Recently a restaurant near our house closed.  It was a lovely place, well decorated (in the beginning) but to be honest from the day they opened we were almost counting down until they closed.  There were more than a few red flags that popped up and generally it felt like the owners who were clearly new to their business just didn’t quite know what to do with their dream past the “Purchase the Restaurant” step.

Not that I can speak really with much authority at all on the subject, having never owned a restaurant however I have to say that I felt bad for these people who were just missing some of the crucial things I think could have made it work for them.  For example, they only opened for lunch or dinner initially but to grab some of the morning traffic walking their way to the ferry they decided to open a coffee window.  Great idea… no seriously it was!  Lucky enough to have a slow morning one morning I headed over for a coffee and decided to order a chai latte. I was happy enough so far as he pulled off one of the recycled paper cups off the tower and was happily chatting and asking what I planned for my day that day… but then he turned and after heating the milk he opened a Lipton’s chai tea packet – a basic that even I had in my kitchen pantry at home – tipped it into the cup and filled it with milk.  Then he put the lid on and handed me the cup, a crucial step missing – the stir.  So there I was paying 4.50 for a cup of hot milk over a packet of chai tea that I could have made at home, lumpy and stuck in the bottom of my coffee cup.  Not .. happy.. jan…   So I asked for a stir stick, went to the nearest table and dr’d my coffee silently vowing not to return, at least for coffee.

I should clarify, I don’t actually have an issue with the Lipton’s Chai Tea in my cup necessarily, more that I knew about it.  If you’re going to use packets of powder at least pretend they’re something special and restaurant-y and put them in an unmarked jar if you want me to pay 4.50.  (I can buy a box of 8 for that at the store down the street)

I should also mention that they didn’t have a full kitchen, simply a few microwaves and a sandwich press.  This is completely fine and many of good little cafe’s survive just fine with only these appliances for cooking, but this perhaps wasn’t quite adequate for their intentions.  Eg. they had pasta on their menu.  How they were managing to make pasta and serve it fresh when they only had microwaves and a press is rather beyond me.  Surely it’s not efficient to microwave every bowl of noodles to cook them, nor do I think it’s probably safe to try to boil water by placing a pot on a sandwich press.  Had they opted for a simple menu like Panini’s and salads or something like that perhaps they would have found themselves a bit of a niche.  Instead they decorated for fine dining, and aimed for italian in an ill equipped cafe.

It was clear business wasn’t doing very well as when we walked by there was hardly ever anyone in there even after other shops began rising in popularity in the near by and next door vicinity.   They added silk flowers to the tables and surely as a last resort they even hired a few local musicians to come play live music a few evenings a week to entice diners in.  Clearly they didn’t know what they were doing wrong.

The largest error I think was their marketing.  They were no where.  No website, no chalkboard on the sidewalk advertising specials or their menu, no post cards or mail drops in the local community announcing their presence or deals and offers.  In short I think they thought that if they built it… people would come.  Unfortunately it takes a bit more than that I think –  but good luck to them and hopefully they will try something else  that they are successful at.

My apologies for the lack of posts… I’ve been well  – Busy, and sick and then busy and then away and still sick and then busy again. Promise to write life updates soon.  🙂

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