Opening a Restauran...
 
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Opening a Restaurant

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dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

Hi Everyone,
i'm moving to St Thoas in a few years to open a restaurant. I've done a lot of research and the numbers look great. What i'm trying to open will be something different that i feel is lacking on the island. I have not made a trip down there (i will a few times before i do make the final move) so i can't say with 100 percent certainty that the vision i have for my restaurant is lacking. But after researching a ton on Google i'm really confident that my vision will do great. Anyways, from your experience and actually living on the Island, would opening a good restaurant that catters mostly to tourist do well in St Thomas? thanks for the input everyone!

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 6:06 pm
Jamison
(@Jamison)
Trusted Member

What I read on line about living on STX and what it's actually like are about as polar opposite as could be.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 6:26 pm
VT2VI
(@vt2vi)
Advanced Member

dazajj,

I worked in restaurants for 15 years. And I have seen several times on this forum the restaurants struggle more often than not. Electricity down there is upwards of 58c a kilowatt. And tourist season is not year round. So I would personally not cater to tourists exclusively. Unless you have millions to spend to put a 5 star in one of the resorts. If you want to open a place I would cater to the locals who live there 365 as they are going to pay your bills in the off months. Sure the busy season will be a boon, but what will you do when you go from 200 a night to 30 if you are too high priced for the locals? Just a thought from a former chef now military logistics grunt.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 6:43 pm
STTGuy
(@STTGuy)
Advanced Member

I agree with both Jamison and VT2VI. I visited the island almost yearly for 28 years before moving here, and I still experienced culture shock. Living here is different than anything you will read. The local population is less likely to balk at the high prices you will necessarily have to charge because of WAPA, they're used to it, wherease the tourists will complain about the high prices. And it gets REAL quiet here during the height of hurricane season - not too many tourists, but we still have to live here.
I would not lay out ANY firm plans until I had made a PMV and seen things with my own eyes. Just my opinion.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 6:56 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

As a 30 year resident who used to have a real life and then created and opened my own restaurant on St Thomas and whose doors I finally closed in July 2011 after 16 years, all I can say is - you're totally crazy. Your research, the great numbers that come out of it and all the Googling in the world can in no way, shape or form prepare you for the reality. There's no way to over emphasize that. Move here, work for an established restaurant for an absolute minimum two years and then see how you feel. I guarantee it will be way different from that which you feel right now. Good luck.:D

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Posted : March 26, 2013 7:03 pm
VT2VI
(@vt2vi)
Advanced Member

My point on higher prices to the local crowd was that it sounds like he wants to open a high end joint. Not that locals aren't used to higher prices.
I'd be happy with a taco truck. 😀

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Posted : March 26, 2013 7:13 pm
cookieboss
(@cookieboss)
Advanced Member

How about a place that sells good, old fashioned comfort food like baked chicken, meat loaf, mac and cheese, pork chops, mashed potatoes, etc. There are a hundred places that sell conch fritters and seafood.(I know... it's an island)(tu)

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Posted : March 26, 2013 8:00 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

Hey VT2VI,
thanks for the information! where are you stationed. I too am in the Military. Currently a Logistics Officer.. small world hu! what i meant about cattering to tourist is; i will not be cooking local food becuase there's plenty of that already. I will serving food like 'cookieboos' stated, "comfort food". A menu where americans will look at it and know exactly what they're looking at. I want to open a place where americans can come in and feel like they're in a restaurant/bar that reminds them of home, from the food to the decour. But of course locals will also enjoy this place. does that make sense?

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 9:08 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

i want to open a place that focus on the bar. I want people to come in, enjoy some small plates, have a few drinks and hang out and watch the game on ESPN. So it would eventually become a place where people can come in and enjoy a beer and good food, but most of all, hang out with their friends. I want to provide and experience instead of just, come in, sit down, eat, get out.

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 9:14 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

Also, on the slow months, ST Thomas receives close to 30 ships per month. that seems like quite a bit of traffic. i have the exact numbers somewhere... busy season is close to 100 ships per month...

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 9:23 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

They have too many sports bars here already. I hate TVs in bars.

Sib's serves meatloaf, chicken fried steak, ribs, mashed potatoes, veggies, etc. - the same as you are speaking of doing.
Hull Bay Hideaway is similar. Both very nice but forget the sports bar aspect.
There are bars such as the one you are speaking of all over the island, already.
Don't want to burst your bubble but you'll have tough competition.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 9:23 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

thanks for the info Alana. Thats why i'm doing my research early : )
i just really need to make it down there and see what my competition's like.. see how i can have an edge up on the competition... i'm still a few years out... but regardless, i will to move to St Thomas. I'm tired of the fast paced life living in the states. I just need to figure what kind of restaurant i will be opening..

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 9:30 pm
VT2VI
(@vt2vi)
Advanced Member

I am in Vt as a full time Fed tech in the ARNG. I work For the J4 as the states property book NCO.
As far as the menu goes, it does sound much better. But Alana is right on. When we were there we saw plenty of stateside joints. The first thing we did was head out of downtown to look for local eats. Of course the average tourist is fine with senior frogs or margaritaville.
What do you do as a loggy?

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Posted : March 26, 2013 9:34 pm
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

oldtart has good advise. live here for awhile before you open a place and work in some local establishments to get a feel for things here

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Posted : March 26, 2013 9:37 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

I would be the same exact way, i would never go to St Thomas and eat at Senior Frogs or some place that reminds me of back home, but sadly, there is a large population on those cruise ships that do want to sit in a place where they can grab a beer, a burger, and watch March Madness... but like i said, i need to head down and see the competition, and see how i can make my place stand out... i'm stationed at Fort Lewis washington, under 4-2 SBCT. I work in the BDE S-3 shops under plans and operations... i get out in a few months and then i start culinary school in the Fall. after 18 months in culinary school, i'll work in a restaurant for about a year or two, and then thats when i plan on making the move..

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 9:41 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

Speedy.. that could be an option..... i didn't think about it in that way... that would be something i would do if after flying down a few times, i didn't feel confident about the restaurant... but yeah i can see why that would be very helpfull.... thanks for re-stating what oldtart had to say

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 9:49 pm
VT2VI
(@vt2vi)
Advanced Member

Yup small world. I grew up in Ballard, and spent many days down on JBLM. Where are you going or culinary? We have NECI here in VT which is a good school.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 10:18 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

South Seattle Community College has a really good culinary program. They offer associates in different culinary arts. They have a nationally known program.... Since i already have an undergrad, i'll be able to complete two AA degrees in 18 months since i dont have to take all those elective classes... Restaurant Food Service Production and food & wine pairing.
http://www.southseattle.edu/programs/proftech/cularts.htm

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 10:23 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

Also, on the slow months, ST Thomas receives close to 30 ships per month. that seems like quite a bit of traffic. i have the exact numbers somewhere... busy season is close to 100 ships per month...

Reality - most cruise ship visitors eat on board. They're only here for a few hours of beaching, shopping and sightseeing and going to a restaurant to sit down and have something to eat is one of the remotest things on the average agenda. Visitors in general are your gravy. Your mainstay is locals and the competition is tough. Reality - restaurants here come and go with the Trade winds. Many such as you (and I mean this with no disrespect) have come here with the same idea and lost their shirts very quickly, not to mention their knickers as well. Doing business here (and particularly the restaurant business) compares to nothing you may learn in Anywhere USA. Just the reality!

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Posted : March 26, 2013 10:24 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

i will keep that in mind Oldtart... that being said, i believe that if you put out a good product and cater to the people locals/tourists you will be succesful. i'm pretty confident with my abilities and planning. I wouldn't open a restaurant if i wasn't 100 percent sure that it was going to work out. If other restaurants are able to be succesul, so can i.

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 10:28 pm
VT2VI
(@vt2vi)
Advanced Member

If you en up being truly serious about it, I would find some investors or other chefs willing to partner up. If I am not mistaken, cheeseburger in America's paradise from what I've read does or did a good amount of business and the owners are selling. 950,000$ I believe. The hard part is the electric alone is going to cost you thousands a month. Then there's water. Then there's having nearly all your product shipped in at 1/3 or more than you would buy it for in the states. Not too mention I'd say you would need more than a million just to start it up.

You are correct that good product will bring in business. But the cost of doing business in the VI I'm afraid will be too much.
I could be 100% wrong of course. But I would definitely live down on the rock for a few years first. Get your foot in the door with the local chefs. Make sure it's feasible before you blow your entire retirement and savings plus loans on a restaurant.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 10:50 pm
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member

start up money is not really an issue, i've been fortunate enough to come into some money.... but looking into the cost just to keep a place open down in the USVIs is something that i will be looking into intensively. Once all the numbers are crunched then i would have see if it is worth opening a place down there.... i'm not trying to become a millionaire or anything, i just want to have a bussiness that i'm proud off, that makes enough money so i can live comfortably in paradise... but yeah looking into the logistics of getting food down there will be a big factor...

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Topic starter Posted : March 26, 2013 10:56 pm
stxer
(@stxer)
Advanced Member

i will keep that in mind Oldtart... that being said, i believe that if you put out a good product and cater to the people locals/tourists you will be succesful. i'm pretty confident with my abilities and planning. I wouldn't open a restaurant if i wasn't 100 percent sure that it was going to work out. If other restaurants are able to be succesul, so can i.

At the risk of sounding snarky, I shout "go for it". We need restaurants and someone needs to do it. Be prepared to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and close the doors within 5 years. There have been exceptions, those that have lasted longer. A privately financed and operated restaurant, especially here is doomed to failure.Even in the states most small places fail and only the "formula-chains" can afford to keep going.

Many years ago, I followed my dream and opened a restaurant in a resort area. I tripled the gross (I actually did honest accounting) ...(maybe my first mistake)... I had a popular well run place.I Worked 16 hours a day 7 days a week my reality was grease and garbage... After three years, I was bankrupt and divorced. Good learning experience. OldTart ran a tight ship and worked her fingers to the bone, she too decided to get out of the business. I know I am a better... happier person for my effort.

All of that being said, someone has to do it. If you have the financing, and unlimited energy, you will keep going for a while and we all can enjoy the fruit of your efforts.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 11:13 pm
Linda J
(@Linda_J)
Expert

You should also keep in mind that the USVI is an American territory and residents are "Americans". I agree with others who have posted, best plan is to come down and work in a well-regarded restaurant. And if you do have a lot of money -- there's a saying down here: You know how to leave the VI with $1,000,000? Come down with $2,000,000.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 11:19 pm
VT2VI
(@vt2vi)
Advanced Member

Certainly don't not do it. But like stxer said, be prepared to lose it all. I was just reading the other day ( if I can I find it I'll post it) that there is one restaurant for every 227 or so people in the USVI. Although there are a lot of vegans there, and lots of backyard gardens to source from. That could be a good angle. Would save a ton on shipping in goods too.

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Posted : March 26, 2013 11:50 pm
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