Restaurants have an unenviable reputation for failing within their first two years, but the Wharf Street Bistro, which celebrates its third birthday this month, has not only beat the two-year jinx, it is going from strength to strength.
What’s more, chef and owner Matt Macfarlane says Warkworth is the perfect place to set up a restaurant. He would be more than happy if more did so and thinks they would have a good chance of success.
Far from being threatened by the competition, Matt says it would be advantageous.
“People seem to stay away from Warkworth at night. It’s like a ghost town. But if there were more restaurants, that would create a night life,” he says.
He notes there are more restaurants in Matakana than Warkworth and believes Warkworth’s population could sustain more.
That does not mean a new restaurant would have an easy ride. He says the financial returns are not great compared to the effort invested. After two years, many a restaurateur concludes it’s not worth it and gives up.
Matt knows all about the hard work. He typically starts work at 11am and won’t finish until 11pm.
“It has to be a labour of love rather than trying to reap a huge financial reward,” he says.
Along with the long hours, it’s critical a restaurant maintains high standards of quality and consistency, which is not always easy when dealing with perishable ingredients.
But Matt says failure at this point will cost a restaurant dearly.
“People will tell five people about a good restaurant experience, but will tell 20 about a bad one,” he says.
His advice to those starting up a restaurant is to keep it simple, stick to what you do well and don’t expand into areas that you don’t understand.
He also counsels against messing about too much with the food.
“Season it well and cook it well. That’s all you need to do. Don’t over complicate things or the flavour will just get lost.”
The approach seems to have worked for the Bistro. Last month it won an award from TripAdvisor – a restaurant review website – which cited the Wharf Street Bistro for consistent achievement and high ratings from travellers. Reviewers regularly gave it 4.5 stars out of 5.