As many of us are acutely aware, running a hospitality business in these climates is about as straightforward as trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Staff costs, overheads, rates, rent and taxes, rising food costs – everything is going in only one direction – up. And, at some point in time, responsible operators who carefully forecast and monitor their business costs must make decisions that, from the outside, if not listened to properly, can – let’s just say – be taken the wrong way. Then keyboard warriors pile on, accusations are made, and the atmosphere can get pretty unpleasant for all.
Such has been the case for 2 Michelin starred Alex Dilling in the past week or so. With only 11 tables in the dining room, and over 20 staff members to support, founders Victoria Sheppard and Alex Dilling took steps to maintain a sustainable number of covers in their restaurant. Steps that, I would bet, many independent restaurateurs have considered over time, had they the confidence to do it.
The reality of what Alex and Victoria have implemented is straightforward. The restaurant does, indeed, accommodate a couple of tables of one – with no surcharge. However, it cannot fill the restaurant with solo diners, even half fill the room with solo diners – we all know that makes no business sense and for a restaurant that has 11 tables – it’s financially irresponsible to allow that to happen.
When the quota of solo diners’ tables is booked – there is an option for tables of one who desperately want to dine. That option is to pay extra. Akin to booking a flight – if you are keen to go, but there are only premium seats left, you pay the surcharge. Same applies to concerts, theatre and sporting events – if the only tickets available are the pricey ones, but you want to go, then you pay. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not discriminatory. It’s a business taking responsible measures to stay viable.