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Concept for:

- small budget

- deliver / take away

- fast food / sandwich shop

Alcohol abuse is dangerous for health. To consume with moderation.

For your health, eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day.

Here is a concept that will capture your attention. It may strike you as crazy to begin with but when you have read through to the end you might just decide to give it a shot. In these times of global recession when everyone is feeling the pinch, people need to be able to eat at a very low cost. At the moment there are only two ways to dine cheaply: fast-food and kebabs.

Setting up traditional fast-food requires heavy investment and when times are bad, it simply isn’t an option for many. Although cheaper to set up, the kebab market is reaching saturation point and some places are having to close down. The kebab does, however, provide an extraordinary economic model: very little investment, few staff, and inexpensive basic ingredients to end up with an end-product sold at a low price. Using that model, I would like to propose a concept which will enable you to open your own restaurant. The good news is that the food you sell will be even cheaper than a kebab, therefore you will earn more money, as your profit margin will be bigger.

To achieve this, the product you sell will have to be simple yet universal, easy to eat in the street or take-away and it’s not easy to find something like that. The hamburger is basically minced meat on bread, a hot-dog is a sausage (minced meat stuffed into a casing) served hot on bread. So I asked myself: how else can one serve minced meat on bread? And I found the answer. And it’s even more universal than the two examples cited above. It’s meatballs!

Meatballs can be found all over the world, from Hispanic albondigas to Arabian kefta, from American meatballs, to Belgium/German fricadelles (in Belgium, in the region of liege, the meatballs are served with chips in a baguette which is known as a “mitraillette” i.e. a submachine gun). There are also the Chinese Lion head meatballs and the Swedish pork meatballs, made famous by that giant blue and yellow Swedish furniture store.

My idea is to sell different sorts of meatballs, sold either on bread as a sandwich or in containers of the sort generally used for kebabs. If desired, you can serve with chips or salad and a choice of sauces (hot or cold). Paper napkins and plastic forks are all you will need to provide. Restaurant suppliers can provide a variety of ready-made meatballs but if you make them yourself they’ll be tastier, more original and depending on the recipe, perhaps even cheaper. You should have 6 or 7 sorts of meatballs. I would advise the Swedish sort, one Hispanic sort you could call Mexican, one curried poultry sort you could call Indian or Bombay, one lamb version of an Eastern flavour (the Turkish sort are better and less expensive than the kefta), a country-style pork version with plenty of herbs and flavourings. You could also serve falafels which are deep-fried balls of ground chick-peas or fava beans, you can buy these frozen and will provide a vegetarian option on your menu. To finish up, you’ll find my personal recipe at the end, it’s always a great success and you could call it “The special”.

Choosing a location to set up your business should not be too difficult. Look for a lively shopping area with plenty of young people and white-collar workers. As this is a new concept it’s best to be prudent and choose a town with a population of at least 30,000 inhabitants, even though I reckon this concept would work in smaller towns. Bear in mind that when there are 4 or 5 kebab sellers in a street there’s a good chance one of them is up for sale and probably going cheaply. Don’t forget you can get information from liquidators as to which businesses are closing down.

As for the premises itself, there’s not much difference from a kebab restaurant. Instead of a vertical roasting spit you’ll need a large oven and double-boiler for keeping your meatballs hot. If you do as I suggest and make the meatballs yourself, you’ll also need a robust mincing machine and an industrial food processor. Buy them second-hand to save money. The drinks and desserts you sell will be no different to those found in take-away pizza and kebab places. You’ll have several advantages over the kebab: from time to time use your imagination to propose a new sort of meatball, a limited edition as they do in the fast-food business. Put a sign on your front window to advertise it, another behind the counter where the customer can see it.

Another advantage: you could sell your meatballs in various quantities just like chicken nuggets are sold by 4 or 7 in fast-food.

Children generally love meatballs, turn it to your advantage. Why not have a children’s menu, including a small surprise gift. You could also propose family-sized boxes – meatballs are easily reheated in a microwave oven, much to the relief of mums who are in a hurry. Meatballs would provide an alternative to pizza while watching a football match on the TV!

Lastly, to keep things simple, charge the same price for all your meatballs, that way your customers will be able to mix and match their meatballs.

When advertising, make do with simple leaflets, one or two colours will suffice, they’ll be cheaper to print. Distribute them yourself to all shops and business in the area. You could also slip them under windscreen wipers in all the car parks around.  An attractive shop front and good old word-of-mouth will do the rest.

Now you have all the necessary information to open your business on a tight budget and to provide your customers with an affordable alternative and that, today more so than ever, is badly needed.

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My recipe for meatballs

Food rationing continued for quite a while after the end of the Second World War (rationing coupons were used until 1948). My grandmother lived in a town near an American army base which explains this recipe which used the corned beef generously provided by American aid. Over time my family added to and improved the recipe.

For about 1kg of meatballs:


500g sausage meat

1 *340g tin of corned beef

1 large onion

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

2 slices of white bread

10cl of milk

3 tomatoes

Olive oil

10cl white wine

1 egg

Cayenne pepper or paprika

Salt and pepper

½ brunch of parsley

½ bouquet of tarragon


Soak the bread in the milk.

Chop the onions and garlic in a processor.

Add the herbs and the bread (after squeezing out as much milk as possible).

Put the corned beef, the sausage meat and the chopped onion/herb/bread mixture into a large bowl.

Add the egg, salt and pepper (not too much salt as the sausage meat is quite salty), the paprika or cayenne pepper.

Roll the meatballs between your palms to the size of a large Clementine and place in a roasting dish.

Pour the wine into the dish.

Scatter the tomatoes cut into quarters among the meatballs.

Drizzle each meatball with olive oil.

Cook in a pre-heated oven at 190°C for about 30 minutes.