The Best Laid Plans

Back in July, I talked about a fantastic group of Bay Area women business owners. Kathy Wiley, Christine Doerr, Malena Lopez-Maggi and Mindi Fong are all involved in the food business and each had a different take on the value and importance of having a business plan. The original post is here, Women and Money – Women in the Food Biz Talk Business Plans. In that post I shared some thoughts of my own on why business plans are so important. As the article below describes, assumptions and circumstances change and having a plan can help you stay flexible to deal with an ever changing environment.

The Small Business Blog
The New York Times has blog for small business owners called You’re the Boss. As of this writing the lead post is, “Six Ways to Deal with Small-Business Stress”. The Small Business Blog is a valuable resource for every small business owner with all kinds of wonderful stories and it has a rich mix of comments.

My So-Called Business Plan
I love stories about food, restaurants, money and yes, business plans, so I was fascinated by a recent post on You’re the Boss. The post is titled, My So-Called Business Plan (Enter Laughing) by Bruce Buschel. Mr. Buschel is a writer who bought a restaurant – an old, beat up place in Bridgehampton, NY called The Wild Rose.

The Original Wild Rose

The Original Wild Rose

It’s a lively story with a lot of ingredients: one part lifelong dream, two parts bank loan (for 1.5 million), one part contractor nightmares, three parts local bureaucratic snafus and yes, at least two parts business plan. And it has the requisite blog that details all of his ups and downs on the way.

Curious Bits and Bites
Mr. Buschel has a list of 100 things his waiters must never do that include never announcing your name, (??) no perfume, no touching the patrons and so on. Mr. Buschel waited an entire year to get his permits and he has no restaurant or liquor experience.  His restaurant will serve only fish. Mr. Buschel’s local planning board required that he bring to their office samples of the actual roof shingles he was planning to install. Opening is tentatively scheduled for April Fool’s Day 2010.

The Plan, What About the Business Plan?
Oh, yes the plan. Here is an excerpt from his blog post.

“Do I have a business plan? You think a man with 100 rules for a waiter wouldn’t have one business plan for himself? In fact, I have had, like a fecund humpback whale, two in two years and another one on the way.”

Mr. Buschel crunched numbers with an expert who had owned, run and built half a dozen restaurants. They used the best available data. A major conclusion: Based on the evidence, a clever, well-run restaurant could be successful in the Hamptons. Not exactly earth shattering information, but useful.

Then, right after he purchased The Wild Rose, the recession kicked in. Shortly thereafter, Lehman brothers failed. And to cap things off, the food writer Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times that if fish are so endangered, maybe we shouldn’t be eating them at all. Oh dear…

So the business plan changed and changed again.  Here, is Mr. Bruschel’s current plan for a restaurant in the Hamptons.

– Avoid a hefty key fee and a long, ever-increasing lease by buying a place with important permits in place. Eateries are finite around here and therefore always in demand. Every penny spent will come back one way or another. If the restaurant fails, change the concept or rent the space or sell the property.

– Create a folksy place with funk.

– Assemble a crackerjack team.

– Open the best fish restaurant in the Hamptons (where none exists west of Montauk).

– In October, after your first full summer season, sit down and read the numbers, not the tea leaves. You will know where you went astray and where true you stayed. Adjust.

The new Wild Rose under construction

The new Wild Rose under construction

Should be great fun to watch this project unfold. Good luck Bruce, we’ll be watching with great anticipation!

You’re the Boss Blog
My So-Called Business Plan (Enter Laughing)