Thursday, August 14, 2008

Your Very Own Restaurant in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Handmade Home Cookin’
Eat This
Why does every friggin’ restaurant have a drawback? Why can’t they be perfect, like me? They are altogether either too fancy, too plain, out of the way, noisy, crowded, sloppy, expensive, uptight, elitist, surly or they just plain don’t know how to cook!!!
If you agree with that statement, then I’ve got perfect advice for you: open a restaurant of your own! Think of it, New Orleans is a food town, you have a perfect recipe, you know how to cook and you above all know what people want in a restaurant: they want a restaurant that has no drawbacks; the perfect restaurant. A neighborhood place, with great atmosphere, friendly service, reasonable prices, yummy food, clean restrooms and fun, fun, fun! Where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came…. Etc.etc.
Sound’s great, right? Sounds simple, huh? Sounds….hmmmmmm…… lucrative……. Yeahhhhhhhhhh!
Well. Sparky, just you pour yourself into a hot bubble bath, light the candles and some incense and turn the music down real low and let Uncle Phil tell you a horror story!!!!!!
Okay, it’s not that bad, first get yourself a restaurant consultant, say someone that’s been doing it for a couple of decades. May I suggest me? No kidding; AND, as a qualified consultant I will give you the best consulting you could ever get, it’s free, and the wisdom of the ages comes in one word: “DON’T!” Any qualified consultant will give you that advice and when you don’t take that advice then the consultant takes your money. How much money does a consultant take? A hundred twenty by the hour or seven fifty a day or twenty five hundred to three grand a month; but, if you’re going to be spending a hundred grand to quarter of a mil for your dream palace, that’s a drop in the bucket. Another way to go is to contract a tutorial for about five hundred for the day.
No? You’re not about that kind of money? Well, I tell you what. I’ll give it away free as long as my thousand words hold up. It doesn’t get cheaper than that.
The two most important words in the restaurant business are 1) location and 2) rent. In fact, you can repeat #1 three times for it’s proper effect: ‘location, location, location’.
#2 is how you will make your money because your rent determines how much money you need to make and that is this: you have to make twenty times your rent to stay in business. Period.
Next with your grand scheme comes tenet number one—identify your customer. Got it?
So now the situation can, in a perfect world, be thus: you have a wonderful location with a great rent and you’ve identified your customer base as people that really want what you have to offer and can reach you without too much inconvenience. Congratulations, this is very rarely the case.
Let’s start over. Location. Considering that you are a smart person you will try to find a location that was already a restaurant. All the hook ups, some of the fixtures and possibly a spare piece of equipment or two is already there. You didn’t stop to ask why the business before has left, but what the hell, it feels right. Okay, what’s the rent? Five grand? That means that you have to take in a hundred grand a month to survive, not a tough nut, but at the least it’s… challenging. How is it laid out?
In a perfect world the space has one third put aside for kitchen and one half for dining room. The rest of the space is for restrooms, office, storage, garbage, employee lockers and such, this is also rarely the case. Usually everything else (including the kitchen) is minimized to make room for what really pays the rent: the customer. Remember: you need to have fifteen customers in your base (at least) for every seat in your restaurant, and you’ll need ten to twenty square feet per customer for comfortable seating: this is also a rare case. You need room for servers to get past tables (fat chance). And you need plenty of room for the hostess stand (hahahahahaha). Now what about a bar? Uh oh.
After you’ve carved out a space for the bar and realized that you only need seven and a half square feet per person, naturally you come to the decision (and rightly so) to serve food at the bar. Smart move.
NOW you’re hooked up; all you need now is your dining room staff, kitchen monkeys and supplies and yooooouuuurrrrrrr Offff! Tee-rific, yes? Nah, you want the bad news too, right? Here’s Johnny!
With 5% for rent, 12% for liquor, 35% for food 32% staff (including management), you have what to work with? As an owner you have to keep up with the utilities, phone, insurance, cleaning crews, anti theft devices, office staff (including bookkeepers and CPAs), a lawyer on retainer, area maintenance and advertising. Do the math.
Here’s a little restaurant trivia. The owner kicks in .18-.23 cents per dollar paid for every hourly employee for things like unemployment insurance, workman’s compensation and even a contribution to social security. A $10.00 an hour literally costs the employer over $12.00 an hour. How many employees do you think that you’ll have? Again, do the math.
Sounds fun? It gets better. Here’s a little more before I run out of room. Rents in the area are up 46% since the storm the worker pool has shrunk 75% and insurance is out of the friggin’ roof. On top of that, you have to live with (or fight) a .075% waste factor in all areas. And just when you’re having a hard time watching a member of your staff ( that cost you $100-200. to train) on their cell phone, smoking a cigarette outside while your tables get sat and the tickets start piling up; BAM! --the ice machine goes on the fritz, the prep cook calls in too drunk to work, the toilet in the ladies room overflows and the bartender cuts himself while cutting lemon garnishes and has to go to the hospital.
Remember my first piece of advice? “DON’T!” And my second? In the meantime, try to find a place that rents for five grand a month and gimme a call. Cheers!
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