Latest Stories

10 lessons from a restaurateur of 25 years


CULTURE and good taste ooze out of the woodwork of Café 1771.

Putting up and actually running a restaurant are far from easy and not as glamorous as most people think.

According to Ramon Ricardo V. Gutierrez, president and CEO of the 1771 Group of Restaurants that operates the Chateau 1771, Sentro and Café 1771 restaurant concepts, it is not enough to know how to cook good food.

Having culinary masterpieces accounts for just 30 percent of what are required to make it big in the crowded food scene. The balance involves actually managing the restaurant, reining in costs, marketing and more importantly, winning and retaining the loyalty of finicky customers.

Gutierrez knows whereof he speaks as the 1771 Group of Restaurants, particularly the flagship Chateau 1771 brand, has been in the industry for 25 years. It has managed to remain ahead of the pack despite changes in location as well as stiff competition from both old and new rivals.

RICKY Gutierrez

Gutierrez shares with the Inquirer some key lessons learned over the past 25 years that other entrepreneurs who want to break into the restaurant scene would do well to take note of.

1. Manage your costs.

The food sector is a crazy business. The food will bring in the people at the start, but if you don’t know how to manage costs, then the restaurant will ultimately fail. Knowing your costs means knowing how to get the best available goods without compromising quality. The problem with some restaurateurs is that when the costs start hitting them hard, they tweak the food and that affects the quality. The customers will know that.

2. Constantly reinvent yourself.

The first few years of a restaurant can be very good, but you will inevitably hit a plateau and the costs will start catching up with you. Before that happens, you have to reinvent yourself. When we saw the market shift away from Malate, we moved in 1994 to Ortigas, which was booming then. And then when people moved to Makati, we moved there, too.

Chateau 1771 in Glorietta

3. Invest in market research.

Know what your competition is doing. You should always be on your toes because there is always something new coming up. You have to know what is happening in the market and their preferences so that your restaurant can provide that. In Ortigas, for example, we saw a spurt in the growth of a young market so Café 1771, WB 1771 and Sidebar are there to cater to that growing market.

4. Be obsessive about details.

The type of guests that we cater to likes food, enjoys food and appreciates a good experience, so that means taking care of little details that make a big impact such as a clean and sweet smelling bathroom and table settings. My market appreciates these things and is willing to pay for them.

Café 1771 in El Pueblo Ortigas Center

5. Don’t compromise on quality.

When we design our menu, we look at the best items that our customers can afford. And once that is set, there should be no going back. You do not want to compromise on the quality of the food because that is a sure way to lose customers. At 1771, we use the best possible fresh ingredients while keeping an eye on costs.

6. Know your target market.

Running a restaurant is also about positioning, you can’t be all things to all people. If you are targeting the middle market, then you can go for comfort Filipino food, not foie gras.  The market will determine the food you will serve, the presentation, portioning of the food and also the location of the restaurant. The market will also determine the prices at which you will sell the food.

7. Ensure customer satisfaction.

Customers, even the loyal ones, will not be happy with you all the time. Perhaps the chef had a bad day or there was a bad shipment. What is important is that you should be able to do something about it. Never be afraid to take out an item from the bill if the customer is truly unsatisfied with it. What is important is to retain relationships with customers. As a restaurateur, it is important for me that the people like my food and my service.

8. Develop close relationships with suppliers, workers

Running a restaurant involves a web of relationships with suppliers, cooks, waiters, and customers. It pays to nurture those relationships for the long term. With suppliers, you have to pay them right and on time. For the employees, never embarrass them in front of guests and reward them for good work. Do not interfere with their tips and service charge because that is theirs. Take care of your staff and they will take care of the customers and ultimately, you. Above all, be fair. Give them what is right and what is due them at the right time.

9. Gather valuable feedback.

Once in a while, check back with your customers and ask them about the food and the service. Follow up with a text or e-mail just to find out how the restaurant is doing from their perspective. It is also nice if you can ask friends to tell you the truth even if it hurts. That way, you will be able to do something about it and continue delivering the standards that you have promised to deliver.

10. Personally monitor the restaurant

There is no substitute for personal involvement in the restaurant. That is one reason why we have stayed within Metro Manila because we have agreed to personally supervise the restaurants. I conduct all of my meetings in the restaurants so that I can see how the restaurant is being run. It also keeps me close to the staff and the customers. Being there also gives my partners and I the opportunity to see the industry and to remain on top of the situation. Running a restaurant is a process of consistent reinvention, of keeping your brand fresh and competitive. Never become arrogant or neglectful. The moment that happens is the start of your downfall.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: 1771 Group of Restaurants , Business , Café 1771 , food , Restaurant

  • feargo

    this is a generic list of do’s and don’ts for all – nothing unique to a resto operation


    So much blah..blah..blah… it was the lucky number 1771 (7-11) that made it through …. weeeeeeeee >>>>>>>>>>>>> ??? Copied …Thanks ……

    • http://alasfilipinas.blogspot.com/ Pepe Alas

      Crazed freaks all over the internet… =(

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • Drilon denies involvement in pork scam
  • Complex health care system for California’s elderly and poor explained
  • Malang the croc must regain strength before return to swamp, says mayor
  • Palace: Lacson’s version of Napoles testimony to be evaluated
  • Scientists eye iceberg bigger than Guam
  • Sports

  • Guiao summoned by PBA for name-calling incident
  • Promoters Dela Hoya, Arum in talks for Pacquiao-Alvarez—report
  • Benzema guides Madrid to 1-0 win over Bayern
  • Suns’ Goran Dragic win NBA’s Most Improved Player award
  • Heat go up 2-0, hold off Bobcats 101-97
  • Lifestyle

  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Embassy advisory: Filipinos still need visas to enter US
  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
  • Marketplace