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Opinion: Marius Zürcher On Taking Risks

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The restaurant industry is famously risky business, but taking risks often comes with rewards, as Marius Zürcher outlines

Have you noticed that, over the last 15 years or so, more and more restaurants seemingly have the same interior and prepare the same food? In the Netherlands, a prime example of this phenomenon is the ubiquitous hummus sandwich. So, what is behind this? It is my belief that risk aversion is to blame.

The restaurant industry is a notoriously risky business, so it is understandable that restaurateurs want to mitigate risks, but it is important that the cure does not become the disease. After all, taking risks has many advantages too.

Projecting confidence

If you are a restaurateur who takes risks, chances are that your restaurant will stand out from the large group of look-a-likes. This uniqueness will project confidence, which in turn will attract customers. After all, if you are doing something that is different from others, it probably means that you really believe in it, and customers, especially young ones, gravitate towards that.

Similarly, taking risks makes you more creative, which will not only make your restaurants and products stand out even more, but it will also often make them better. After all, restaurants are fundamentally creative endeavors.

Learning opportunities

Risks can be great learning opportunities. Taking risks usually means doing something new and different, which in turn of course means that you will learn new and different things. Similarly, sometimes taking risks leads to failure, which, although often painful, can also be a huge learning opportunity.

Also, taking risks will allow you to learn more about yourself as a person, too. Who knows, maybe it turns out that you are the kind of person that thrives under the uncertainty that comes with taking the path less travelled.

Being yourself

For many restaurateurs, opening a restaurant is about more than money. After all, many of them could find easier, more stable, more financially attractive careers. Instead, opening a restaurant is often about expressing yourself, about telling your (or at least a) story. But who really wants to tell the exact same story as seemingly everyone else? I think that few do. They end up doing it anyway because they are, justifiably, scared of failure. However, at that point, wouldn’t they maybe be better served by transitioning into another, more stable career?

Taking risks therefore, is also about being true to yourself. In order words: taking risks increases your authenticity. As those of you who have read some of my work on marketing in general and Millennials and Gen Z in particular know: authenticity is everything.

Team spirit

In a time of crippling staff shortages, you need every advantage you can get when trying to attract and retain talent. This might surprise some, but taking risks can help out with that, too. First of all, you might consider taking more risks when selecting people. Letting go some of your requirements might do wonders.

However, what I want to really mention here is that taking risks as a business, and fostering a culture of risk taking, will create a sense of excitement, exploration and ownership among your employees, which makes it easier to retain the ones you have and to attract news ones.

 Don’t go in blind

All that being said, taking risks should also not become an end in itself. It should always be a calculated move. Taking calculated risks involves thinking things through, running experiments (for example by testing new menu items) and fostering a culture that understands that mistakes are part of the process. Last but not least, it is important that you take a risk because you believe it is the right thing to do for your restaurant, that it will make it a more authentic version of itself.

About the author:

The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.