Haidak, Surviving the Early Years in the Restaurant Business
My restaurant Haidak has been open for just over 4 years now, and what a ride that has been. At one point, about two years ago, we genuinely thought that we were going to have to close the restaurant as people just weren’t coming in and some poor decision making had left us in the mire. Thankfully we had some bright ideas at the 11th hour and somehow we managed to turn things around.
Currently the restaurant is doing very well and we do around 50 covers per night. The key to us turning this around was learning from the mistakes which we made, mistakes I thought I’d share with you all, in the hope that it helps you avoiding doing the same thing.
Unless you have a history in finance I would always recommend that you get a professional to keep an eye on the business finances. What happens when you start a business, especially if you aren’t financially savvy, is you just start hemorrhaging money from different areas of the business, without having any control over it. The more money goes out, the more you need to bring in and then you start reading water and trying new things just to plug the gap. Always get a pro to oversee the money.
Something else which I have certainly learned a lot about is the importance of great staff, not just someone who you think may be able to do the job. When we first opened we were so excited that we just hired waiting staff who had nice smiles and a good nature about them, unfortunately many of them were not made for the job and the result was some terrible experiences for some diners, which of course they let us know about in their scathing reviews. Always invest the time into getting the best staff that you can.
A really big error which we made in the beginning was not invested much money in marketing, as we opted to do it on our own using social networks. The point is that marketing is an investment not a cost, this is something that every business should do in order to get their name out there, and that way you will bring in more money. When we started losing cash through bad management we aborted marketing plans as we just couldn’t afford it, in hindsight, we should have doubled down.
The biggest takeaway for me from these first few years has been to always look to simplify things. When we opened we had a big menu, loads of promos and multiple ways in which diners could enjoy our restaurant. These days we have a small menu of 10 items, all high quality, we have one promo day and we understand the experience which we are giving our diners. The key is simplicity, do that and you’ll be just fine.
If you are starting a business, hopefully these learnings can help you out.