It’s December, Jack Frost is starting to nip. The excitement of Christmas is everywhere. Trees are up, lights are lit and everywhere is ho-ho-ho.
No-one can escape the Jolly feelings of Christmas. It’s a magical time for everyone. The family is all sat round recovering from the excesses of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Maybe it’s New Year. Plans are being made for the future. The weather is always a topic around the table at this time of year. Finally some bright spark pipes up, “Wouldn’t it be great to be somewhere hot”. “How about Spain?”. “You know what, we could open a bar ...”. And so it begins.
A couple of months ago I ran into a true genius called Steve Harrison. Steve is one of the most successful advertising creative directors in the world. One of his books sells, second hand, for up to £3000. Yes, that is thousands. Steve knows what he knows very well. The conversation got round to his trips to Portugal. Every time they arrive at the airport, he and his wife talk about opening a restaurant there.
A fine compliment from Steve was about putting copies of my book in the airport bookshop. He also advised I removed a few of the warnings that are in my nature. I have no problem with anybody opening a bar, a restaurant or a hotel anywhere. OK, there is a but. But not when you want to do it somewhere you went on holiday.
Not it’s not bah humbug, there are good reasons for this. If someone told you that there would be long working hours, antisocial conditions and scrimping for funds for the first few months, they would be bursting your bubble?
So this is where the Spanish Trilogy comes in. If you think of opening any form of business you are also going to have changes to your lifestyle. When the idea pops up, ask yourself about your motivation. Do you want someone to hang out with your friends? Is it a way of making money to subsidise your extended holiday? What the customer wants, the customer gets?
Everyone who comes through the door is your customer. You may have customers who are friends but they are customers first. You are there to work, not drink or eat. If you make some good profit in your first season, then keep hold of it, you might not get a second season.
The final problem is one of trying to do everything. Too many places end up like food courts with a bar. If you do a great barbecue, do it. Don’t try and please the world by doing everything that is out there.
So after working hard, saving hard, being good to your customers and sticking to what you do best, you can finally take a holiday. When you are sitting on the balcony looking at the beach with a sense of a job satisfaction and a large glass, you have done right. Just remember... a restaurant is not just for Christmas.
Ross Boardman is author of “101 Restaurant Secrets” and an award winning restaurateur.