Top Chefs: 3 ways of running a successful restaurant

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Top Chefs: 3 ways of running a successful restaurant

We’ve spoken to some of the successful restaurant owners in the community – Joel Åhlin, Matt Orlando, and Sven Jensen – about the key elements of running a successful restaurant in 2018.

More restaurants open up their doors than ever before. But just as many close theirs for good. Last year in Denmark alone, 409 restaurants closed down. That’s an increase of 90% compared to 2015. 60% of these restaurants were in the capital area.

More restaurants open up their doors than ever before. But just as many close theirs for good. Last year in Denmark alone, 409 restaurants closed down. That’s an increase of 90% compared to 2015. 60% of these restaurants were in the capital area.

We’ve spoken to some of the successful restaurant owners in the community – Joel Åhlin, Matt Orlando, and Sven Jensen – about the key elements of running a successful restaurant in 2018. 

Agrikultur Joel Åhlin Stockholm Michelin star restaurant modern Joel Åhlin, Agrikultur: Sustainability is the future

Tell me about Agrikultur and how you guys run your restaurant in terms of honoring food, flavor, sustainability, and community?

“We try to stay humble to the farmers and present their produce in the best possible way. We support our community by choosing the finest, freshest, and sustainably produced ingredients from carefully selected local Swedish farms, ranches, and dairies. Our cooking philosophy is about clean and strong flavors of Nordic origin, combined with technology that helps the raw materials to maintain their natural beauty. Everything down to what we serve on the plate, to how we treat our staff and view the cycle of food, has a focus on sustainability.”

You do not only care about the environment and sustainability, you are equally interested in the well-being of the employees and everyone who works at Agrikultur. Why is it important?

“We try to include our staff as much as possible. We have a very open approach to the way we run our restaurants with no closed doors. We do not hide anything from our team and loves to hear all ideas regarding everything from the menu to the way we do things. We believe it enables our team to deliver 100% instead of only 80%. We have both learned the lesson of being treated badly during our career and we have defiantly learned how not to treat our staff. Previously Agrikultur was only open Monday to Friday, but we recently changed our opening hours to be open from Wednesday to Saturday with two seating per night. Everyone on our team is on a set schedule to avoid overtime and not run ourselves tired. We offer a set menu which enables us to decrease waste, but also to work more efficient.”

“At Agrikultur is really about listening, helping and education each other. Together we’re stronger. We do many things together. We forage together. Last year we invited the whole team on a trip to Barcelona. We drink beer together. Very important.”

What does it take to be a good chef today?

“It requires you to constantly be creative and innovative and aware of what other chefs are doing, but in the same way finding your own way of doing things. Finding your own path. Everybody can cook. Some just understand it better than others. It wouldn’t be possible without the great natural ingredients. To be able to cook great food we are very dependent on good farmers and good breeders. People with both skill and passion for their craft. For me, it’s important to stay humble and appreciate the incredible work of all the hardworking and passionate farmers and breeders.”

“Many chefs today are too obsessed becoming a star chef instead of mentioning the farmers. I don’t get it.”

“Instead, they should focus more on becoming sustainable by using locally sourced produce. There are lots of farmers and producers in Sweden (where Agrikultur is located), and we have to learn to appreciate them.”

Is that the new way of running a restaurant?

“I hope so. It’s also something you see more and more across the world at the moment. I just hope it’s not a trend. First and foremost, it’s important as a chef to be aware of your own well-being knowing when to take a break and enjoy other aspects of life which makes you happy. Everybody knows how tough this industry can be. It can literally break you. As a chef, you need to stay curious and keep exploring.”

Amass Matt Orlando Michelin star restaurant sustainable cooking dining modernMatt Orlando, Amass: Performance, Evaluation, Sustainability, and Constant reinvention

What would you say it takes to run a restaurant today? In terms of stamina, knowledge, technology?

“I think it takes a lot. It’s not just cooking anymore, just coming in and cooking every day. There needs to be an intelligent side, an educated side, to the decisions you make with the guests and also the food, and mainly the products that you use. In the past, you had one vegetable purveyor and just ordered everything there. And if you really want to examine what it means to be a modern restaurant, in Copenhagen specifically, I can’t speak for everyone, because there are definitely people out there not doing this in Copenhagen, but the commitment to finding the best possible products you can. And that’s a big undertaking.”

“But it’s not about just finding the best products, it’s about finding the best and produced in the most responsible ways.”

“And that takes going to the farms, it takes going to the butcheries, going out on fishing boats, it takes a lot of time outside of the kitchen, away from cooking, so when we do get in the kitchen to cook, we know that we have the best possible products we could have.”

Speaking of intelligence and the business side of the restaurants: There’s an importance of measuring performance.

“Yeah, a restaurant to so many people is a very romantic thing. But you can’t do anything cool or innovate or create or experience-wise for the guests unless you make money. That’s what it comes down to. You really need to make money to progress. A lot of people out there, I don’t even know if they’re lucky or what, but they have backers that just throw money at them and say ‘I don’t care about making money, just do the best thing that you can possibly do’. And I think that’s not realistic. And you see these restaurants out there just doing these crazy things and you’re like ‘how can you possibly be doing that and still run a restaurant?’ So I think the business side of it and being responsible with your products and your labor is so important.”

“We sit down every two weeks with all of the managers here, and we go through the entire restaurant and examine every aspect of the restaurant from the kitchen to the service to how the guests enter the door to how they’re given the check. So we examine everything we do. Of course, we have a model now that works, and if we don’t examine the stuff that works, how are we going to find better ways and more efficient ways to do it? So for me, it’s about really evaluating everything you do on a daily basis – even though it works.”

Do you feel like there’s data that you rely on more than others?

“So, for me right now… We obviously track our products coming in; if we’re paying this much for pork belly or pork neck, then we’re seeing how many portions we get out of it but that’s kind of a norm within restaurants. The new data that we’ve started to receive recently… We work with a company called Zero Footprint out of San Fransisco and they track our carbon emissions from our restaurant. So we’re able to track the exact amount of basically our CO2 footprint in the world with them. So by us getting this data on specific aspects, (I have a sheet right in front of me that somebody just handed me), that tracks the exact percentage of lamb that we used last year in comparison to the total meat that we served and what the carbon emission is on that lamb.”

“So we get these numbers in that allows us to lower our carbon emissions. Like I can tell you right now that last year, 5% of all the meat we used was lamb, 35% was beef and 60% was pork. The lamb being only 5% of what we used last year, the lamb itself created an almost equal amount of carbon emission as the 35% of beef. So this year, we’re not serving lamb.”

But that’s something you don’t know if you don’t do this. It’s really futuristic, so to say.

“Yeah, but it kinda ties into our whole philosophy.”

Which factors do you include in the performance measurement?

“Because we’re an organically certified restaurant, we obviously monitor our organic percentage. All of our invoices go in every month and we do a calculation because in order to get the golden certification you have to be between 90-100% organic. So we fluctuate around 97%. So that’s a huge part of our monitoring: Where our stuff comes from.”

“Regardless if you’re organic or not, you need to know where your stuff comes from.”

“So monitoring that is a huge task as well.”

Let’s zoom in on the guest experience – how is that data-driven?

“We used to have two menus, the regular menu and the extended menu, so we track what menus we’ve sold. What we also track is where guests come from in the world. Which is really interesting. Also the percentage of foreign guests to Danish guests and how that fluctuates throughout the year. In the summer it’s 95%. In the winter around now it gets less and less Danish. Even in the winter, we’re 60-70 % foreign.”

SAV Malmö Sven Jensen Michelin star restaurant modernSven Jensen, SAV: Passion and Economy

What does it take to start a restaurant from scratch today?

“In the end, it’s a business. You’re not going make it on the home front if you don’t generate revenue. That’s clear. I believe you have to have some serious balls. You have to dare take the chance because within the restaurant industry there are just as many restaurants opening as there are restaurants closing. It’s madness! Just in the Skåne area around 15-20 new restaurants have opened up since January (we’re in March). It’s crazy. And out of those, not many survive. So you, of course, have to have the economy in place and dare to take the leap.”

“We’ve been pretty privileged, lucky and skilled that we’ve accomplished what we have so far, but we’ve also had to minimize our expenses to make it run. But that’s what it takes to open a restaurant. In reality, you have to differentiate as much as possible as a restaurant. Even if you’re serving Nordic food, as so many other restaurants do, well, then it’s still about creating a niche product that’s different than other restaurants, like we have created out here. I think it’s important to find your niche and what you’re passionate about yourself – what triggers you in the morning and makes you get up and work on it. That’s what should drive you. The money is something else. That shouldn’t be the driving force. It just has to be calculated in the project itself. It can be all fun and games right now, but if you’re not generating a profit then it won’t work.”

“The driving force shouldn’t be the money, it should be the passion.”

“We haven’t opened up our restaurant to become crazy wealthy, even though it would be great if you one day had some money in the bank, that’s obvious. But if we did it to become rich, we wouldn’t have opened a restaurant with four tables.That really limits the revenue. We’re trying to establish a business that in the long run can become a good business. But you have to choose: Do you want to open a place with a lot of tables and a lot of employees, then you also have to have a full dining room every day. Or you can do like us and have fewer tables and focus on every single guest over the quantity. It’s hard to give concrete advice since I’m so new in this. I’ve only been doing this for a year and a half. We could in theory close tomorrow.”

 What has it required to open the restaurant?

“In order to get start-up capital to open the restaurant, I had to sell one of my cars and Alex had to sell his BMW.”

“We both had to sell a little of what we owned in order to get started.”

“So we bought a moped instead – a small one without plates. That meant that the days where Alex didn’t have a car, I had to drive through everything from snow and sleet to rain in order to pick him up – I have to add that none of us are small men – so there we were, two corpulent boys on a tiny moped, driving between 15-20 kilometers an hours to get to work. We didn’t drive faster than 15 kilometers an hour. It was hilarious.”

“We were here pretty early in the morning in the beginning, so that was about 5,6 or 7 in the morning. There must have been some people standing on the side of the road and wondered when we drove by on our way to work. These are the stories you remember.”

“The whole journey is fun, and it funny to look back on all of the things that have happened since we opened, the whole concept etc. Good stories are always good.”

“We’ve also been out stealing sea buckthorn at 12 at night, so nobody would see us when we were cutting down the bushes. Suddenly two people are standing and looking at us from their camping van. In Sweden you can camp everywhere you want to. They were probably wondering what the hell two boys were doing at 12 at night with a bolt cutter and a saw. Right until they find out that we’re stealing sea buckthorn. It turned out that they were two German tourists that thought it was so cool and end up asking us if they could help. We end up cutting down the bushes with two German tourists. That’s awesome.”

“We had five tables in the beginning. Now we’ve changed it to four tables, in order to get more space in the restaurant. I think we’re going to stick with that for now. We just have to see how it goes before we open up for five tables. We have to see how it goes with our early guests that arrive at 17 o’clock, when they’re done and if it’s even possible to do more seatings. We’re usually against several seatings since we want our guests to stay as long as they like. So I think we’re going to stick with four tables four days a week. That’s the plan.”

 

“We were looking for the best way to handle reservations and guest profile data and SUPERB really impressed us with its system. Also SUPERB brought our no-show rate impressively down.” – Thomas Sühring, Sühring.

The Design

Great design (obviously) matters. Especially for our community. 90% of our community highlights the design as one of their main drivers for working with SUPERB. Sticking to our Scandinavian roots, we have crafted the most beautiful reservation experience on the market, leaving your guests with the absolute best first impression of your restaurant.

“We love SUPERB because of it’s clean and smart appearance. The system is an easy and professional way for our guests to book online and it suits Silo’s style.” – Douglas McMaster, Silo & Mr Lyan.

Curios to know how we can help your restaurant? Click here to schedule a meeting

Simplicity & User-friendly

Our partner restaurants all highlighted the importance of working with a simple and user-friendly system easy to handle for both the guest and staff.

“We have chosen to work with SUPERB for several reasons. First and foremost, it is user-friendly for both the guest and the staff handling the system. In addition, SUPERB is graphically and visually more inviting and personal than other solutions. It’s a huge advantage for us that our guests, already before entering our restaurant, gets a positive impression of our restaurant.” – Henrik Junker, Restaurant Paustian.

No More No-Shows

No-shows are known as the “killer” in the restaurants. The majority of our community highlights the no-show feature as one of the features with the biggest impact. The no-show feature provides restaurants with more security, enabling restaurants to ask guests to leave their credit-card details in order to confirm a reservation. The no-show feature has helped leading restaurants in reducing their no-show rate from an average of 16% to 0,8%.

“For us SUPERB have made a big difference, before SUPERB we had some issues with guests not showing up. Now we don’t have any kind of no-shows. If we didn’t have SUPERB, I don’t think we would still be open.” – Rasmus Munk, Alchemist.

Applications

Create and customize a unique guest experience, host special events, sell tickets, automated gift cards, and much more. Our community loves our variety of built-in applications. Made to make the staff work smarter and more efficient with endless possibilities – make the life easier for any restaurant.

“We wanted a bespoke system that could work to the high standards we have set in the restaurant. We are a unique restaurant and needed a system that worked for us.” – Steven Edwards, Etch.

The support

 

 

 

 

 

The majority of our community highlights support as one of the vital reasons for working with SUPERB. Our support is mainly rewarded for being both interactive and helpful combined with a quick response time.

“You will see something that is in constant development. You have constant feedback. If you try to call someone you get it fixed straight away. There is no waiting time. Waiting time is almost non-existing when you work with SUPERB” – Thomas Korby, Mielcke & Hurtigkarl

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