1. Rent a very small place – you can then publicize that your restaurant is cozy, intimate, exclusive and private. Most Singaporeans are “blur” (Singlish for “clueless”) and they will be impressed.
2. Hire an interior designer who specializes in designing restaurants. Day in and day out, talk incessantly to anyone and everyone about your renovation plans, but please don’t overdo it as it can cause eyerolls. Make sure your interior designer knows that you would like your eatery to be able to only seat no more than ten diners. Take special care with the lighting, and the sound system, and even the type of music being played in the background. If it’s a Japanese restaurant, play Japanese music, if Indian, Indian music, if Chinese, maybe Teresa Teng, not some Chinese funeral shit.
3. Purchase your goods from reliable, top-grade suppliers who only provide fresh premium and seasonal products – spargel (white asparagus) from Germany, Almas caviar from Iranian Beluga, Tokusan Matsusaka Ushi wagyu from Mie Prefecture, Alba White Truffle or Perigord Black Truffle, depending on the season, etc. Spare no effort to procure only the very best ingredients.
4. Have a doorman or two in full costume and regalia. For effect, it’s better you hire a Sikh or two to create the right image. Doesn’t matter what cuisine, Sikh doormen can’t go wrong. Not being racist here, just being realist.
5. Hire a maître d – a haughty ex-beauty contestant or a part-time model, a blonde with brains, is preferred. Best to be a linguist too, able to communicate in several different languages. Not being sexist here, just being realist.
6. You must also have a sommelier, and he better be an older gentleman, French preferred.
7. Provide your diners with valet service. For customers with chauffeurs, do hand a free drink or a snack to their chauffeurs. You want to appear magnanimous. (Virtue signaling is a worthy investment.)
8. Impose a dress code – no collarless shirts; long pants and covered shoes – not sandals please – a must; jacket recommended. Do not be afraid to turn away anyone not suitably dressed, even if it’s the prime minister’s wife or son (both notorious for walking around in slippers; madam even wore sandals to the White House, if you recall.) Your own staff’s uniform must reflect professionalism, so do engage a uniform designer to do the job. (Black tops and bottoms never fail to make the grade. The black look is trendy nowadays.) Be careful here: in this day and age, making comments about a woman’s skirt length or size of her body parts constitutes sexual harassment.
9. You need a full-time person to answer the phone to handle reservations and inquiries, a person whose friendliness can be felt over the phone and whose smile can be sensed over the phone but the standard reply must be “I’m afraid we are fully booked till October 2023, but if you leave your name and number, I’ll see if I can squeeze you in when we have a last-minute cancellation. By the way, you are aware that here, the minimum spend per person is $700 excluding beverages, would that be OK with you? And adults only please. Also, we do not allow anyone to take pictures of our food, so that they can focus on enjoying the full experience when they dine here. Sorry, I’m afraid there can be no exceptions. OK, sorry but I really need to go soon, Mr Li Ka-shing’s secretary is on the line now.” Train your call taker never to accept a reservation from a mainland Chinese. Most of those crude bastards come in exhibiting their armpit hair and with testicles sticking out of their shorts and bragging about wanting to buy your restaurant.
10. Your chef cannot be local – if yours is a Japanese restaurant, the chef must absolutely be a Japanese who can only speak broken English. Even if he is a fluent English speaker, he must pretend to not be able to speak English. Of course, if your restaurant is French, then a French chef, if Italian, then an Italian chef. Remember your chef, like your maître d, sommelier and waiters/waiters must be super friendly, courteous, well-trained, smile a lot, but know how to be non-intrusive and never overly talkative or friendly. They will NEVER drink with customers even if customers insist. Train them to say “no” in the nicest possible way. Distance creates respect and mystique.
11. Never be afraid to charge high prices – first, you need to not only cover your costs, you need to make a profit. You are not the Salvation Army or some charitable soup kitchen. And if you can’t make a decent profit, how are you ever going to buy an obscenely humongous house such as the one bought by Tik Tok CEO Chew Shou Zi for S$86 million or the one bought by Grab’s Anthony Tan for S$40 million or the one bought for S$36 million by chair seller Ian Ang? Secondly, people like to brag about how much they spend at top restaurants and high prices will attract those retards. Of course, your service and food must be super, there can be no compromising on quality and standards. Everything you do must be beyond reproach.
12. After about a year or so of operations, publish an expensive and thick coffee-table book featuring some favorite dishes served, pictures of famous and infamous customers who have dined at your restaurant and start attracting the attention of all those restaurant guides. No restaurant lasts forever; even Noma had to close, books leave a legacy.
13. Never cheapen your image by offering bloggers and “influencers” (translation: free-loaders who can’t write to save their lives) free meals. Not allowing diners to take photos of the food increases the aura exuded by your restaurant and will result in many people wanting to try your restaurant out.
14. Each time someone makes a reservation, ask if an event, milestone or occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc) is being celebrated and offer to arrange for champagne, roses or a cake, or even a special dance or singers or a small band at the table – at a heavy mark-up of course.
15. Avoid any overtures from the likes of Tripadvisor and the usual coterie of shameless food bloggers. You must be an absolute idiot to think that these clowns are objective and professional. Look, money can buy anything and everything and everyone has a price.
16. Most consumers do not know that they are being ripped off, so continue to charge extremely high prices at your small little eatery and let the word out that you are fully booked a year or two ahead. Be relentless about this.
17. At social events, when people introduce you as the owner of your restaurant, smile quietly and act modest and say, “We are just a very small eatery, nothing fancy lah” and hand them a couple of name cards, and quietly walk away. When I worked for IBM, whenever someone asked where I worked, I always say “Oh, I work for a small company called IBM” and the look on their faces is priceless.
18. If you know of special dates that are meaningful to your customers, make an effort to send them cards and well wishes – real cards please, not some e-card shit. Encourage them to book the entire restaurant to celebrate and charge really astronomical prices for that privilege.
19. Refresh your menu every six months or have seasonal menus and remind previous customers to return for yet another feast. “Oh, it’s now season of the hunt in Europe and we have just flown in some very plump pheasants, you must come and try” or “we’re bringing back the ritual of eating French ortolan buntings, you must come and try, you really have to. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
20. Above all, treat your staff with respect and dignity – your restaurant is not the private club of your sons and their cronies. Staff must be trained to close during closing time – there are a variety of techniques and industry trade secrets they can use – and staff must be adequately compensated for working with you. Remember, they can always work somewhere else, somewhere authentically legit, not like this con game you are running.
One final tip before I end this disquisition: never get friends involved in your venture because friendship complicates things. The best relationships in any business venture are best confined to strictly transactional professional business relationships. I never do business with friends; you can sack non-performing staff, but it’s hard to sack friends.