Paul Rawlinson, the owner of struggling Harrogate restaurant Norse, has seen a booking surge after he swallowed his pride and spoke of the venue’s difficulties in a blog.
Rawlinson revealed that he had been “struggling in the knowledge that the numbers haven’t been adding up” in his blog, published to the restaurant’s website on 2 January.
The post quickly went viral and Norse has had more than 12,000 hits to its website since it was published – with demand briefly crashing the site.
Aware the spotlight will not remain on Norse forever, he has also set about developing an à la carte menu offering an alternative to the restaurant’s esteemed tasting menu, in a bid to attract those who decide to come in “on a whim”.
Rawlinson said: “First and foremost you have to create a viable business. You can’t just indulge yourselves forever.”
He explained that the changes were about “removing barriers” and that while his chefs would continue to create dishes for the tasting menu there would also be scope for them to create more approachable food for the wider market.
Rawlinson identified rising costs and wages as pressures facing the business alongside inflation which has caused a decline in people eating out at restaurants.
However, the biggest challenge he believes restaurants are facing is dilution in the market. In Harrogate restaurants such as the Ivy Brasserie, Byron, Côte and Yo! Sushi have taken new developments over the past two years. He explained: “The number of people visiting Harrogate hasn’t changed, so essentially what it’s done is spread the same number of people who were eating out before across more restaurants.”
He continued: “I think there will be more businesses that come out and say ‘we’re struggling’. It’s a difficult decision to make because you don’t know how it’s going to be received, but if you’ve been close to your customers in the past and have provided them with great experiences they’re going to be loath to let you go. I think sometimes we need to get past our own pride and ask for some help.
“It’s surprising how people respond and shows how much love there is for independent businesses, they really make a difference in people’s lives.”
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