So Hinky Dinks has officially been open for 5 months and now I am finally getting to the point where I have enough time to sit
down and look back over the process of getting here. It has been one crazy ride and at times I didn’t think that we were going arrive… But we did. In fact at opening we were only two days behind schedule. However, we were significantly over budget!
Fortunately, we have been blessed with good reviews and a great crowd of regulars who have now formed a core base of steady customers. From our very first night we have had periods where we have had to turn people away because we have been so busy. There are so many people who open wonderful places only to find that it takes people a long time to discover they exist, so every day we thank our lucky stars. Here are three of my favourite reviews: Time Out, Habitus and Good Living
The opening period was very bumpy but we settled into a good system reasonably quickly. On our first friends and family night anything that could go wrong did! By the end of the night the vinyl floor had been ripped, one of our custom made tables had collapsed, and we had to fire our newly hired chef. But four days later on our opening night all the kinks had been ironed out, a new chef (and all round awesome guy) had been hired, and the tables were behaving like tables should (ie. standing up). Since then things have progressed nicely. I am still pulling 70-hour weeks, but slowly things are starting to get easier.
For the first 3 months we were essentially finding our feet. And honestly, I think you need to give yourself that time to work things out. In that period we adjusted our menus a couple of times, we changed our policies on bookings, waitlists, standing room, groups, payments, rosters, staffing, opening hours, marketing, decorations – everything really! As we have got better at our job, and as we have learnt who our customers actually are and what they want we have allowed that to dictate where the business has gone and how we do what we do.
Its surprising sometimes what works and what doesn’t. But all in all people have responded really well to the whole concept- from the venue design to the drinks and the service. And Dad has absolutely loved it. He has spent many nights bouncing from table to table regaling the ladies with stories of the fit out!
If I could distill all my learning down to 5 key points, it would be these:
- You will always go over budget, so be prepared.
- Your tradesmen will always run late so don’t try to coordinate them. It will only lead to frustration.
- Don’t be knob. The people with whom you come in contact while you are building and opening your bar deal with
clients like you every day. To them, your project is just another job. However, their experience and contacts in the industry can be invaluable to you. If you come from a position of “these people are helping me achieve my dream” rather than “I’m paying them and they should do what I say” you are likely to get far more from the relationship.
- Be flexible- with the design and the business. As you build you might have some fresh ideas. Be flexible enough to run with them. The same goes with your business. Your sales and your customers will eventually dictate where your business needs to change and grow. Be humble enough to admit that you don’t know everything.
- Watch your cashflow! We are lucky in this business that people pay up front for what they buy. But expenses can pile up very quickly. I analyse my cashflow position on a weekly basis and adjust our spending accordingly. Its not necessarily fun, but neither is going out of business!
I hope you have gained something from following my journey. I look forward to seeing you down at Hinky Dinks for a drink soon!