A lot of people have ‘romantic’ ideas about owning and operating an eatery. And, I suspect, many lessen their chance of success by letting romanticism sway them in their decision-making.
It’s important to put romanticism to one side. It’s vital to base every decision, right from the start, on solid, unemotional business principles, and to stick to them. This approach has certainly worked for Goodness Gracious, and helped us grow from one store to our present scale.
I’m aware that there are many varieties and styles of eateries and each can be very nuanced, but I expect that someof my thoughts about starting a business (in my case, a daytime business) will apply across hospitality in general.
Deciding on location
We have steered clear of ‘ego locations’ like Auckland’s K Road and Ponsonby. I would recommend this approach.
On stretches like Ponsonby Road, high demand for retail space has led to traditionally high rents. And while the retail landscape has changed, landlords’ expectations haven’t. There are probably more empty high street retail sites than there have been for years, but most landlords have been unwilling to drop their rents accordingly. Maybe they’ve owned their buildings for decades, and — even without rental income — they’re earning enough from rising land values.
Retailers who do choose ego locations are perhaps attracted by what they believe to be the brand value gained by association with such areas. That is, of course, their call, but I don’t believe it outweighs the chance to enjoy lower rents and less competition elsewhere.
Looking at the layout & design of the city
The city of Auckland was designed around main access routes and high streets. So, right from the start, a business on a key thoroughfare will have greater exposure to potential customers than a business tucked down a side street.
It’s a different story in a city like Melbourne. There, a web of lively laneways in the CBD — designed by city planners over a hundred years ago — gives small retailers a real chance to compete with high street businesses. Thanks to the planners’ foresight, the laneways attract high and lucrative foot traffic.
Paying attention to dining culture
The growing popularity of ‘convenience eating’ has seen some customers put convenience even ahead of quality. Of course it’s vital to maintain quality — that goes without saying — but it’s important for new operators to recognise that success will also depend on factors like proximity to your potential customer base, the speed of your service, and whatever makes it convenient for someone to choose your store over others.
There is often value in choosing location ahead of menu. I believe it’s risky to force a predetermined style of food on an area.
When we opened our first Goodness Gracious, we found our location first. Only after considering the area, its culture and people, and the space available, did we settle on our offering: a bagel-centric cafe. We judged our product would be a good fit — sufficiently novel to create interest, stylishly delivered, and competitively priced.
Beyond the immediate area, we knew the city’s population was both growing and increasingly diverse, and we hoped our offering would have broad appeal. Thankfully, it seems it does.