Secrets of getting it right….aka what sets a great eatery apart from the rest.

Hand lifting a spagetti al vongele

I can’t deny, I love to dine out and try to do it as often as I can afford. Let’s be honest….a decent dinner out for 2 knocks you back at least $250 in Australia. Here I am talking about a dinner paired with a lovely bottle of wine or a selection of cocktails. I can’t even imagine what the cost would be for a family with kids as I am not in that seat.

Neil and I do love finer things in life for sure but in current climate we are likely to treat ourselves to a dinner out perhaps once a month plus a few breakfasts here and there.

To me eating out gives me a night off from cooking at home. It inspires me and gives me ideas what to try out myself. And, of course…..a great meal takes me on a journey. Having travelled a fair bit, I usually associate great meals with my travels. When I enjoy a great Italian, I am back in Rome-my favourite city. When I find an awesome tapas venue, I am there… back in Barcelona, and when I eat a mean Green Curry……I am in Koh Samui again.

There are tons of restaurants I am yet to try in Brisbane….Let’s be honest, new restaurants pop up like mushrooms post rain every month so it’s quite hard to keep up. “BUT, what makes a restaurant or a cafe great?” that is the question.

So you have a passion for cooking great food and you always dreamed about opening your own restaurant. Is that enought? Maybe years ago this was all you needed but in today’s climate, there is a long list of things to note to make your venue a success story. Yes, I am no restaurateur but someone who likes good food.


Location has everything to do with the success of your venue. Is there a lot of foot traffic passing your cafe/restaurant? Is your restaurant at the centre of a suburban suburb where local community gives you your support and as long as you keep pouring wine and dishing out half decent meals, you’re here to stay for years. Or are you Jamie Oliver? If your answer is no to all three, your chances of surviving is pretty slim.

Interior and Design

Overall design of the venue plays a huge role when it comes to attracting customers. Remember, in order for customers to come to your venue, there has to be something about it other than great food, of course. Something that sets tongues wagging in a good way and sets you apart from ten other Italian, Japanese or modern Australians in town. Your venue should follow a vibe or a theme. Imagine being in a sunny cafe on Amalfi coast, at the best beach bar in hawaii, in a cozy cafe that reminds you of your nan’s place stuck in 1970, american diner from 1960s, quarky little restaurant from the streets of Paris. Or perhaps you go for sophisticated colour theme instead: green, black & white etc.

Green interior

Whatever you go for, unless you are good at designing interiors, this is where you should consult with an interior designer. I guarantee you……a well planned venue will be sure to pay off.


I have worked in hospitality myself and travelled around the world a bit eating out in some places I can still remember from 10 years ago. Unless your wait staff consists of people from overseas, mostly back packers, customer service is somewhat lacking here in Oz…..rarely do I come across that service with a smile anymore. No one wants to be a waiter…..everyone wants to be an influencer. makes it easier for me too- I don’t need to leave a tip because this has already been included in the bill anyway, whether you like the service or no. All I really want, is someone who is friendly, upbeat, likes to communicate with people and has a knowledge of the dishes on the menu so when I ask them for recommendations, they can actually sell me the food that is being served at the restaurant. I know there is plenty of rude clientele out there too and that makes every customer service person a bit more vary but show must go on.

I have had equally crappy meals as I have had amazing “wow, never want to leave” meals. If I have a crappy meal, I just never return. Complaining publicly is not my scene. If the chef in the place has a passion for food and owners truly understand what it takes to run a successful restaurant, then issues will iron themselves out and the venue will keep going but those clients who were disappointed, are unlikely to return.

Great customer service is half of a great venue for me. If place is run by amateur wait staff who doesn’t know what they’re doing, they have no knowledge of the menu items or they are rude and look like want to be somewhere else, I want to be somewhere else too.


I assume you opened your restaurant or a cafe because you have a passion for food and you can make a great chilli crab linguini or whatever is the signature dish that you started off with. It will serve you right at the beginning but If your passion runs its course or you can’t find a person who can cook well, please do yourself a favour and find one or close your doors. Eating fried eggs on piece of white bread…….is so 1960. Even if you’re serving up classics, I expect some sort of modern twist, otherwise I see no reason to part ways with my hard earned money. I want to fill myself with good food, not something that is same old stuff you get in every other place.

Good food doen’t have to be complicated but innovative, fresh and well seasoned. Simple things done well. Sometimes less is more. I like small venues with a small menu featuring perhaps 3-4 starters, mains and desserts but changes monthly to keep things interesting. Better to have a small amount of dishes done well than 80 dishes cooked mediocre. I have eaten in big venue too….food is always mass produced and lacking- it’s missing the love. And, please don’t forget….us humans we’re visual creatures. Food needs to look as good on the plate as good as it tastes.


Running a restaurant or a cafe is hard work but can be equally rewarding. If you get the above right, you’re onto a great start. Marketing is the next step. And that’s a story for another time.

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“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body: it’s truly love.

Giada De Laurentiis

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