Meals With Millionaires (1)

Today I had breakfast with two proto millionaires who shall remain nameless.   Suffice to say they are restaurateurs who each have a fabulous name in the UK restaurant business for opening other people’s restaurants and getting them right, and or putting them right when things go wrong.   A bit like Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, but without the nightmare and without Gordon.

My chums, N & J, well I hadn’t met J before but N is already a mate, have a consultancy which sorts out restaurants which go wrong and help people with a concept but no process to open their restaurants.   And in order to big up this idea and demonstrate their expertise, they are going to open their own London restaurant, a bit like a showroom, with their consultancy offices above.  

I am very excited about this because I LOVE restaurants and the people that run them.   The restaurant business is theatre and its one of the very few remaining types of  business which is almost entirely dependent upon people, real people doing their best.

Have you ever been in something – an orchestra or a choir, perhaps or a relay race – or some other venture where occasionally the magic happens, you all get your shit together simulataneously and what unfolds is something which is greater than the sum of your parts?   I have and there’s n’owt to beat it; your pulse races yet your heart beat slows down and you hardly dare draw breath for fear of breaking the spell and you can’t quite believe its happening at all, let alone to you.  Its a miracle, a real-live miracle.

And that’s what happens in a restaurant too when it all comes together.   I know, I’ve been there, I’ve occasionally taken a shift on a Friday night doing the bills for clients of mine, happy days.

And let me tell you, Gentle Readers, its very, very difficult indeed to get it right.   It’s hard graft, physical labour, hot as hades in the kitchen, and you all stand up all the time so you need physical stamina and you have to keep a smile on your face however annoying the punters get.   And don’t start me on the almost impossibility of getting the accounts to stack up and you to make a profit after all that hard work, even before the restaurant critic hoves over the horizon, dammit.

There’s a technical term they use in their line of work “we are in the shit tonight” and that happens more often than anyone would wish  – you are short-handed or swamped with over-bookings, tables are running behind, lots of items on the menu are now “off”, the chef’s temper is frayed (we are always slightly in fear and awe of Chef anyway), the pot-wash has gone missing and some vital ingredient wasnt delivered today and you still have to feed the five thousand.   Rather them than me.   A chef runs on so much adrenaline, he won’t feel when he burns himself during a shift!

But when you are in the shit in your restaurant what you want is two chaps like my clients, two gents they are in fact, and their process manual, their staff training, their flair.    During our meeting I had a flash that they would be the next generation Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the two guys who brought you Le Caprice, The Ivy and more.   My boys, proud as punch I was of them, and chuffed to be back in the restaurant game where I had some of the most fun days of my life, working with and playing with lots of the greats.   Ah, those were the days…remind me to tell you some of the scandalous and funny stories one day.

Today’s was the most exciting business idea I have heard so far in 2010, but then I haven’t heard yours yet, have I?

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