Euan Sey, co-founder of Brighton's Curry Leaf Cafe, gives his top tips for those looking to set up shop in hospitality.
Have a really clear concept
Establish what are you trying to achieve and how it differentiates you from other businesses. Start working on logos early, visually differentiate yourself and be professional - don’t start off by cutting corners. I had no previous experience of opening or running a restaurant, but food has always been my first love and I did some food and drink journalism earlier in my career. Alongside my business partner, we had a clear goal to pair Indian food with craft beer, which we had identified as a gap in the market at the time.
Be pessimistic and realistic with your numbers
Your start up costs will be more than you think, your refurbishment will cost more, and it will take longer than you think to break even. Think of a number and multiply it by 1.5! The refurbishment of the premises we took over in Brighton was far more expensive than we thought and I was borrowing money from wherever we could to get the Curry Leaf Cafe open in time. It took us a long time to fine-tune our business, but using cloud accounting software really helped. Xero’s easy-to-use software helps us to examine where costs are coming from, work out trends and refine operations to turn good turnover into healthy profit.
Take social media seriously
The first month we opened, about 50% of our audience was coming from Twitter. If we weren’t active, we wouldn’t have made it through the month. Good PR helps, and The Guardian recently named us one of the top ten places to drink in Brighton, but social media is equally important to a restaurant business today. We work harder than ever on Twitter during quiet periods.
One of the Curry Leaf Cafe’s defining USPs is its rustic and informal atmosphere. We serve everything from breakfast and lunch dishes to restaurant-style starters and main courses in the evenings. Our kiosk at Brighton train station serves food on the go, so we’ve got all bases covered. People have to eat; in the hospitality business it’s your job to make that as easy as possible for customers!
Prepare for seasonal change
Every hospitality business experiences peaks and troughs throughout the year. The Curry Leaf Cafe is always busy during school holidays as we’re a popular venue for families, but the quieter times tend to be in January and September. Using good accounting software is essential for financial transparency so you can anticipate changes. We make sure we’re on top of cash flow for quiet periods, but we also host events such as supperclubs and popups to help us deal with consumer spending habits.