Reality check for Masterchef winner becoming a restaurant owner

Reflecting on the recent MasterChef win by South Australian, Sashi Cheliah, it got us thinking. Clearly an amazing chef (he had the highest score in the show’s 10 year-history) he said he will use the prize money to open a restaurant in Adelaide specialising in Indian and South East Asian cuisines. The world needs people who take risks, so we really hope he follows his dream. As the second South Australian to win MasterChef we’re very proud of his achievements as a chef but to achieve success as a business person – an owner of a restaurant – will take very different skills.

Making a restaurant successful won’t be possible if he does all the cooking. Has anyone ever seen Jamie Oliver at Jamie’s Italian? Of course not – he’s not doing the cooking – the business relies on the systems they have implemented around the world to make the chain work – not Jamie’s cooking.

Being a great chef is part of it but he will need to develop a way of teaching those who work for him how to cook as well as he does. He will need to teach people who serve on the tables and greet people at the front door how important it is that the service they offer, the way they greet and talk to their customers, matches the quality of the food customers expect when they come to a restaurant owned by ‘the guy who won MasterChef’. Food is only about 20% of the restaurant success equation.

Of course the food needs to be fabulous. But restaurants are businesses first and foremost. The MasterChef winner will need to understand that in the kitchen every millimetre of steak counts when cutting it, ordering is a science and serving sizes and pricing are crucial. If he does it all brilliantly he may emulate Adelaide restaurant icons like Louca’s and Chianti. The food at these places rarely disappoints, but it’s matched by great service and those two don’t come together by accident. Most chefs are not good business people and have a hard time dealing with financial decisions. Fixed costs of rent, power, wages, and compliance mean profits only fall out the bottom, even with a critical mass of customers and sales. To succeed you need systems, training and discipline.

The same goes for other professions – being a great physiotherapist, doctor or lawyer doesn’t mean you have the skills to run a great business in any of these areas. Follow your dreams but recognise that being an expert in your field doesn’t guarantee business success. An awful lot goes into building a great business.

If you’re an expert in your field and want to start your own business, contact me to have a no-obligation chat about what’s involved.

About the Author

James Orchard
His unique selling point could be described as ‘getting’ it quickly. James has a real ability to grasp what clients are looking to achieve. He builds a clear picture fast, making sure that businesses can see the wood for the trees.

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