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Chapter One - changes?

piers (144 posts) • 0

As the only owner of Chapter One still left in Kunming I realise that the bar has slipped or rather plummeted a great deal over the past 6-12 months. I want to apologise to any customers who've had to put up with some miserable and sometimes foul fuwuyuan, peripatetic chef, distinctly sub-par food and a host of other irritations.

Over the next few weeks we intend to make wholesale changes to the running of the bar and would welcome feedback, suggestions, criticism, in short any communication as to what should stay, what should go, and what we can change.

CalMatt (25 posts) • 0

Hey Piers,
I'd say making the menu smaller and more interesting would be a major plus- maybe introduce something that isn't available elsewhere (shwarma maybe?)

Also, is beer on tap doable? It wouldn't have to be imported or fancy but it'd be nice as a change from everywhere else.

That's all I can think of

-Matt

Jared (19 posts) • 0

I think Matt has some great suggestions. Personally, I still think Chapter One has one of the best seating areas (upstairs). Upgrading the coffee/espresso options would give people a reason to come during the daytime. For evening customers, drink specials (particularly on a decent whiskey) would be great.

chris (144 posts) • 0

I always enjoyed quiz night... maybe instead of fortnightly it could be revived as a monthly event - first Wed of each month or something along those lines perhaps. I think a lot of people would attend regularly if it started up again.

hedgepig (273 posts) • 0

i did my fair share of working in F&B places back home. almost without exception, if there was a slack moment in a shift, i'd be directed to a fridge or similar, to clean/clear. i accept that keeping a kitchen tidy and clean can be a challenge at the best of times, but when i find a roach in my food, and the chef's the guy sat reading a newspaper at the bar, it makes me feel like more could be done.

i think this is symptomatic of Chapter One's recent decline - it feels like no-one's really making an effort. add to this the fact that the space is far from bad, and the location is excellent, and i'm left with this disappointed feeling about the place that hardly encourages me to visit.

on the recent occasion (yes, singular) i dropped in for a beer, service was acceptable, the beer was cold, and well priced. all this looks positive, and i believe that with a bit of effort, Chapter One can be resurrected - a good thing for everyone. good luck Piers.

Bernie (101 posts) • 0

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.

bucko (688 posts) • 0

I want to wish you good luck piers. We need all the western digs we can et here. I'm sure your attitude now will get renewed customer support.
I agree operating a restaurant/pub here has to be a real commitment on your part given the general chinese work ethic.

As far as food goes, how about scoring a real charbroil grill and do like a roasted butt chicken. Best way to use the below par Chinese beer, and you'll have a killer menu item. Set it up and forget about it. Cooks itself, don't even need to turn it. I was thinking of opening a chicken only place.... but I'm too lazy and enjoy retirement too much.

Ishmael (462 posts) • 0

I think I'd like it better if I didn't have to count on some sports being ALWAYS on the screen EVERY night. If there's an event that's worth watching, okay, give us the sound too; otherwise, turn the damned thing off. Another thought: since that screen is there, what about a really first-rate gig or rock-concert/festival video once in awhile?

Ishmael (462 posts) • 0

And I second everybody on the food improvement - it doesn't have to be elaborate, or with a huge menu - just solid and consistently GOOD, even if it's just sandwiches and hamburgers, or chips (not soggy, not with funny-tasting oil, with salt available, etc.). As for staff, the only thing that needs serious watching is the food department, everybody else is cool as far as I'm concerned.

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