Business Column: Recession leaves us fit and lean

QSF Lancaster / Commercial Product Photography / London / � 2014
QSF Lancaster / Commercial Product Photography / London / � 2014

I can hardly believe I’m planning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my restaurant. For any business in Lancaster that’s quite a milestone these days, but Quite Simply French is also having its most successful year yet.

It’s been a tough, fun adventure. Any successful business owner knows that unless you’ve a real passion for what you’re doing you’re likely to fail. It’s all about delivering excellence and customer service; that’s what makes the difference to people.

I never planned to buy a restaurant but the opportunity came up when I was 23 and with a £5,000 loan from my grandmother we took the plunge. I was a working class youngster from the Ridge and suddenly I was a businessman; it was a huge learning curve. In the early days our wage percentage was just two per cent as we were doing everything - cleaning, washing up, front of house!

The restaurant started making money so we started expanding. To be honest my business partner and I felt a bit indestructible, we opened a deli and an outside catering arm. But our budget increased 25 per cent, we doubled our costs and turnover increased marginally...then there was the recession. It was seven hard years to make ends meet, but we did it! In 2013 we took drastic action. We sold the deli & event catering arm and I bought out my business partner.

Now I concentrate all my efforts on QSF and it feels like a new business. One of the upsides of the recession is that we are fitter, leaner and better. I’m concentrating on getting the detail right which makes such a difference to our customers. With the help of Janie Ash at Better With Jam we have launched a new website and now use social media creatively. As the saying goes ‘Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity’.

I’ve learnt that people are happy to spend money as long as they feel they have had good value. Next year I want to celebrate our 20th anniversary with a big charity event with all money raised going to CancerCare and St John’s Hospice.

By Robert Mason, Quite Simply French.