How To: Be a Successful Restaurant Owner

Markus Mueri and Neil Bryington are two of the most successful restaurateurs in the Cayman Islands. Decker’s, Abacus and Karoo are all different and yet all share the consistent level of service and quality cuisine that diners have come to expect from Markus and Neil’s establishments. It is a partnership that has endured for many years, and certainly through the good times and the bad.

Flava’s Vicki Wheaton managed to tie Markus down for a few minutes to ask him what advice he would give anyone trying to get into the restaurant business in the Cayman Islands at the moment.

Flava: What are the most important factors someone should consider when thinkingabout opening a restaurant?

Markus: Pick the right time to open, when the market looks good. In my opinion now is great time to consider opening a place. After a number of years with Cayman’s economy suffering, we now seem to be in a positive period again. Business is definitely getting busier. Location is also important. The Seven Mile area can be difficult to get or expensive, particularly ocean-side, so look at the outer districts such as North Side and East End where more development is starting to occur. Be open minded and don’t just restrict yourself to one area.Don’t just restrict yourself to fine-dining. Not every restaurant has to be fine-dining. So long as your product is excellent and your establishment is well designed, those are the important things.Consider the customer base you will have depending on your location and the food you are offering. Will you be catering to a transient market, such as tourists or workers who are here short-term, or a more permanent one?

Flava: You always seem to be so busy, and of course people see you all the time in your establishments. Obviously owning a restaurant takes a lot of commitment?

Markus: An owner needs to live and breathe their restaurant. Personal attention and client recognition is of paramount importance. Guests want to feel special and remembered. You have to be there to show them that you appreciate your patronage.

Flava: You and Neil have been partners for a long time – would you recommend partnership to others?

Markus: It has always worked for us because we bring different skills to the table. I am the front-of-house person and deal with all the marketing. Neil covers the accounting and maintenance side of things. This is the only way a partnership can work so one person isn’t stepping on the other’s toes.

Flava: All of your restaurants seem to possess that great formula that makes them successful.How do you manage it every time?

Markus: From our first business,Smuggler’s Cove, we learned that you have to keep your product fresh and exciting, and to listen to your clientele.You want these people to come back to your restaurant so make sure you pay attention to their comments. When you make their children happy, the parents will come back – little things like that are so important. And listen to your staff.When you are not there, they are your eyes and ears.