telegram from their Gran Gran is hospital who said ‘Follow your dreams’ before slipping into a coma.
They always wanted to be a restaurateur, it’s in their blood, they were born to do this, the profession chose them and they are heeding the call. OK that’s fine but when you’ve also been a contestant on five other un-related reality TV shows, it’s OK for me to be a bit of a sceptic


Have you got any of your own to add?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve
Another funny one is when people who have somehow come by a windfall by way of a large redundancy payout, a win at the track, lotto or even an inheritance, say they want to buy and run their very own cafe, restaurant or pub. And they have never even worked in hospitality or maybe did some casual shifts at their local when they were still at uni. They have seen a busy bar or eatery and thought it must be a license to print money. Hahahahah! After all, how hard could it be? Hahahahahhhahah.!

much respect to you Steve and all best wishes

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