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Cube & Star: There's music in the air

09 February 2006

Having sorted out his management problems, Cube & Star owner Mark Turner is finding more time to develop the entertainment side of the business. "My new role is now beginning to reveal itself," he says. "And it's exciting."

With Helen Geng taking care of accountancy matters, budget control is improving. The average gross profit (GP) for December was 77% and staff costs are down to 44%. "Having her on board has created so much management time for me," says Turner. "I was out of my depth with the whole finance aspect of the business. I can't see how I even contemplated opening without an accountant on board. It's a mistake I'll never make again."

Turner now has the time to develop his vision for the club in the basement of the Hoxton Square building: that of an urbane music venue where his restaurant clientele can relax after diner and enjoy quality entertainment. So far, that aspect of the business hasn't been reaching its target turnover, but he expects it to hit its potential in about three months.

He's busy sourcing acts to appear on various nights and currently has four booked for February, three for March and one for April. So far, most weekends have featured a DJ, with jazz bands appearing a couple of times, but Turner's aim is to have 60-70% of the entertainment featuring live acts with DJs on other nights.

"The problem has been with me not having the time to dedicate to it," he says. But that's all changing. Among his recent bookings is jazz band Barefoot, vocalist Billy Ray Martin and Belfast DJ David Holmes. Holmes is the man behind the film scores for Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve, and this will be the theme of his set on 27 April.

Rather than just work with promoters who cover the cost of the act and take the money off the door - and sometimes a percentage of the bar sales - Turner prefers to negotiate directly with the act's agent and pay an appearance fee. Such fees can range from £100 to £2,000 for a DJ, with bands costing £40-£50 per musician. The amount of the fee determines whether there will be a charge at the door. Up to about £300, there will be no door charge; a fee of between £300 and £750 will attract about £5 admission; and a more expensive act, such as David Holmes, will mean a £20 ticket price. Turner's preference, however, is not to charge for admission.

On 27 April he expects to make a margin of 40% on the door, with bar sales coming in at about £6,000. To achieve this he needs to sell 150 tickets, which he will promote on the Cube & Star website, to the existing customer database, in magazine listings and with an agent such as Ticketlondon.

Another target for the club will be record companies that wish to showcase new acts. "I've spent a huge amount of money on the sound system, insulation and acoustics," he says, "so I can market the space to them."

Financial targets for the coming month include settling staff costs at 40% - with an ultimate target of 30% in a few months' time - and averaging an overall GP of 75%.

The target GP on food has been reduced from 70% to 5550% so the menu prices can come down. "I want to encourage more people to come in and try the food, not frighten people off with an expensive menu," says Turner.

Sous chef Benoit Bretaudeau has left the brigade, having been tempted away by the offer of a head chef position at a five-star hotel in his home town of Toulouse. He will be missed, but a friend of head chef Arnaud Stevens is filling in for now, and a new sous chef is due to start in a month's time.

Turner has also decided to move away from the Latino twist on the food, which he says was "probably confusing myself, chef and the customer", and offer "good, honest" modern European cuisine. "The Mojitos and the music will provide the Latin influence, but it won't be a solid brief for the food any more."

Cube & Star
Address: 39A Hoxton Square. London
Owner: Mark Turner
Restaurant opened: May 2005
Club opened: Novermber 2005
December gross profit: 77%
Staff costs: 44%
Projected turnover for February: £50,000

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