Sunday, December 09, 2012

Chatter 47: What's Killing our Restaurants

Looking back over Epicure for the last few years I was struck by several observations. Firstly what a very good food and wine magazine it is. News, reviews, recipes articles, equipment, interviews are all first class. It's only serious deficiency is the lack of any space for comments from readers.
Apart from the constant movement of chefs there is one very frequent item of interest:established restaurants closing and new restaurants opening.  
The restaurants that close can be excellent, such as Embrasse, very good such as Verge or fated such as Garcia and Son, specialty such as Tapas y Vinos or just about anything else. No matter most have been open less than three years and are run by people closely involved with the restaurant world. 
So what goes wrong?
Clearly it's complex. There are masses of good restaurants of every complexion and every price range. Everyone knows that. Everyone must also know what staff cost, what food costs, and that set ups cost might blow out. That must be no surprise. Staff of course always come and go but even if the restaurant remains fairly popular it may still fail after a time. 
Business people are not stupid so what is it that gives them the confidence to open a restaurant or cafe at a place where several others, who also thought they could run a successful business, failed.
Perhaps this triumph of optimism over good sense arises from the simplistic conclusion that, as there are so many apparently successful restaurants run by so many people who are not especially capable it must be easy.  
Blind Freddie should know it's not easy.
For those already up and running the challenge is to survive and flourish in an ever more difficult environment. The slowing of our economy may decrease the cost of money they may have borrowed but it may also decrease the amount of discretionary spending on dining out. The holiday season may provide a temporary fillip but everything is getting more expensive, petrol, utilities, staff, produce, every thing. Work practice laws and regulations are adding more pressures. Rising costs are inexorable but diners have resistance to main courses over $49, or in many cases $39 or even less so prices cannot be put up and up to cover these costs.
People may become more cautious about opening restaurants but, regardless, the inevitable result, sadly, is that we will see more and more restaurant closures.


John Salisbury said...

Elliot and Sandra, we have sold our beloved restaurant last month.
We have a variety of observations and feelings associated with same.

Regards John

Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi John
We are away just now but when we return to Australia in February we would love to talk to you about that and your trip to Hong Kong.
Kind regards