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Three out of ten new restaurants that open in India fail within one year of inception. This is a hard fact. Running a restaurant is serious business and many investors don’t realize the fact that behind the lipstick and the glamour lurks a hard and cruel world. More often than not, the effort and money put up is wasted because they are not geared, operationally or mentally, to bear the vagaries of running a restaurant.

So what are the factors that lead to failure and how can a good consultant help?

No Experience of Food and Beverage Business

Recently, I have noticed many enquiries for consultancy coming to me from people who do not have any background in running food business. Although it is laudable that more and more people are looking to invest in F&B, the reasons for this interest scare me.

People from Jewellery, Real Estate and even IT backgrounds come to me with the thought in mind that running a restaurant would lead to name and fame besides a deluge of cash coming in. Hell – you rake in the money in restaurants dude! People pay upfront man! And look at the fact that you become well known, people keep calling you for reservations and even celebrities drop in.

More often than not, I have a simple advice for them – Don’t do it!

When you come face to face with the issues in the restaurant, you realize that it is more blood, sweat and tears than glamour. The money flows in and flows out and you would be lucky to retain even 20 per cent of your revenue for yourself.

A good consultant should point out the pitfalls in the business and prepare the investor to face issues that inevitably crop up in the food business.

Poor Infrastructure Planning

Most first time promoters do not realize that the heart of the restaurant ie the kitchen, the storage and the services, are as important as the décor and the seating area. They tend to forget that customers will come back not for the look but for the food and service. Where does good food come from? A properly equipped, spacious and well ventilated kitchen. Where does good service come from? The people who make the food and serve it. If the staff is unhappy because they do not have proper facilities, how would you expect the food and the service to be good?

It is quite laughable that promoters put in a kitchen and the stores almost as an afterthought. They do not like to spend money on essentials like a good exhaust system, adequate storage, staff locker facilities and a proper procurement system. Consultants are able to explain the necessity for these so that the restaurant can run smoothly and the staff can give their best.

Poor Choice of Cuisine and Production Staff

The biggest dilemma faced by most first time entrepreneurs is – which type of food should be served in the restaurant? I have many young entrepreneurs coming to me saying that they have seen something in Bangkok or Dubai or London that they want to bring to India and present to the public. “Its WOW…they have never seen something like this before!” is a common refrain.

As a consultant, a part of my job is to encourage creative thinking but also to point out to the dangers of unleashing something in India that has potential to nosedive. We have to remember that we are culturally very different from western countries. What may work there may not always work here.

Another important aspect is the translation of what is seen by the potential investors in other countries to what is possible to be made in India. You have to have the right Chef to prepare the food that you want replicated. Otherwise, simply don’t do it! You will kill the business even before you have started it.

Also, what your family, a handful of friends and you may like, does not mean that the general public will like it. This is one of the biggest follies committed by new investors. I run a mile when I see that the Wife, Mom, Dad or Girlfriend is involved in tasting the food and choosing the items to be included in the menu. I have seen perfectly good chefs beat their heads against the wall when they are told that the pasta they served during trial should have had some red chilli powder in it. “My home cook does that, you see, and it’s so delicious!”

The choice of cuisine depends a lot on the demography of the target customers and the availability of a good production team, besides the correct ingredients and the equipment. But the thumb rule is – serve what the public wants, not what your family wants.

Poor Management of Resources and Financial Flow

This is probably the biggest cause of failure among first time entrepreneurs. They are not aware of the control points of the business. It is not always about buying at the lowest prices and negotiating the best deals. It is also about smart management of resources and keeping a good reputation in the market. The first thing that promoters do when faced with a financial crunch is to delay payments of vendors and staff. This is the most asinine thing to do!

The ingredients that you require for the food and the people who prepare and serve it must be given top priority. Instead of cutting down on essentials, it is always preferable to control unnecessary expenses that eat up the fund flow. This is where a good consultant guides the promoters to ensure that the control systems are set up properly and corrective action is taken well before disaster can strike.

It may seem stupid to hire a consultant when you feel that you or your chef or your manager can do the job of opening your restaurant. This is a mistake because operations personnel have limited exposure to the technical aspects of engineering, finance and control points.

A good consultant will save you a lot of money and pain in the long run. Look at it as an investment and not a burden. A healthy food business will give you the joy of blending your passion and earn money at the same time – a dream which only a few can achieve.

By Jaideep Gupta, Hospitality Consultant

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