- medium budget
- big cities
Catch of the Day
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If you are an accomplished cook or an enthusiastic restaurant owner, this concept concerns you. If you are lover of good food and seafood in particular, if you dislike restaurants that resemble food factories and if the very idea of serving vacuum-packed ready-made food appalls you, then read on. What I’m proposing is the exact opposite of a chain seafood restaurant. I’m proposing low investment for a relatively high average bill by serving quality fish and seafood, origins known and clearly made known to the customer and served in an appetizing manner. The menu will be short, but of a high standard.
You could set up business either in the centre of a large town or in a built-up area with a catchment area of at least 200,000 inhabitants. There are a few reasons for this: firstly, the true gourmets who are particularly well-informed about seafood are relatively rare.
Secondly, the high standard of the produce you’ll be using means that the prices you charge will inevitably be high. Lastly, a fish-based gastronomic menu implies a clientele of a fairly high social and cultural level, the sort of clientele found in sufficient numbers in large cities.
You will, of course, be located right at the heart of your catchment area. There is, however, no need to invest unwisely in a prime location, after all you’re not opening a fast-food restaurant. Being a little off the beaten track won’t be an obstacle for you because, in your case, building up customer loyalty is of the utmost importance. Nor should you succumb to the fashion in New York for opening trendy restaurants in places which are impossible to find, without even the benefit of a sign above the entrance. When choosing your location try to ensure adequate parking space.
It goes without saying that your interior decoration should be refined, perhaps even slightly feminine. As for size, I would advise no more than 45 seats. It’s better to serve 40 happy customers with quality seafood than to dish up any old crap to 80. Your goal is to acquire an excellent reputation by word of mouth, so that your restaurant becomes the place to be amongst all confirmed foodies. Besides, you should bear this in mind when advertising your launching. Rather than massive advertising, target the decision-makers, the influential people, throw an opening party, leave your cards in up-market shops and remember that the homosexual community are often lovers of fine food and have above average spending power.
If you have chosen this concept, it is evident that you are not a beginner so I will only give a few suggestions for compiling your menu. I’m sure you are conjuring up images of beautifully presented modern cooking, which is what you will be serving …but not only! I would like the produce itself to be centre-stage and not only the chef’s skills. Let me explain what I mean. Some journalists were making a documentary about Ferran Adria and they asked him what was his favorite restaurant. He cook them to a sort of greasy spoon café that serves seafood, either simply fried or cooked on a Spanish-style plancha. I probably don’t need to tell you that the owner of this café (who had such an illustrious fan) wouldn’t even know what a yuza or passion fruit look like! The great Ferran Adria concluded by explaining that the importance lies in the quality and freshness of the product and that the preparation should only serve to highlight those two qualities. And that is surely worth remembering.
It’s easy nowadays to find suppliers of quality produce. You can order your fish and shellfish directly from the fishing ports via Internet. Keep your menu brief, only six or seven starters and six or seven main courses. Alongside each dish you’ll state the port of origin and you’ll only serve it when it is in season.
Your menu or at least part of the menu should be renewed almost on a daily basis. That way you’ll reinforce the image of freshness of your seafood, and your customers will want to come back again and again to try your new dishes. Try to be original by using fish rarely seen in other restaurants. For example: plaice, meager (salmon-basse), coalfish (Pollack), razorfish and abalones…
Some of your seafood will be presented in a modern, structured way while other will be simply grilled or accompanied by a traditional sauce because a well-made hollandaise or beurre blanc will always be in vogue. When in season I would strongly recommend serving oysters. Again, you must stand out from the other seafood restaurants by concentrating on the less well-known oysters. Don’t even consider Marennes-Oléron even if they come from Gilardeau, these oysters are to be found on every street corner. Choose Saint-Waast, Tsarskaya or Bouzigues oysters or any other unusual tasting or uncommonly found oysters. Serve them both raw and cooked. There is no need to display our oysters on a stall in the restaurant as this is high-maintenance, seasonal and inadapted to the size of your restaurant. It’s also not easy to find someone who knows how to open oysters!
As for desserts, the ideal would be to have a second chef who’s good at pastry-making. Desserts aren’t a focal point in this concept but all the game they should be good. If you have no choice, buy them but select only good quality.
Now for the wine. Like your menu, your wine-list will be short, no more than 20 references. Mostly white wines, a few rosés and only two or three champagnes. I would advise including a few cheaper wines suitable for the starters and sell some wine by the glass.
My final piece of advice is to be reasonable with your pricing policy, that’s the best way to ensure customer loyalty. By its very nature, your restaurant will not to be cheap so don’t overcharge for the more expensive ingredients, you’ll be able to make up for it on the profit margin on the cheaper ingredients. In the long run, you’ll reap the benefits.