All the ingredients for a perfect wedding meal

People say that getting married is one of the most stressful things you will do in your life but they are wrong: getting married is the easy bit. It’s the planning that takes the real commitment.

It’s the biggest party you will ever throw, no matter what the size. Having all the people you and your partner care about — or at least have to invite — all there just for you creates a lot of pressure to get it right. When someone says ‘will you marry me?’ what they are really asking is, ‘shall we throw an event that requires months, if not years, of planning at which we have to feed, water and entertain all our family, friends and colleagues for a whole day?’. Terrifying. Only it really doesn’t have to be.

If we are completely honest how many truly brilliant wedding meals have you had? Yes, the ceremony was beautiful and a wonderful time was had by all, but in the flurry of outfit planning, speech writing and table plans, the food and drink is often brushed aside.

This is fine if you have a good, food-first venue, but otherwise can leave stomachs full, but tastebuds wanting more. If you care about what you are eating and drinking and wouldn’t dream of eating anywhere average on a date or anniversary, then your wedding meal shouldn’t be any different. Here is how to get it right.

What to eat

This is a good place to start. What do you like to eat? What is the theme of the wedding? Most importantly, when are you getting married? Just like you wouldn’t have sunflowers at a March wedding, you don’t want to be serving food out of season either. Sticking to seasonal ingredients will ensure that you get the tastiest, best value for money. Your choice of food will also affect the atmosphere of your wedding. Whether you want a relaxed and informal meal that will encourage guests to mingle or a more traditional seated affair to provide the perfect setting for your speeches, get the menu right and everything else will fall into place.

Cost

Your food and drink is the second-most important decision to make after your venue, and your investment should match this. Yes, the dress is important to you, but honestly, after the initial wow factor everyone else just wants to eat, drink and party. When thinking about budget make sure you ring fence enough to feed people well. That doesn’t mean you have to spend more than you want to, but make wise choices. If you have a large group to feed over a whole day then think about high-quality bowl food, rather than a sit down meal. It is much better to provide guests with two rounds of food if the day will be long, than to leave people starving — and drinking — until an evening meal. If you want to go for a formal dinner in the evening, then pairing with a bowl food lunch can also work. When it comes to quantity a good caterer can help you get it right, but know your guests: if you are big drinkers, then make sure you up the food to make sure the party holds out to the end of the night.

Different tastes

Weddings are great for getting people from all walks of life into the same room. Remember though, that people like different things. You and your circle of friends might love rare meat and bone marrow, but some of your older, younger or less gastronomically-minded guests might struggle with this kind of menu. If you are serving meat, make sure the caterer cooks either to order (do this in advance) or provides a choice of options on the day. Provide simple food for younger guests, not everyone’s children will eat steak tartare and their parents won’t thank you if they have to deal with hungry little people on a busy day. Although it is your wedding, you are inviting guests to celebrate with you and you want them to enjoy it. Getting a balance is important either through pre-ordered menus sent out to guests or, if this is too much of a faff, providing lots of choice on the day. If you are really struggling with some guests then it’s not a bad idea to group pickier eaters together and make sure they can keep each other company.

Dietary requirements

Whether you have a number of vegetarian or vegan guests coming, or your old Uncle Chris is only happy with a cremated bacon butty slapped between supermarket sliced bread, there will be dietary challenges when planning every wedding party. The most important thing is to make sure that you know if your guests have any allergies or requirements and let your caterer know — in plenty of time. If someone is coeliac or has a nut allergy then this will affect preparation and if someone doesn’t eat meat then a non-meat gravy alternative is required. Make sure that everyone is catered for in advance, no wedding guest wants to find themselves having to tell the staff themselves on the day that they can’t eat something. As for old Uncle Chris, you’re on your own with that one!

Drinks

A well-lubricated party is usually a happy one, but you don’t want to overdo things. If you are paying for all drinks — many people opt not to these days — then make sure people don’t get too wild too early. Invest in lower-alcohol cocktails, wine or beers that will encourage people to savour not slurp. It’s a good tactic to get staff to top up wine over a formal meal if you want to help guests to pace themselves. If you are offering a paying bar then make sure it is fully-stocked with a wide-range of options. To get the most out your drinks, it’s the same rules as with your food: seasonal and local. If you are getting married somewhere away from where you live, what spirits, beers or wine do they make nearby? Garnishes and mixers should fit in with the time of year you are celebrating in. But most importantly have some fun with what you serve, it is a party after all!

Why Do We Eat Turkey?

Swan restaurant - Shakespeare's Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT

Swan restaurant – Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT

Christmas dinner for most of us is turkey with all the trimmings: stuffing, roast potatoes, sprouts, parsnips, gravy, sausages — the more you can get on that plate the better.

While we have come to think of what we eat and drink at Christmas as British, the traditions we follow have clocked up a fair few historical miles.

Over the years our festive food has adopted ingredients and dishes from all over the world, be it cranberry sauce from the States or mulled wine from Germany.

Turkey itself only became popular after Henry VIII decided to eat it for Christmas following the import of some of the big birds from America.

Around the world different seasonal foods and cultural traditions mean that Christmas eating can look very different.

If you are looking for some inspiration for an alternative Christmas menu, or just fancy cooking something different over the holiday, here are some of the festive foods that people will be enjoying around the world this year

Norway

The Norwegians go all out and eat Christmas food for every meal, not just lunch! pinnekjøtt, best translated as fermented mutton ribs, are popular and a lot nicer that they sound. Pork ribs are also widely eaten, with eggs and gravlax thrown in for breakfast. It might sound a million miles away from a roast, but smoked salmon and eggs doesn’t sound too far away from a British brunch menu!

Sweden

Swedes celebrate Christmas with a seasonal Smörgåsbord made up of ham, pork, sausage, egg, gubbröra (an egg and anchovy salad) and of course lashings of pickled herring and rye bread or vörtbröd. Sweden also has a favourite fermented, bony fish dish called lutefisk, something that probably won’t be finding its way onto our Christmas menu anytime soon.

Spain

The people of Spain love tapas, indeed who doesn’t, and Christmas is no exception. Think starters of gambas a la plancha (grilled prawns) and champinones al ajillo, which are mushrooms dripping in olive, garlic and Spanish sherry — maybe one for Grandma? Mains mean meat and in Spain suckling pig or cochinillo asado is roasted for the festive season, it makes an excellent alternative to the British turkey roast. If you live in Spain and want a taste of home over the festive season, why not give The Carvery Company a try?

Kenya

In Kenya Christmas means gathering the family and neighbours together for a big Nyama Choma (barbecue) with roasted meats including goat, beef or sometimes chicken trimmed with chunky flakes of salt and chapati flatbread. Markets in the capital, Nairobi, are packed to the brim with locals buying and selling chickens, pigs and goats in preparation — frozen meat isn’t too popular, Kenyans like their meat fresh and locally-produced. There are a few things which are a bit more familiar, too — a version of Christmas cake is also popular.

Japan

The Japanese Christmas tradition also involves poultry, but these birds are fried not roast. Christmas cake is the traditional festive food, although it is not a rich, boozy fruitcake, but a sponge topped with strawberries and whipped cream. The only dates at this time of year are ones spent in a restaurant with your lover — the most popular thing to do on Christmas eve is a festive dinner date. So no sprouts here then and probably the less said about the trend for Christmas KFC the better.

India

India also likes its cake (and we are much more likely to eat it). Plum cake is made from fruit and nuts which are soaked for almost a month before. In the run up to Christmas fried snacks are prepared, but for those with a savoury seasonal tooth then the meals are the star of the show. Mutton or chicken curry for breakfast with other snacks, and a lunch made of meaty biryani dishes followed bright and elaborate desserts are traditional. Curry for breakfast has been known to tempt the odd soul in the UK, perhaps a festive tradition that might catch on?

Mexico

Noche Buena or Christmas Eve is the big foodie event in Mexico. Salad is on the menu, but not as we know it. Ensalada de Noche Buena (that’s simply Christmas Eve salad) is fresh, zingy and contains orange, pineapple, beetroot, pecans, pomegranate. Cornmeal dumplings called tamales are a more filling Christmas treat and are prepared by wrapping the dumplings in corn husks and steaming them. They are so time consuming to make that families do them in big batches at special parties called tamaladas. Sounds a bit like the opposite of pass the parcel!

If you are looking for ideas to jazz up the turkey this year? Mexican families often serve it with mole, a rich sauce made of ground chillies and spices.

Well there you have it. All around the world people sit down at the same time of year to celebrate with their own very different seasonal meal. If you’re bored of your usual, there’s no shortage of inspiration for alternative Christmas food ideas, but in honesty you just can’t beat a Great British roast. Merry Christmas.

Tips From the Top: Diccon Wright Shares his Restaurant Industry Insight

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After more than 25 years of running restaurants across the UK and Mediterranean, Christopher Diccon Wright is nothing short of a specialist in his field.

His restaurant businesses include Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe in London’s Bankside and Swan in West Malling in Kent. He also runs an events business and oversees all the catering outlets at the Globe theatre.

As anyone in the industry knows, running successful restaurant is no easy task, and takes a lot of hard graft. A little insight can go a long way, though. With that in mind, Diccon Wright shares his experience and tips for making it in the restaurant business.

When did you first decide to open a restaurant?
It was in 1994. I was working in another career I thought that I should be doing, rather than something I would love doing. I had always had a passion for food and drink so when the opportunity to get involved with a restaurant landed on my plate I thought: why not, let’s have a go. I was only 32 and it was just a 30-seater restaurant so I thought it would be a bit like having a big dinner partner. I was wrong.

What did you learn from this first venture into the restaurant business?
I have never worked so hard in my life and earned so little money! It was seriously hard work running a 30-seater restaurant, you had to do it all – from getting in early to press the linen to locking up at night. I had never done a day’s work in a restaurant at all until then, so it was a bit of a shock to the system. I had a couple of very talented cooks and we cracked on with it for a few years and made a success out of it and had quite a lot of fun with it too in the end. There was a lot of passion for the end product which kept us going and I learnt a huge amount.

As a restaurateur what drives you?
These days I employ something like 300 people across a few restaurants, so I am mainly focused on delivering the site, the architecture and the look and feel of what we are going to do – and for nurturing these people. As a company we aim to develop people and I try hard to provide the sort of encouraging environment that would have been helpful for me back in 1994.

What do you see as your main challenges?
People are the main challenge. In this business it’s all about attracting, training, developing and retaining the best people for the job. This includes chefs and the kitchen team and front-of-house as well as a rock-solid financial team and plenty of business acumen.

So, how do you inspire and keep your employees?
I want the best talent coming into my business at a senior level. I am currently working with a number of highly talented business partners at each restaurant: Jess Harris and Michael Clark at the Globe, Daryl Healy and Nick Leventis at Swan West Malling and Karen and Mark Cornwall at the Carvery out in Spain. They have the space and authority to run the businesses as they see fit, and in return I ensure the rewards and opportunities are there to keep them interested. In so many businesses I see owners trying to employ senior teams as cheaply as possible, but I believe that to get real traction, you need to share the goodies and ensure that everyone is a real stakeholder.

At lower levels, staff need to be able to see room for progression and to keep learning. It is also important that they are excited by the product.

What is the single most important factor in creating a successful restaurant?
I think you need to have complete clarity of what you are trying to deliver. The most important thing is always the customer, and it is essential to understand what the customer expectations are and to focus on delivering them. Obviously good food and good service are prerequisites, they are your entry point into the market.

How important is the financial side of a business versus the food and experience?
I always start from the premise that you should concentrate on the food and customer experience and the money will follow. However, you do need the right people with the right experience and a business model that is workable. I have seen some brilliant restaurants which are critically acclaimed, but you know they won’t be there in five years. Get a copy of the Michelin guide from five years ago and see if they are all still going – that is quite sobering.

There is a lot of talk about how formal a restaurant should be. What do you think?
I like our restaurants to be professional and attentive but relaxed. We don’t want a stiff environment, we like people to enjoy themselves and have fun and to think of our restaurants as a home from home, but better. If people want two-star Michelin service with foams and dots on plates then they won’t get it with us!

Any other tips?
You have got to be in it to create a sustainable business, it is not something to play with because restaurants are a mechanism to lose vast amounts of money if you get it wrong. Don’t do what I did: don’t treat it like a dinner party for 30!

Are you a keen chef outside of work?
I love cooking at home. I cook really simple dishes using very good ingredients. There’s an excellent fishmonger near where I live in Greenwich and I love cooking lots of fish. Simple food done well.

Finally, what’s your favourite restaurant?
What the guys are doing down at Lyle’s in Shoreditch is very special and Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair is very good. I also like 40 Maltby Street where they do excellent wines and nearby José on Bermondsey Street does excellent tapas.

We have a restaurant called The Carvery Company in Spain and close by is the local fish market that does just stripped-down simple fish after the main sale in the morning, and it is absolutely wonderful.

Secrets Of A Successful Stand-Out Menu

Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. He runs his own portfolio of restaurants, and is the consultant brains behind many others. Here he gives his top tips on the dos and don’ts of the perfect restaurant menu.

The menu is the cover your restaurant will be judged on; it’s also the only thing that diners have to look at while they wait for their first drink. Despite this is it often an afterthought. Some decent gastropubs and restaurants offering good-quality, well-cooked food knock pounds off the value of their dishes with a scruffy or ill-curated menu. Food is only worth what people are willing to pay for it and a menu’s job is to build tension, anticipation and atmosphere around the table.

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A menu’s aesthetics should be an extension of the restaurant’s story: how did it evolve, what does it do best and who does it want to attract? It is common sense that photographs on a menu scream more low-end pub or diner than trendy nose-to-tail eatery, but heavy leather-bound almanac-style menus can be a turn off too. Think about the physical space of the site, if you are a counter-style or small plates restaurant then a simple, high-quality paper list is probably the way to go. Equally, if you are eco-driven then don’t betray your values with a non-recycled menu because your audience will notice straight away. In my experience there is never an excuse to laminate unless you cater for an underwater clientele!

People like choice, or they at least like to feel like they have options. Too few items on a menu and people will begin their experience feeling limited; this is especially true of vegetarian diners or those with allergies or other dietary requirements. Conversely, too much choice can confuse diners – the role of a menu is to guide the customer through what dishes are on offer so they can choose something that they will really enjoy. Good-hearted tussling over who will have what and whether the rest of their dinner guests are willing to share for fear of ‘food envy’ and you know you have it spot on. If one person panics and ordering something they probably won’t really enjoy, then the dynamic is spoilt. Eating out is a group affair; one person’s unhappy meal will bring the whole experience crashing down.

Avoid adjectives which tell people that things are ‘delicious’ etc. – nobody likes to be told what to think, and it’s subjective anyway. Long-winded descriptions are outdated and fussy, while trends towards simple, locally-sourced ingredients done well have resulted in a fashion for listing dishes simply by ingredients separated by commas. This is simple and fashionable, but be wary of it when catering for a diverse audience as it can be a little vague. In most cases restaurants want to aim for somewhere in between the two. A menu should include the information a restaurant is proud of: if you are lucky enough to be able to serve Ginger Pig meat then why wouldn’t you scream and shout about it.

We have all heard the joke about ordering the ‘second cheapest’ wine, well the same is true of food. This can be especially true of couples on dates who might be trying to be polite (or not anticipating a second round!). Mix up menu items and encourage eyes to take in the whole selection; most people decide what they are going to order in the first few glances. Positioning more expensive items in prime places is something to consider – certainly don’t hide away your house specialities – but avoid flashy boxes and overly showy presentation as nobody wants to feel pushed into ordering outside of their price comfort zone. Make the higher-priced exciting stuff a desirable treat to indulge in, but let them make up their own minds.

Sides are a great way to up table spend, but should be created because they genuinely enhance the main event. Positioning sides together and including interesting vegetables alongside the staples of chips or potatoes will encourage multiple side orders. Some restaurants make bizarre mistakes like listing sides with starters or under a main including a ‘+chips for £4’. This is unnecessary: people know if they want sides or not and if they don’t need them then do tell them so. What they save on a superfluous side they will likely spend on a pudding or digestif anyway.

Specials can be something of a minefield. Not least because of recent legislation requiring the listing of allergens on menus. The communication of them is also tricky, many times I have misheard the specials and discounted the lot rather than dare make the whole table listen to the waiter repeat it again. Equally, getting up to read a blackboard on the other side of the room can be inconvenient, at its worst resulting in a person standing over other diners attempting to photograph the menu on their phone. A simple rule is this: if you are going to do specials then they should be just that. They should feel genuine – our butcher/fishmonger/forager was able to get hold of this and we couldn’t resist. That means one or two items that are genuinely interesting told by a well-informed waiter with enthusiasm and clarity.

A successful menu will evolve over time. Collecting data and communicating with waiting staff on the front line will give you the clearest indication of what is popular and what needs more work or freshening up. Customers expect a menu to change and the most authentic way to do this is through seasonal ingredients, whilst keeping hold of favourite and signature dishes. Experiment with pricing, serving a more expensive cut of meat for two is often a more affordable way for customers to try something out they might often feel unable or unwilling to afford.

And finally, staff tastings are an absolute must as these are the people that you rely on to guide customers through your restaurant experience. More and more I hear customers asking waiting staff: what’s your favourite dish. Quite right too.

Food Trends in the UK

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Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. He runs his own portfolio of restaurants, and is the consultant brains behind many others. Here he gives his round-up of current and future trends in the UK food scene.

The UK is a very exciting place to be right now when it comes to food. The variety of cuisines, the creativity in the kitchen, and the quality of what’s being served, is all quite astounding. How it’s being served is also of a very high standard – everything from the service to the interior design. I believe the food scene here is only going to get more vibrant, propelled by some key dining trends.

Provenance of ingredients
People want to know where the food you are serving them has come from. They want to know how it was was farmed, whether vegetables were sprayed with pesticides, and if animals led a good life before ending up on their dinner plate.

roast beef from the joint at the carvery

Today’s diner feels responsible for the increasingly dire state of the world’s environment and wants to make a difference by making good food choices. Patrons at my restaurants check before ordering that the fish is sustainably harvested, that the meat we serve is ethically farmed and locally sourced, and that the vegetables and grains are organic. Natural wines, too, are a becoming much more sought-after.

Woe to the restaurant that neglects this shift in thinking as it is only going to get more pervasive.

Local produce
Restaurateurs are focusing more and more on sourcing ingredients from local producers. Staying local supports the community, reduces the carbon footprint of transporting ingredients from afar, and gives chefs better control of what comes into their kitchens as they can visit the farms and work closely with the farmers. Many restaurants are now growing their own produce.

Looking further into the future, as climate change creates unstable weather patterns, and farming technology develops, it’s likely that farms will be even more local and small-scale. Fruit and vegetables will be grown in hydroponic tunnels, protected from the elements. This might mean we lose our sense of seasonality.

Healthy eating
Along with being aware of how our food impacts the planet, diners are increasingly knowledgeable about how what they eat affects their bodies. How meat is reared (use of antibiotics and other chemical supplements) and crops are grown (pesticides on the food) are two obvious concerns, but eating for health is surely going to go much further.

Combining the present trend of “free of” eating – lactose, gluten, sugar, and so on – with advances in genetic technology, the future will likely see more people eating for personal health.

Vegetables and grain become star ingredients
The shift to a more ethical way of eating will make vegetables and grains playing a starring role in the kitchen. We’ve already seen this shift, in which the obligatory one or two, rather dull, vegetarian options on a menu have become a few really inspired and exciting dishes. I see vegetarian and vegan dishes becoming much more popular and prevalent.

Regional food
In London we have restaurants serving food from almost everywhere in the world. This interest in regional foods is only going to expand, both into lesser-known cuisines, such as Filipino and Iranian, as well as into a deeper knowledge of more well-known food, such as Indian. No longer will a restaurant serve ‘an Indian curry’ –now you’ll a Goan vindaloo or a Bombay Parsi sali boti.

More fusion
Globalisation and the deeper knowledge of regional foods will also lead to more experimentation with ingredients from afar in the kitchen. The current playful fusing of Brazilian and Japanese cuisine, and Korean and Italian cooking styles, for example, will continue, with new cuisine combinations. Spices, herbs and other ingredients will make their way into cuisines that have never used them before.

Back to British
Concurrent to the focus on international cuisines, there will be a return to British cuisine. Interest in our own regional food traditions combined with a nostalgia for the tastes of childhood will see diners flocking for high quality renditions of British classics. The Sunday roast with Yorkshire puddings and gravy, hearty pies and summer puddings (all with organic, sustainably sourced ingredients, of course) will give us a sense of our own place in this very globalised world.

strawberry pavlova at the carvery

UK diners today have dining choices that span the globe as well as our own very verdant and creative backyard. How these major trends all develop, overlap and intersect will make the dining scene here ever more interesting.

Local Produce

Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. He runs his own portfolio of restaurants, and is the consultant brains behind many others. He believes a restaurant that neglects using locally sourced produce is missing an opportunity. He explains why.

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With the huge interest in cookery books, TV programmes and the shift from the pub to the restaurant over the past generation, today’s diner is more knowledgeable about their food than in the history of the restaurant business. People care about what they are eating – how it affects their wellness and the wellness of the world around them.

Small and local producers have also hugely upped their game in the last decade with a plethora of innovative and marketing-savvy producers revisiting or importing production methods and recipes. The quality of locally produced food by smaller businesses is now very high.

Any restaurateurs not already convinced of the benefits of a local food philosophy should read on.

Savvy diners
In my 20+ years as a restaurateur, never before have patrons so routinely asked front of house staff for information on where an ingredient comes from and how it is caught or farmed. Today’s diner is smart – they read, they ask questions, and they watch what’s happening in a restaurant.

Many of the regulars at my restaurants are reluctant to eat meat if it is unethically farmed or brought in unnecessarily from the other side of the world. Others will always check before ordering fish to see if it is sustainably sourced.

The venison on our menu at The Swan Bar & Brasserie in West Malling, UK, comes from Chart Farm, which leaves the deer free to wander in a semi-wild environment, while our pork comes from Romshed Farm. The pigs roam free and the whole farm is managed to maximise the historic, conservation and wildlife value of the land. Our customers appreciate both the quality of product and the higher welfare of the animals.

Your values define your attitude
The story behind you dishes, and how your staff talk about the provenance of the ingredients – are key parts of the customer experience and helping to build your customer’s understanding of your brand. If customers feel that you can offer a bigger experience than simply a nice dinner, they’re going to come back for more.

Giving back and minimising impact
It’s always been important to me to support local farmers and producers. Our menus feature as much local produce as possible. This is a way of giving back to our own community.

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At Swan at the Globe we use a range of London-based and smaller UK producers, including the London Honey Company, Gosnell’s Mead based in Peckham and Cobble Lane Cured charcuterie. We also work with a number of suppliers based at the wonderful Borough Market, which is situated around the corner from the restaurant including Ted’s Veg and Bread Ahead.

You’re in control of what you serve
It’s obviously much easier to get build relationships with local suppliers than those on another continent. With local producers, you can visit the farms, take a look in their processing units. We often take our kitchen and waiting staff with us so they know exactly what we’re bringing into the kitchen, and what we’ll be serving to our customers.

Teston Bakery is one of our suppliers for The Swan, West Malling. Per Nevrin from Sweden started this small artisanal bakery so that he could make additive-free, real bread that is made using wild yeast and long, cold fermentation times. We’ve visited his bakery and understand his methods so we can speak authentically to diners about what they are eating.

Local produce is often better quality
No one feels great after a long haul flight or endless car journey and it is just the same for fresh produce. Sourcing local produce means the time from field to plate is much shorter. This can have a big impact on the quality and taste of the final dish.

Think beyond the restaurant
Many diners today are interested in taking part in food-related activities outside the restaurant. Having close relationships with suppliers is an opportunity for creating interesting activities that give your patrons an authentic sense of place.

One of our local suppliers, the privately run Kentfield Country Estate, supplies us seasonally with pheasant, wild mallard, boar, rabbit and trout. We arrange clay pigeon shooting on the estate, and offer fly fishing or game shooting for families, friends or company events before lunch or dinner at The Swan. Our clay pigeon shooting is especially popular. Everyone benefits – the guests have an enjoyable experience, we attract customers or give our regulars something exceptional to do, and the estate gains more exposure and customers.

In today’s highly competitive world of hospitality, I advise all restaurateurs to think and act local.

Opening Your First Restaurant – What You Need for Success

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Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist based in the UK and Spain. As a consultant and advisor he has guided many successful restaurant and property ventures. Here Diccon offers insider’s advice for those looking to start up their first restaurant venture.

A whopping 59% of hospitality facilities fail in their first three years. Over a quarter of these fold in their first year. With dismal success rates such as these, it’s a wonder that anyone would choose to open a new independent restaurant.

Launching any new venture involves a degree of risk. There are ways, though, to make this risk more calculated. I highlight below some key areas you’ll need to think about when planning your restaurant. These should help you to develop a clear strategy.

But all the plans in the world are unlikely to bring success without passion. Absolute commitment to making your restaurant as close to perfect as it can be is the first trait that any hardy – some would say foolhardy – restaurateur-in-the-making needs. If you have enough passion to keep both yourself and each and every member of your team inspired to be their best, every single day, keep reading.

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Here are my four building blocks to creating a successful restaurant.

1. Define Your Philosophy

No matter the style of food you serve, or whether you run a street stall, a family-friendly diner or a palace of fine-dining sophistication, be sure about what you do and what you hope to achieve.

When you have this clear in your mind, aim for perfection. From the cooking to the serving, and the interior design to the budgeting, every detail should work towards the same goal: being the best you can be.

Your customers may be coming to you for an ice cream sundae, a vegan burger, your Singaporean laksa, or your world-famous chef’s 10-course extravaganza, but they all want to feel important and looked after.

And how do you make your patrons feel cared for? Through your staff.

2. Know Who You Need

Some of your biggest decisions will be choosing the right staff. Opt for people who love their job, who care about their colleagues as well as the customers. Having a team that takes pride in making patrons feel cherished is just as important as having technically talented staff.

In the highly competitive world of hospitality, this can be the difference between make or break.

Choosing the right chef is key to the smooth operation of your kitchen and the happiness of your entire staff. How your staff work together and treat each other inside the high-stress environment of the kitchen can affect the attitude of the cooks, which can damage the quality of the dishes being produced. The atmosphere in the kitchen can also have a knock-on effect on all other staff. So interview carefully and keep all applications until you’ve made your decision. If the chef isn’t a good fit for your restaurant, no one will be happy – including your customers.

Of course the front of house team make an immense impact on a restaurant’s success. It is a joy to watch wait staff in a great restaurant go about their job. They might silently go about their business, or be the life and soul of the restaurant – this depends on each venue, its atmosphere and patrons. But as long as the goal remains to make diners feel treasured, let your staff show their personalities.

Customers will notice if your staff works well as a team, and whether they like and support each other. This can have a big impact on the atmosphere of a restaurant and keep diners coming back to a place that feels positive, caring and successful.

3. Know What You’ve Got to Do

Running a restaurant, especially at the beginning, means being there every day. Be prepared to be this committed.

Management covers a host of different aspects of running a restaurant, from hiring and managing staff, to menu creation, to handling finances and accounting, and even doing the marketing. Whether you will be heading the restaurant yourself or will be hiring someone to handle the day-to-day running of the establishment, be aware of how much impact a manager can have on a restaurant’s success.

How management staff feel about their job is just as important as their qualifications. How they treat staff is critical. Managers should be supportive, approachable, enthusiastic and entirely professional. If staff members are constantly unhappy and you have a high turnover, then it is worth taking a good hard look at yourself and your business to see if there is room for improvement. A critical eye to your own strengths and weaknesses is important.

If you’re planning on running the restaurant yourself, make sure you have an excellent grasp on the finances. Plenty of great restaurants fail, not because of the food, or lack of customers, but simply through mismanagement of the general day-to-day running costs. If you’re located in an expensive neighbourhood and you have to pay a hefty ground rent, then you’d better be sure that your food standards, price and expenses are well in sync. Not having a firm grounding in this area and not knowing the profit margin per plate and per cover, with all the expenses including rent, bills, staff wages, produce costs and so on, is a sure-fire way to run your business into the ground.

4. Understand your location

Where your restaurant is located can have a huge impact on its success. So do your homework: how many people live in the area? Local residents will likely become your most loyal customers unless you’re a ‘destination’ restaurant. What type of person lives in the area? Are there many professionals? Families? Pensioners? Office workers needing lunch? Find out and design some offers that will appeal to these demographics.

Is parking available? In a capital city such as London, which has great transport connections, this isn’t a problem, but in a country location then invariably your customer base will either be very local, or they will need to drive to you. Unless you’re a well-known ‘destination’ restaurant, being located somewhere that can benefit from walk-in foot traffic can help fill tables in quieter moments. Understanding the customer demographic that you are targeting is hugely important.

Choosing a location in an emerging area can mean that rents are more affordable, but this means committing to the location for the long-haul, banking on the area becoming more popular over time. You also need to consider the layout and size of the space. You’ll need to ensure that you will have enough customers to cover your rent and other business expenses.

Final words

A restaurant’s success is as much to do with attitude, hard work and commitment to a common goal as it is the food that is served, and the environment in which it is served. Of all the guidance I can give budding restaurateurs, my biggest advice is: no matter what you do, do it brilliantly.

About Diccon Wright

Christopher Diccon Wright is a restaurateur and property specialist who has established and grown successful operations in the UK and Mediterranean. He has also worked on a consultancy and advisory basis for a wide range of food and property clients.