We see bars, shops and restaurants abundant with customers all having a great time. It doesn’t take much time researching the propositions on the internet to realise what is good and what is bad.
Opening a bar in Thailand or buying one that is already established in one of the tourist places like Pattaya, Sukhumvit or Phuket can look like a dream come true, but most owners find out quickly that this situation is nothing more than a money pit. The ability to get quality customers to sit in your seats as opposed to the fifty other bars in the street is the key factor. You are limited with your prices as the competition is high.
With all of this in mind, I went with the concept of opening a shop away from the tourist area. Why? Rent is cheaper; competition is less and why not open something where you have zero need to drop prices because the guy next door is doing it.
I opted for a wood fire pizza shop that also sells beer. With a marketing and design background, I did the fit out of the shop to reflect a grunge retro feel, which is extremely popular in Thailand right now.
Do I have competition? Yes, the Pizza Company, but they are mass produced pizza’s that have only one style. Mine are wood fired, traditional Italian thin crust, which is something that is missing in the market place, more specifically where I live.
Now fitting out the shop, that has been the easy part. I am handy, have the ability to do everything from paint, weld, build furniture and even engineer a gas powered wood fire brick oven. Where the difficulty starts to come into play is when you are needing to get outside Thai labour. The “slowly slowly” mentality comes into play here, as well as a lower than finished quality.
I have constantly found myself redoing things that I paid contractors to do, just because the finished product was well below my standard. Am I anal or a perfectionist? No not really, I just like things done right and to look finished, not half finished.
The next big thing is the learning curve for Thai’s to cook farang food. The rules and regulations for food prep is different in Thailand, and with that said, is difficult to get things to change when it so ingrained in the culture.
I am not saying it is impossible but it has been something that has been difficult to overcome.
Now the big question remains, how do we do something like this as a farang in Thailand. Well to start with you have to be prepared to lose it all. As a farang you can only own 49% of your business, but there are ways around this problem.
When making the decision to open a shop, work out how much money you are prepared to potentially lose, and do not go past that.
Do I work in the shop? No! I do not have a work permit, I could get myself one, but it is costly and at the end of the day I want a business that can sustain itself without my input. If I wanted to work I would go back to Australia.
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