- big budget
- the countryside
The Country Club
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Here’s quite an unusual concept-firstly because you’ll be setting up your restaurant in the country (and that will enhance your own personal life!) and secondly, rather than just another restaurant you’ll be creating an atmosphere where people come to socialize and relax.
The country club is a restaurant-cum-bar-cum-club aimed at an up-market clientele who are seeking social status as much as a nice meal and/or drinks. In fact, the country-club is not unlike the golf club-house (which incidentally is often the golf-club’s only profitable activity).
The ideal location is in the “trendy” country-side. By that, I mean an area outside (but not too far outside) a large town. It’s a sparsely populated area, quiet, boasting sizeable properties. It may be an area where people come for the weekend, to hunt or to go horse-riding. The locals are rather up-market (executives, professionals, shop-owners, well-off pensioners…). A positive sign: you’ll no doubt find a few nice inns and gastronomic restaurants in the area. The neighboring towns will be flourishing, again quite up-market and expensive with a lot more to offer than the usual commodities. If you can meet all the criteria you’ll have found your ideal location.
You’ll need a spacious premises (at least 500m2) in a pleasant environment with surrounding out-door space. As your premises are in a rural setting you’ll probably be in a detached building. The type of building itself doesn’t really matter. It could be an old inn, a stately home, a commercial premises or even a derelict factory or warehouse. The important thing is that the premises meet the criteria cited above.
As for lay-out and decoration: stylish, tasteful, comfortable are the adjectives to bear in mind. It’s essential that your create a relaxing, pleasant atmosphere so don’t hesitate to call on a professional interior decorator. As in any club-house worth its salt, you’ll need not only a pleasant dining-room (round tables, neutral shades, ivory/champagne table cloths) but also a comfortable bar/lounge with tables and plenty of space for large, cushy armchairs and sofas.
One or more reception rooms are also vital because in such prestigious surroundings you’re going to be inundated with bookings for conventions, weddings and all sorts of receptions. Your club will be THE stylish venue in the area! Your kitchen must, as a result, be planned to deal with catering for large numbers.
Although there’s no obligation, it may be a good idea to provide extra facilities to attract clients… a Jacuzzi, a gym or even a couple of tennis-courts would supplement your income. As for the food you serve each day in your restaurant, keep it simple. You need a modern take on traditional cooking but try to avoid the great lengths some gastronomic restaurants go to with their molecular cuisine, their over-the-top presentations while using ingredients nobody has ever heard of. This type of cuisine doesn’t appeal to a wide enough public for your concept and would only greatly increase the cost of a meal, resulting in a loss of custom. You have to appeal to a large number of people while remaining affordable.
You could, if you like, have a carvery with a spit-roast in the dining-room, that way you could easily personalize your menu. A carvery would probably be of use for your other catering activities too.
I would advise you to devote a lot of time and attention to your pastries and desserts. There are 4 very good reasons for this: firstly, you’ll stand out and will attract real connoisseurs to you restaurant. Secondly, you’ll be able to serve afternoon tea in your lounge area, a big attraction for the elderly female clientele! Thirdly, your excellent reputation will do wonders for your group catering (weddings, seminars etc). I can’t advise you strongly enough to hire a good pastry chef, it’ll be well worth the investment when catering for large numbers (petits fours, hors-d’oeuvres as well as birthday or wedding cakes). The final reason is that there’s another: Sunday brunch. There are many reasons why brunch is a very good idea. Brunch is fashionable, it’s chic, it’s at the very heart of the spirit of the country-club and can therefore only help to project the right image. What’s more, brunch works well, almost all the main hotels do them, as do more and more restaurants.
There are several reasons for the success of the brunch formula: today’s clientele don’t want to stick to the rigid Sunday opening-hours of traditional restaurants. Another reason: buffets are convivial and are appreciated by all the family. It makes such a change from the traditional Sunday lunch with grandma and granddad in some nice traditional restaurant where the kids get bored and behave badly.
Your long opening-hours for brunch (generally 10am-4pm or later) mean you’ll be able to serve a huge amount of brunches. And you’ll be able to close in the evening. Brunch is easy to find in large towns but is pretty scarce elsewhere. However, you, having carefully chosen your location, will e in the ideal spot for brunch, in the midst of the typical brunch-buying clientele i.e. a rather middle-class population.
The idea behind brunch is to take the usual breakfast buffet served in up-market hotels and to supplement that with a selection of savory dishes and a range of desserts.
Which is another reason for hiring a qualified pastry-chef. I can already imagine your Sunday brunchers feasting upon wonderful top-notch homemade breads and pastries, some of which will be original and exotic beyond belief!
Nowadays, there are all sorts of brunches so you’re free to concoct the buffet of your choice. Take inspiration from what’s on offer in the main hotels. In short, brunch is a classy buffet which will end up making you a very nice turnover.
The final aspect of your business is a bar. This, of course, is not your local pub! As we said earlier, you’ll be serving afternoon tea there. But the country club is first and foremost some-where to socialize and you’ll need a license to serve champagne or cocktails or whatever to your customers while they listen to nice relaxing music. Your clientele will be quite up-market and the country club will be the place to be seen. The lounge area will soon be hut a business activity (don’t forget the wifi). You could serve bar food and light lunches in this area. And you could organize piano-bar evenings at the weekend.
As you can see, a country-club is a very big enterprise and a huge investment but one which provides several sources of income. And it’s unlikely that you’ll have much in the way of competition in the area.
The key to success lies mainly in getting!
Your choice of location right, and giving all the aspects of running such a business the attention they deserve.
Your marketing ability will be of the utmost importance for the group catering end of the business and for approaching potential clients.
Special attention must be given to advertising before opening and don’t forget to financially provide for a sharp increase in business once your restaurant opens.