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You need more than a good climate to run a profitable restaurant

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Despite it being the peak of the high season restaurants on the Costas find it difficult to make enough business to cover their overheads. Most are philosophical about the slump in business and a ‘stuff happens’ mentality is pervasive. I wonder if part of the problem is an unwillingness to adapt to societal changes.

In Britain back in the 1960s and 1970s, restaurants were few and far between and mostly Chinese run. Otherwise, the best one could expect was a pint and a stale bap from a pub’s bar top display.

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Prosperity arrived, people wanted more and restaurant pioneers delivered. Despite considerable disadvantages compared to their Mediterranean counterparts, Britain’s restaurants flourished. Publicans resistant to change sold out to chains. Old pubs were gutted and turned into wonderful family restaurants often with indoor and outdoor play areas for the children.

Properly trained friendly smartly attired in their tunics waiting on staff served customers. The food is fresh, well-cooked, healthy, tasty and priced reasonably.

I recall the slogan: ‘We don’t serve fast food. We serve good food fast.’

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England and for that matter, Dublin and Riga aren’t cheap so don’t have a price advantage over their Mediterranean rivals. Due to poor weather the outside terraces are few and far between. There is little or no tourist season. Yet, despite all, these eateries have no choice but to turn a good profit every week throughout the year.

Before I retired to Spain and since when visiting the United Kingdom I find the British bars, bistros, pubs and conventional restaurants do a brisk trade.

Why? Because the owners are restaurant entrepreneurs and a mainstay of their businesses are their imaginative makeovers. In Bristol and Liverpool, it is still necessary to book a restaurant table so be prepared to wait or be turned away because they offer real variety.

There is a bigger and more varied choice of theme restaurants in any moderately sized English city than there is along Spain’s entire Mediterranean coast. Furthermore, the service tends to be better as is the quality of atmosphere and food.

On the Costas, if you have seen any two restaurants you have seen them all.  The choice of eateries tends to resemble Blackpool type 1960s era tin-table cafés or Spanish ambience restaurants; take it or leave it.

Karaoke musical fare is as tediously unimaginative as is the fare on the plate. Despite my living in quite a well-heeled part of Costa Blanca and being also a regular in and around Marbella, I can think of only one atmospheric exotic restaurant, the expensive and classy Trocadero that invites a smart dress code. Yet in England, I was spoiled for choice.

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I seem to recall that in Bristol and Liverpool, two quite small cities compared to say London, Manchester or Birmingham, there was a lip-smacking choice of Mexican and Spanish, Russian, Indian and Chinese of course, Italian, Irish, German, even Jamaican and Trinidadian restaurants, oh, more than you could swing a table napkin at.

Britain’s La Tasca chain of Spanish theme restaurants were so popular it was difficult to get a table even mid-week. My occasional Spanish guests would exclaim, ‘why can’t we have Spanish restaurants as good as these.’

Each themed pub truly dressed for the occasion and provided appropriate fare. For instance, if dining at a Mexican themed favourite it was easy to think one was in a remote Mexican cantina. Why travel?It seems to me that the sunshine in Spain needs a little help. I suggest we start by applying a really competitive restaurant and imaginative choice of eateries primarily to benefit the customers rather than the owner. Elsewhere, this approach results in a win-win situation for owners and diners. EXCERPT: One of many revitalise your business in best-selling BUSINESS BOOSTER, Michael Walsh

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