When people come on their first trip to Pattaya they all think the same thing, “I’ve got to find a way to stay here full time”! The next thing that they start pondering, is what kind of business can I run that would make enough revenue that it would allow me to stay in Thailand forever? Typically this means they think of one or two ideas that normally revolve around bars and restaurants.
In this particular article, we will focus on the restaurant aspect of the thought process. The people that choose to run a restaurant or some type of food venue often have never been in the food industry before. Many have never even thought about opening a restaurant until they get here for some reason.
Pattaya restaurants change out on the weekly because of the aforementioned reasons. The biggest flaw in restaurants in town is maintaining their quality. Lots of places will be awesome for the first year, and then they get lackadaisical with the food. Either the ingredients are changed out for sub-par alternatives, the staff doesn’t care anymore, or the boss feels like they have already made it, so why keep working hard?
Another mindset that people have is that they will target foreigners as their main customers. This is a problem because the vast majority of your foreign customers will not be here full time. This is a tourist town and they may come in for 2-6 months at a time, but then when the low season rolls around the restaurant owner is left sucking his/her thumb and wondering why they never have any foot traffic.
It is almost a necessity that you have items on your menu that the Thais will love too. They are here constantly and they significantly outnumber the foreigners. If you find a key couple of items that Thais love and enjoy it won’t take long before they are lined up at the door because they heard from a friend of a friend that you have awesome products.
Thais are very good at spreading around information and gossip. This can be great if they love your shop, or detrimental if you have nothing to offer them. In Thailand, it is customary for businesses to hang up photos of the king and queen in public view. The great majority of them also have some sort of Buddhist shrine for luck and fortune with their business. I personally know several Thais that will walk into a place, look around, and if they see that you have no respect for their culture and country, will turn around and walk right back out without buying anything. You can bet the gossip at that point to their friends will not be on your side.
Lots of restaurants fail here simply because of costs. From the rent to finding good staff, to ingredients costs, it all adds up. Sourcing ingredients here can be challenging for some people depending upon what kind of items you are planning on offering. If you want to source imported products it will be more expensive for you and for your customer and is something that needs to be taken into consideration.
A good staff is hard to find in Thailand, especially if you do not know anyone here. During the first year, you will probably go through 10 to 15 staff members minimum. Some just decide the job isn’t for them and won’t return, some come in and think they can steal from you, some are just lazy. It is a problem not just in Thailand, but around the world as well. Some people just aren’t quality employee material and you will have to suss out which ones are no good during the interview or later down the line.
It cannot be stressed enough how vitally important a good, trustworthy English speaking Thai will be in your restaurant. If you find one, they can help you with the interview process as well as assist in explaining to the rest of the staff what exactly needs to be accomplished each day. Your English speaker will quickly become your most valued asset.
The next thing that many restaurant owners fail to do on many occasions, is to treat their staff members with the same respect that you would treat your family members. Ultimately they are there doing the things that you are not technically allowed to do unless it is specified on your work permit. Without them, you will not be successful. Show them that you care about them and it will go a long way towards their attitude for you. If you come in angry every day and yell at your staff, it won’t be long until you are left standing in the middle of an empty restaurant wondering where you went wrong.
There are so many factors to take into consideration before someone just decides to become a restaurateur. If you do it on a whim and you have no skills other than being a decent “home chef” the chances of you making it in Pattaya are not very good. The social media food groups will eat you alive if you don’t perform up to their standards and will call you out on EVERYTHING that you miss a step on. That being said, they can also greatly help your business if you are a hidden gem that they enjoy.
Make sure you have a plan and make sure the plan is not to get a place operational and then take a step back from it. You may be able to do that with the bar scene on some occasions but in the restaurant business, it will take years of teaching and training and tweaking processes and procedures before you will be able to let the staff run it on their own.
Personal training of some sort is highly advised before up and deciding to start a food business. If you have the skills to teach, there are some skilled Thais out there that will be able to pick up what you are feeding them and run with it but just because you happen to like your version of hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, does not mean that everyone will share the same opinions.
While many restaurants fail, there is also a fair amount that knew what they were doing and found a place with low rent, got the right staff in place, leaned out their procedures, found decent prices on ingredients and found customers who genuinely love their food and who will spread good reviews and comments around for them.
There will always be people that think they know better when it comes to their shop. People who don’t take any advice from others that have been on the scene for a while. These are the people that will generally run into trouble down the line. The second most important thing you can do is to gain a reputation around the community and meet and befriend other restaurant owners in town. The good ones always tend to stick together and are able to advise on pretty much any situation that you could run into with your shop.
Just some things to think about before you go opening the next hottest lasagne joint in Pattaya…