Kiwi café dream not all its cracked up to be

For Kiwis who buy and open hospitality businesses, fantasy seems to be getting in the way of efficiency as many restaurant and café start-ups are ill-equipped for the practical service of a kitchen.

New Zealander’s buy into the romantic notion of opening a ‘food joint’ like a café, but often underestimate the actual work required to run it properly, and end up making fundamental mistakes which unknowingly compromise the success of the business.

Research shows that the average hospitality outlet lasts only three years as people tend to overspend on fitouts and fall short when it comes to business sense.

General Manager of FED products, Rainie Hebrides, says that new hospitality owners fail to conduct comprehensive planning at the start, and lack the business knowledge which is essential for any eatery to flourish long-term.

“You need to know the type of customers and location. While you may want everybody, you cannot have everybody. If you’re going to have burgers, what type of burgers? You need to have all that information before you decide anything.

“Know what you are going to cook, and equip your kitchen accordingly to the menu rather than just hoping for the best.”

Hebrides says that a key flaw in many hospitality businesses lies in the way a kitchen is built and designed by its owners.

Having peek windows where customers can see into the kitchen in a restaurant or café was a major trend that existed in the past, but is now realised as a significant limitation to the business.

“When I first started doing hospitality design, we had peek windows. Originally they were supposed to be used to distribute food, but they’ve just got bigger and bigger because the owners think it’s a good idea for customers to see the food preparation. Instead they’re really just digging themselves a bigger hole.

“The smells get in people’s clothes and you can see and hear the dishwashing and heavy cooking going on in the back. Workers are constantly having to wipe surfaces.”

Hebrides says the chefs don’t like it either.

“Nobody likes to cook in front of an audience. Kitchen staff feel like they can’t socialise with their colleagues while in the kitchen because they’re like animals in a zoo.”

To deal with these issues, Hebrides says kitchen owners should seek the help of experts who can professionally design the space for universal functionality, and who can help them understand their target market and overall aim.

“Most times, the kitchen is designed to the owner’s specifications, but it doesn’t work when they sell the business because people have to renovate the entire kitchen as the layout doesn’t work.

“It’s a production facility, not an art studio. We try to utilise existing space and design, but some kitchens are impossible and need to be gutted.”

Hebrides says the practicality of a kitchen and a well thought out concept can increase the valuation of the business when selling in the future.

“A better price could be realised if the layout wasn’t strange because buyers take into account the functionality and the cost of potential renovations”

As Hebrides urges Kiwis to think again when it comes to starting up and running a food business, here are three things every potential kitchen owner should know.

1. Think

With 5 – 10 years’ worth of savings on the line, prospective café owners should think hard about the work and administration that will be required to run a food business.

2. Research

Market research is a crucial step in making sure a hospitality outlet is run successfully. Sit outside the location for a few hours, observe the types of people that go by and research the competitors too.

3. Seek help

Talk to somebody who knows what they’re talking about, such as a consultant, or talk to somebody who has done it successfully before.

/Public Release.