A not so long while ago, a restaurant in Madrid could be opened and made a success of simply on the basis of food, tables and chairs. The formula was, throw in a few Spanish tapas favourites and stock up on Mahou and wines and hey presto. These were the simpler times. It didn’t matter where you went, you’d find the same dishes on offer; tortilla de patata, patatas bravas, croquetas, to name but a few things. Of course, all of this worked because Spanish culture has always been based around eating in good company and enjoying countless hours of tabletop conversation. For a person visiting the country, it worked too because you only had to enjoy this seemingly lack of variety once and you’d be back home. What would have crossed your mind though was the sheer number of restaurants, all with the same offering, operating side by side. How could they make money? It seemed that restaurant opening was just the next best thing to do.
With the passage of time, things have started to change. A trend has started to develop from the post financial crisis world, (I use the phrase post financial crisis loosely). The restaurant business is no longer what it used to be. There are now two distinguishable approaches to the discipline. The easiest one and also most likely to lead to failure is the “open up, sell the same stuff and hope for the best.” This has been used by many in generations gone by but things have now changed. The ones who follow this simplistic approach give an excellent explanation as to why we see so many new restaurants and cafes on the streets of Madrid boarded up with the forever common “for rent” sign.
The second approach is more complex. This approach recognises the many factors influencing the decision making process of a prospective diner. The fact that more Spanish people are now more well-travelled due to the proliferation of study and work abroad schemes and also as the aftermath of the financial crisis, means that a restaurant has to offer more. The travelled people bring back with them new concepts of restaurant design, cuisine desires, food fusions and eating culture. In addition to this, where restaurant marketing was never a priority, its importance has now been elevated. Madrid has found itself with an influx of influential gastro and lifestyle bloggers who carry with them thousands of social media followers gagging for their next great picture and article. These gastro and lifestyle bloggers not only look for good food, they also play on the “Instagramability” of a restaurant. Here we mean the interior design, the crockery and cutlery, and all the finer details in between. These aspects mean more than the food, in some cases, as they determine how well a restaurant will be spoken of. It is sad to say this, but we must note how the times are changing. Therefore, you can only image how well a restaurant with great food and interior design would perform.
In understanding all the complexities of approach two, a business opportunity has arisen for the savvy 21st century folk. There are now a good few design studios specialising in the construction and refurbishment of gastro spaces. As MuchBites, I’ve always focused on the food first and decoration later. So for all the content published on the blog, you can rest assured that the quality of the food was and will always be the major factor. However, today I realised the great lengths some of the places I’ve frequented had gone to to conjure up an ambience that was on par with their food.
I came across the works of Payser, a local construction and refurbishment studio behind some of my favourite places such as La Duquesita and Random. In looking at the list of places they have worked on, I realised how most of these places had been featured on countless social media accounts of the influencer clout of Madrid. It is true to say, a Madrid restaurant will never be the same again. To stay buoyant and avoid sinking into the plethora of restaurants, much work has to be done, not least of which, outstanding interior design. Gone are the days of the branded plastic patio furniture. So before toying with the idea of opening a restaurant, really take time to consider all these points, which are just the tip of the iceberg, and success will be yours.
Take a look at the gallery of all the works of Payser. Their attention to detail is indeed nothing short of stunning. How many of these restaurants have you been to?
Opening Image: Terraza de los Gallos, Calle Puigcerdà, 4, Madrid, Spain