- big budget
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The Rugby Club
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When we choose to eat out in such or such a restaurant, it’s not for the food, it’s also for the atmosphere. In a world where sport is very highly rated, rugby is definitely the one sport which could provide a theme for your restaurant. Even if relativity few people know the rules of the game or follow the matches, it has to be said that rugby is well looked upon (even by the ladies). And, of course, the renowned post-match revelry has always been associated with conviviality and good food.
A rugby theme restaurant is very easy to set up. When looking for your location, follow the main names in carvery/steakhouse chain catering, either in a town centre or on the outskirts (I prefer the latter) but avoid shopping malls. You need a catchment area of at least 50,000 people. If you choose the outskirts of town, stay close to retail parks and main roads. It’s vital to be visible and not lost in the depths of some industrial zone! Some hotels for travelling business men in the locality would be an advantage for business during the week. The conviviality of you rugby restaurant would be greatly appreciated to escape from the tedium of an impersonal hotel room. Whether in town or on the outskirts, proximity to a multiplex cinema would also be a plus. And lastly, proximity to industrial estates or offices is always good for business at weekday lunch-time.
The size and layout of your restaurant will be estimated according to the size of your catchment area, between 90 and 160 seats. I reckon the ideal would be around 120. This concept would be best suited to a detached building with plenty of parking-this would be expensive to build but if you’re lucky you may find a promises to rent.
The decoration couldn’t be simpler: rugby jerseys, rugby balls, photos, posters, adverts and that’s it! It doesn’t come much cheaper than that! And compiling your menu is probably just easy. Give pride of place to the gastronomic cuisine of the south-west of france: salads landaises, confits, foies gras, magrets, Bayonne cured ham, locally produced pork delicacies, axoa, grilled beef…
You could have tapa-style starters. You could even propose the emblematic “cassoulet”, either one or more of its numerous versions. But don’t have cassoulet as the star of your menu, it’s a very rich dish (the well-known chef André Daguin once said that a cassoulet could feed 15 rugby men, 30 Parisians or 2 bus-loads of Japanese tourists!).
However, rugby is not only about the French South-West, it’s a lot more global than that. On your menu you could propose: starters and salads using Scottish and Irish smoked salmon, kangaroo and ostrich meat would represent Australia and South Africa, lamb from New Zealand, an Argentinian parillada (selection of grilled meats).
For the dessert, copy the choice of the main chain restaurants. Likewise for the wine-list. Wines from de South-West region of France (Bergerac, Gaillac, Cahors, Irouleguy, Pecharmant, wines from Languedoc) as well as Australian, Argentinean and South Africa wines which are often good and totally fit in with your theme. Don’t forget to stock a selection of beer from all the rugby nations.
You’ll be targeting quite a varies clientele, you’ll have no trouble picking up the usual clientele of the major names in carvery/steakhouse catering (your business is quite similar to theirs).
At lunchtime you’ll attract a rather masculine clientele from the corporate and commercial spheres. In the evenings, you’ll attract a young, festive crowd, especially if your background music is upbeat and varied and, of course, in harmony with your rugby theme (try a few bandas now and again). You’ll have no difficulty attracting a real rugby crowd (it’ll be in your best interests to give them reductions, to offer sponsorship) and some big tv screens for watching matches are a must.
One point I’d particularly like to draw your attention to is your pricing policy. Make sure you remain reasonable, too many restaurant owners apply ridiculous ratios when calculating their prices and result in customers fleeing. You could apply a bigger mark-up on the dishes whose ingredients are inexpensive and conversely, go easy when marking up the pricier dishes. Moderation when pricing drinks, particularly wine, is even more important. The price of wine has greatly increased over the last ten years so it is totally surrealist when some restaurant owners still apply the same ratios to a product whose floor price has tripled- no wonder their wine sales have plunged. There’s a definitive festive atmosphere in your restaurant and in our culture the consumption of beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages is inseparable from how we celebrate. Hence, reasonably price drinks would weigh heavily in your favor when building up customer loyalty.
There are several roads open to open to you when it comes to advertising. Start by organizing a big opening cocktail party to which you’ll invite all the local dignitaries, business people, shop owners etc…You could also invite all the members of the local rugby clubs –that’ll be a huge crowd but that’s how you’ll create a buzz in the area! Provide plenty of food and drink for your guests, it’ll be well worth the investment. You could use local radio for an opening publicity campaign- otherwise poster advertising will do. After the grand opening, a follow-up is vital. All the major rugby fixtures (world cup, 6 nations, Heineken cup etc…) will be an excuse to give special price! Again, advertise on radio or using posters.
Finally, you’ll direct a large part of your communication towards the rugby circle. Buy advertising space on billboards on all the local rugby fields.
And I would particularly recommend giving rugby-club members an all year round special offer. For example, when they show their rugby club membership card they will avail of a free birthday cake (birthday song include!). And you could include either free aperitif drinks or a free glass of champagne with the birthday cake for group bookings.
These strategies will pay off and the festive atmosphere the rugby-club members create will soon attract a wider clientele.
So there you are, you have the keys to opening a successful restaurant. To be perfectly honest with you, even though I’m built like a rugby prop, I’m a die-hard football fan so if I drop into your restaurant one day it’ll be more out of curiosity than for the rowdy rugby atmosphere.