A friend of my wife came to tell me about a restaurant that her husband – a very rich man who owns a Ferrari but is unable to drive in Jakarta because there is not any decent highway- bought for her, so she would stop wasting her time. She doesn’t know anything about food, restaurants or the hospitality industry. I told her not to do it! So I gave her my ten reasons to not open another restaurant in Jakarta
1. Location, location, location. Today’s customers want to drive fancy cars in Jakarta. Even before they have decent toilets in their houses, they have cars. Well, a car needs a parking space and if you don’t have parking areas, forget about your restaurant, unless you want to call it a warung and you will sell mieand krupuk.
2. Most restaurant customers in Jakarta know nothing about cuisine and yet they will pretend that they know what a béchamel is, whether a steak is at a medium rare point or how to make a reduction. They will complain as if they visit a Michelin Star restaurant every week.
3. Not another Italian, please. Ok, Italian food is great and easy to cook and has the best margin for a restaurateur. But come on, do we need another Italian venue? Lift a stone and you will find a delicious pasta restaurant in this big city.
4. One is born, one is dead. I have serious figures from the Restaurant Association of Indonesia that for each new restaurant which opens, one closes down. Consider yourself lucky if you survive.
5. If you believe that owning – opening – or being a partner of a restaurant is fancy, you are absolutely mistaken. Being a restaurateur is one of the hardest jobs in the world. You drink, you eat, you go to sleep late, you get fat, you have hypertension, and you may die.
6. Your staff will rob you, whether you want it or not. You will fill the place with CCTV cameras, you will watch the images in your iPad and that staff member sitting on the floor in the gudang is not praying, darling. That person is eating a delicious Japanese wagyu prime steak from your fridge.
7. Alcohol licensing will be a mess and you will need to play by the black market rules. What does that mean? It means for one legal bottle on the shelf, you will have ten bottles more with no cukai sticker hiding in your super secret office in the back of the restaurant.
8. Get used to it, this is a market of wholesalers and not buyers. Get used to the word ‘HABIS’ for all your imported goods like meat, cheese, charcuterie, risoarborio and of course wine. And they will not only tell you ‘habis’, they will not let you know when it will arrive. It will be because of customs, because of the quota, because of Jokowi, because of KPK, etc, etc, etc. In addition, get used to having a very cheap menu because you will need to change it very often.
9. You will need to pay for your license, whether you want it or not, and you may never have it because of this reason and that reason and you will have to open your restaurant without any license. If you wait until everything is ready, you may never open it, darling.
10. You will name your restaurant with an unusual name like Potato Face, Green Grass or Luna Roja and they will still forget you.
After I gave my ten reasons, my wife’s friend told me that I was the grumpiest old man of all Kemang and that she was going to open her Italian trattoria still, in the latest shopping mall in her fancy neighborhood. I told her not to invite me to the restaurant’s soft opening, in which customers will be served cheap wine and tasteless bruschetta. She said, “Don’t worry, old man. You will not receive any invitation from me.” Well, until your closing party then.: