A milestone in the history of Wen Lin Jie was the introduction of the GoKunming Listings. Piers must be commended for another milestone, his request for feedback. Of course, it isn't just Chapter One that will benefit.
Like many people, Chapter One, with it's collection of magazines was one of my afternoon resting places. The decline was a point of discussion for a long time and, I guess, that Piers wasn't party to the discussion for fear, sadly, that it wouldn't be considered our business.
For what it's worth, I would like to offer the following business planning advice: It should go without saying that regardless of whether you intend to develop a small café or a corporation to challenge KFC, there must be a great deal of time spent developing a professional business plan.
a. Definition. Some may believe this a stupid question but what is Chapter One? One thing it should not be is all things to all people. I suggest (and I stand corrected) that it should be a café during the day and a pub in the evening. For example, with apologies to CalMatt, and much as I enjoy shwarma, it would be wrong for Chapter One (Just as curry was). I also agree with simplifying the menu, and don't try to be a restaurant.
b. Customers: Who are they? Teachers or students, tourists or businessmen, smokers or non-smokers, etc. It would be wrong to try to cater to everyone, i.e., the more the merrier (more money) would be wrong.
c. Competition. Who is the competition? What do they have that you don't? Should you compete? What do you have exclusively - books and magazines - can you cash-in on that? An organised book club, for example?
d. Finance. Is the top priority to make a great deal of money? For this kind of enterprise, I would suggest not. Are the staff paid a reasonable wage, e.g., above the legal minimum, at least. I am reminded of the old Soviet joke, 'They pretend to pay us, so we pretend to work'.
e. Employees. This is a priority. At least one person must be bilingual - others must, at least, know the menu -- why did they stop being available, continually, upstairs? And the cook must have some kind of professional training.
f. Time line. Leave 5-year plans to the government. But there must be a schedule or time line to strictly follow. You don't need Microsoft Project but something similar would be useful. Otherwise, the business will stagnate . . . didn't it?
There's more, but finally, because when the cat's away the mice will play (especially in this country), you must realise that it's a full-time job. I remember, more than once, when the cook wasn't there at lunch time, to be discovered later chatting with friends at Indian Kitchen, another time, apparently, out buying vegetables . . . at lunch time! Sorry Piers, but you, or your alter ego, must be there for all customers and the staff to see. S.R.Khanduri with three restaurants and a family to take care of is a good example to study. In fact, to be studied by many of the Western-style eateries. I sincerely wish you good luck.