So I have been back from Dubai for 3 months now (god it’s flown by) and in that time, apart from a bit of R & R I have been working on getting the business up and running. So far we have come across a number of hurdles, we have changed the focus of the business about a hundred times, the name still eludes us, and we haven’t got a suitable property – but hey I am still staying positive!!
So, you may ask what have I been doing with my time (and no, X-boxing is not the answer!). Well I have been undertaking important work on how to create the perfect Cornish Pasty (post on this to come!), I have worked off some of the calories from consuming said Pasties by working on a building site. But perhaps the 2 most important things I have done so far is a huge amount of research on locations and/or businesses for sale that we are looking at, and started to gain some invaluable experience of working in the service industry through working at Maison Blanc:
The (ongoing) search for the perfect property!
So when you want to rent or buy a house, the process is relatively simple, get on right move, find your area, visit a few places and rent one – job done. How I wish this was the same for commercial properties.
Firstly you have the licences – we need an A3 licence so we can serve hot food, maybe expand into the evening and have plenty of seating so that we can make this a real destination – and this is where the issues lie. You see stories all the time about the death of the high street, and a walk down Guildford or Godalming high street don’t help to allay these fears. Empty shops litter the place (although there are plenty of cafes, coffee shops and restaurants still going). But these are all set up for retail and the chance and cost of conversion is too high for us.
So this brought us on to the idea of buying something existing and updating/ changing this to fit our needs. OK so the money initially is high, but we can move straight in and start making money, and update and change as time goes by. This could be an easier way to go.
We have our eye on a couple of places, sure the dream would be to get a shell and do it ourselves (and this may be what we get to do) but based on the limitations in the market at the moment, plan B may be what we go for.
We have also decided to go further afield, looking at all villages and towns in West Surrey and Hampshire (of which there are lots). Yes we need to be near home, but we also need to be realistic and need to find somewhere with potential and footfall – now on with the Search!
Getting Some Experience
So to some of you, it might seem a bit crazy that I want to open up a coffee shop without much (read any) experience of working in one. So it was off to Guildford High Street armed with my ridiculously irrelevant CV (9 years of marketing experience – not sure how helpful that is in working in service!). The first stop was the Maison Blanc Pattisserie, and after a quick chat with the manager I was invited back for a trial shift.
Wednesday came around and in I went, donned the apron and was let loose on the floor. Now Maison Blanc is a coffee shop, patisserie and bistro all in one. Things didnt start so well when I threw a jug of soy milk down a customer (the first table I served!) but from then on it was good. Staff take on everything so working the till, making the coffee and hot drinks, liaising with the kitchen and serving and clearing tables.
I only planned on a short stint there to get some experience, and it worked out well. I was the oldest by about 15 years but worked with some great ‘Kids’. I got some more time on the coffee machine, and dealt with nice and not so nice customers. I also got to see the workings of a pro kitchen. Maison Blanc is a very corporate company, having recently been bought by a Kuwait company, but it was good nonetheless.