Lussmanns in Harpenden was our fourth opening (the first being North Kensington, now sold) and my tenth restaurant opening at the helm. Opening a restaurant is far from simple and at best exhausting. It starts with the age old problem of getting the builders out, as per normal over budget and weeks over due. Is it simply that we don’t pay them enough?
By the time handover is in sight and the knowledge that my real job is about to start one realises that cash flow is negative, pressure heightened, self-control diluted and the need for a holiday immediate.
If we could only map out the project (maybe next time) and thus produce, package and present our patrons with the journey travelled they would surely be a little more understanding.
Belligerence, passion and a dedicated team are the stalwarts of any restaurant opening, bringing good ideas to fruition and establishing legions of future regulars. It is here that these gems we call our customers are nourished, impressed and established, with future revenues secured.
Soft openings often establish a business’s credibility as all components, from pork loins to plug sockets, are eagerly tested and pushed though their paces. Our preview weekend was no different to any other.
Mums, dads, kids, grandparents, distant relatives, friends and dogs (outside of course) arrived, feasted, discussed, enjoyed and the little ones cried and then it was all over. Our staff skipped, ran, jogged, walked and then sat and reflected when it had ended. It is a challenge that starts on Friday and ends when the oven is switched off on Sunday night. It was a weekend to keep mums happy, grandparents delighted, kids engrossed and fathers free of the stresses of eating out ‘en famille’ while remembering that these were the home supporters.
We continue to learn as opening night turns into preview week that quickly becomes the first month and then someone has a great idea to open another – nice!
Sales rocket, plateau and drop south of where you started. Staff train, managers develop and chefs demand yet more kit. Finally, the chaos that charms us all takes a pew and the art of running a restaurant business becomes a reality. Figures become the order of the day, disciplinarians raise their ugly head, the kinks are ironed out and the diners who didn’t get it move on to the next new restaurant in town.