In the Sunday Times recently food critic AA Gill positioned himself as Moses on the Mount and laid out his Ten Commandments for ‘profitable dining’ aimed at restaurateurs. To name but a few:
1. Do not open a restaurant because you love feeding people and want to welcome them to your place. It’s a business, not a party.
2. A restaurant is a factory – dishes must be repeated to perfection ad nauseam.
3. Every facet of a restaurant that can go wrong will go wrong – it’s an expensive business.
4. It’s a delusional business – no chef eats his own three-course menu and no manager eats in his own dining room.
5. Restaurant PR is a waste of time and money.
6. Location means nothing. If it’s good they will come. If it’s bad, they won’t.
7. Restaurant success is a complete unknown – there is no formula, no rules – it either goes right – or it doesn’t.
And so on and so depressingly on. And yet, despite the forbidding nature of the beast, being a restaurateur is an itch more and more of us need to scratch. How else to explain the continued popularity of shouty John Torode and Greg the Egg on Masterchef, the recent scathing Winner’s Dinners and even the seminal Come Dine with Me? For, despite the notorious hard work, long days (and nights), financial pressure and lack of social life involved in any career in the restaurant trade, it’s still a dream for many aspiring cooks.
Just take a look at the rapid popularity of underground dining. You don’t just hold a dinner party any more (so passe darling and so 90s), but you must be seen to be more ambitious, throwing yourself and your tender culinary skills at the mercy of complete strangers. Pop up restaurants are just as hard work, if not more so, than the static type, but are fast becoming a cliche as barely a week goes by without another popping up in some godforsaken riverside wharf.
So would you ever succumb to the dream and what would be your dream restaurant? Have you ever held an underground dinner in your lounge? Or – on the other side of the serving hatch – what would be your top rules for restaurants as a consumer? Are there any recurring faults you’d like to wipe from the menu? Shout out now or forever hold your peace.