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Restaurants on the Edge review: A complex recipe for success

Restaurants on the Edge review: A complex recipe for success

Preoday's Head of Marketing reviews new Netflix show: Restaurants on the Edge, giving her opinion on whether the improvements make a good recipe for success.

Restaurants on the Edge review: A complex recipe for success

“Restaurants you want to take pictures of, that’s the key to success.”

Controversially, in my opinion, this is one of the quotes from the new Netflix series, Restaurants on the Edge. After hearing that in the promo, I decided to sit down to watch and the rest of the show. Maybe I’d learn something?

The restaurant in the episode I watch, owned by footballer, Justin Hopper, is based in a competitive seaside location in Malta. Haber 16 is struggling to stand out from the competition, so what are the experts going to recommend to improve the venue?

It’s clear from the start that operations and budgeting are an issue, the set-up is a mess and Justin says he’s struggling with his time management. His USP is that he ships shellfish from other countries, which sounds, not only expensive, but run contrary to the world’s current eco-eating trend. By his own admission, he’s not a natural businessman.

So what do the experts suggest? Marketing? Effective management systems and analytic solutions that will help him make better business decisions? No.

“First impressions are everything”, they say.

They start by reading through online reviews. That’s a good move; it lays bare the immediate issues, though of course such reviews can only run skin-deep. That’s 3 or 4 minutes of the programme. They then spend the next 30 minutes talking about design using local products and recipes with regional ingredients. The commentary is dripping in hyperbole and metaphors, but what the advice comes down to is this: make it look nice and taste good.

Finally we move touch on marketing and PR. The suggestion for Justin is to capitalise on his celebrity status, but then to develop a ‘special’ story to talk about the business. They discuss the importance of publicity and influence and arrange for an article to be written announcing the relaunch of the restaurant. It’s a very flashy crash, bang wallop approach, and it will certainly get those initial customers through the door. Still, I’m disappointed to hear little discussion about ongoing marketing. Every restaurant, they say, needs to have press. But from my point of view, unless it’s rolled-out regularly and has a strategic basis, press becomes old, fast. This section is also very short when compared to the rest of the show. Just 5 minutes are dedicated to such an important aspect of business success.

On a personal note, I feel uncomfortable with the decision to bring in non-seafood dishes like rabbit pasta, something which has no connection to the owner’s shellfish story and passion. But that’s by-the-by.

Five minutes before the end comes the big reveal. They’ve redesigned the venue and there’s a new menu to introduce. The word experience is used frequently, though interestingly, only in relation to the food.

And then it’s over. They declare Justin is now a good businessman and that his business has entered a new level. Just like that.

So what do I think? My concern is that this show doesn’t really explore the depths of becoming a good restaurateur. It’s a programme about saving a restaurant – a shiny version of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares – but unlike that programme, it feels quite shallow in its exploration of the company’s larger issues. I would be concerned that shows like this make out to startups that being a successful food operator is based all on food and wallpaper. Those already in the industry know that’s not true. You can have mediocre food and be a huge success, as many high street chains know. Or you have have incredible food and ultimately fail – just this week Bristol River Cottage Kitchen closed its doors.

Ultimately success is a complex recipe. I would like to see programmes like this place more emphasis on business operations and organisation, budgeting, marketing and of course, technology. Only with this combination of elements can restaurant success truly be achieved.

The Complex Recipe of Success: maybe I should pitch that to Netflix.

By Charlotte Bass, Head of Marketing at Preoday

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