As we talk about management in this issue, there was one point that played at the back of our heads. How does a restaurant know what is right and when is just nice? I think every hospitality personnel – either front or back of the house knows that what the customers sees when they sit in a restaurant is a picture or situation that is a result of ultimate management and planning.
But what if your dream was to own a restaurant but you don’t know where to start? Or you were offered an ideal location and you didn’t know what you wanted or should develop. Do you decide what is your menu first or do you engage a chef first? What about the type of service and the layout that you should be in? Then comes equipment, furniture, interior design, cutleries, flatware, uniform, colour codes and the list goes on and on.
That is when you need what Focus Hospitality Inc calls their “Concept Operating Statement”. Carl Kjellqvist, Managing Partner of Focus Hospitality Inc from their Singapore office sat down with yours truly to explain why a “Concept Operating Statement” is essential in planning the start up of your restaurant. Focus Hospitality Inc is a Foodservice and Hospitality consultancy company. A quote from their profile “The key to success is pretty basic. Great tasting food and drinks, consistently produced and served, then packaged in the right environment.” And that is what Focus does – they manage your vision and create it for you. What you give them is your vision of a restaurant and they will create and manage the project for you down to the teaspoons that your customer would be using.
However, before taking in any jobs – there is something that has to be done. WHY. “We need to know why the customer wants to start a restaurant or why he wants to be in this business. Financial gain is of course a priority but we want to know more. Is it an emotional reason? Is it for fame or status? And the level of commitment – can we count on the owner to be with us all along the way or is he or she there to just cut the ribbon on opening day?” said Carl.
After that is done, Focus would start work on the mood board and the financial projections. Professionals would be brought together to work on different areas or aspects – like branding, interior design, kitchen layout, menu development and operation and human resource planning too.
For location, Focus would conduct feasibility studies and upon selection – what it takes to get the place ready. Having been in this business for 23 years, they have seen their share of location where you would never be able to expect the issues that arise. Where we had this meeting was a good example – The Prime Society at Dempsey Hill. As Carl remembers “Our client was one of the first businesses to move into Dempsey Hill. We were brought in with the target of creating something new and different. We maintained the original building structure – reinforced of course. But besides that, everything else was close to building a completely new building. We had to get the authority’s assistance in power, water and even access roads! Something that a new building would come all ready with.”
Then the interior designers with their team & the kitchen specialist appointed would get to work. Using the established “Concept Operating Statements” – the details made the difference. Like for their latest work at the Rendezvous Gallery – Balzac Brassiere. In order to enhance the concept created – a handcrafted bar top and Parisian chairs along with light fittings, china and glassware and all decorative items was especially selected in France and flown into Singapore! The owners understood how important this was in maintaining the authenticity of the concept and have accepted the rational behind the action.
During that time, Focus would already have a line up of candidates for the owners to engage with to work out the operations section to bring out the defined “Concept Operating Statements”. Key personnel such as the executive chefs, restaurant manager, head bartenders or head wait staff and also administrative and finance sections as well. These personnel once appointed would start working on their list – from getting operational supplies such as uniforms to the raw produce that goes into every dish prepared in the kitchen.
Throughout this period, Focus would be monitoring all aspects to ensure that budget overruns do not happen, that opening day will be on time and of course, overall design and vision does not sway from the original proposal as what the client has seen on the mood board. It is all in the details. “You have to know what and where to put your focus on first and that is what FOCUS does best” quips Carl.
Having stayed in Asia for over 2 decades, we asked Carl on his opinion of the industry here. “Singapore is the country where most brands from abroad would open first if they were expanding into Asia” mentioned Carl. “We have assisted few numerous brands into Asia as well – namely The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Borders Inc, California Pizza Kitchen and Tony Roma’s. And Asia today is more important than ever to these brands.” “Markets around the world is either on a very slow climb or either they are stagnant but Asia is still on a climb especially markets in Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines.”
“You got to create a concept that will make the customer want to come back. Consumers are now a curious lot. Information is easily accessible and many are now aware or have developed an interest in cooking. They no longer want to just come in and eat but they want to be able to associate or identify with what they are being served.”
But operating in Asia is not without its problems. “You got to understand the culture and the people. Many countries in Asia has heritage that is unique and different. They might look the same but if you go in deeper, it would have its distinctive characteristic.” According to Carl – Asia’s biggest problem now is actually in the aspect of manpower. Staff – skilled or otherwise are difficult to come by. Pay expectancy by the staff is also increasing operating costs in many restaurants.
“You have to understand what and who your clients are. Without this, the concept you create will fail.” This makes Carl’s utmost rule – understanding the customer. The budget, what your clients want in return for their investment and even the emotional aspect. And his never rule – compromise. A difficult balance but it has to be done. “What we do before a concept is being proposed is a process that is well thought out. Our experience places information at the tip of our fingers that many new operators might not be aware of. So if we compromise, we might be setting the business up to unnecessary hiccups or even problems that could have otherwise been averted.”
Before we end this, Focus has this to share – “The hospitality industry is undoubtedly high risk, but managed correctly, can be high profit.” So plan right and manage it right and you would be on your way to success.
With over 80 years of combined hospitality and leisure industry experience, FOCUS operates from 3 offices is various regions – USA, Singapore and Australia.[hr]
FOCUS HOSPITALITY INC RANGE OF SERVICES
• Concept Development
• Feasibility Studies / Business Planning
• Technical Assistance During Design Development And Construction
• Menu Engineering
• Management Recruitment And Training
• Standard Operating Manuals, Policies And Procedures
• Procurement Services
• Operational Finance & Control
• Financial Projections
• Quality Control Audits