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I couldn’t see myself as an engineer for the rest of my life and stumbled my way into restaurants. Once I was here, I realised I loved it and that’s what has kept me going. This is my advice for everybody interested in this line of work—do not get into it unless this is something you enjoy.
There’s so much glamour but also a lot of hard work and, as an entrepreneur, it is difficult. You have to stick it out so it’s fine if you’re lovin’ it. Once you start enjoying something, you don’t mind if it gets tough. A lot of people get into the restaurant business because it looks so glamorous, because they think there is money in it or because they are good cooks. They need to realise in the early days whether they want it or not.
You know the old saying, ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’? Honestly, you don’t get lucky often.
Our profession is demanding. It’s long hours that strains family life, so I think it’s important to have your wife’s support. Anyway, a few years of marriage, and wives are happy to have the husbands out of their hair.
We’re surprised many restaurants open without being properly developed. You must work on all aspects before starting—that’s how you last.
A secret ingredient makes food taste unique. It involves freshness of vision. We work hard to upgrade, try getting better chefs, and, of course, ingredients help the dish. Be authentic and different, interesting and cutting edge. That’s what the customers are looking for as well.
Chefs are hard to find. Good chefs have many opportunities for them and are much in demand. And chefs are temperamental. You really have to hand-hold then and work with them to keep the relationship alive.
Be careful with the first one and once you understand the business, you grow and carve your own identity. When you’re starting out, take a franchise or partner with somebody with a track record. Else, you could lose your life’s savings.
Of course, we have all failed. The first restaurant I failed at was a Mexican one I’d opened 20 years ago. Then I opened a Japanese restaurant, Eye, and had to shut it after four-five years. Our new, fun format ‘Guppy’ is doing well.