How a beach bar gets ready for a busy summer

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Owning and running your own small business is challenging at any time of the year, but what is it like to run a company that relies on the season? This type of business comes with its own set of challenges and rewards.

Merijn – or Marino, if you prefer – owns and runs a successful beach restaurant, Friends, with his brother Floris on the coast of Spain. It’s open from April to the end of October and has grown 200% in the past four years. We asked him to take us through his year, talking about the unique set up of this type of business.

Spring – organization & preparation

In the months leading up to Easter, the brothers and their team of chefs put together the menu, test it, and spend a weekend practicing and perfecting the dishes. This is the time to experiment and try some new ideas for the season. Once the menu is decided, it’s time to talk with suppliers and get everything ready.

Although Friends has a Facebook page, and occasionally will publish something in an independent local magazine, Merijn and Floris prefer to promote via word-of-mouth. “We want to make a small menu, with honest food that’s good quality and for people just to tell each other about it.”

Summer – the rush

It would seem that many of Friends’ customers would be tourists, but Merijn mentions that actually most of their clientele are local. The challenge is to grow the business but keep the same high quality to ensure that customers are satisfied – and keep coming back.

Having a restaurant located on a beautiful beach, but having to work hard all through the summer – do they ever feel jealous? Not particularly. “In the end, you know why you’re doing it.” However, the brothers and their staff don’t get much of a social life over the summer months, especially because Merijn and his brother live above the restaurant. That’s the hard part of the challenge: “We have no time. I became an uncle a week ago, but there’s no possibility of going home [to the Netherlands] right now.”

Autumn – winding down

As the summer draws to a close, Friends is still busy in the fall. To compensate for the ‘winding-down,’ the brothers reduce the number of staff from twenty-two during the peak months to just ten in September.

Winter – rest & reparation

After the intense hard work of the previous seven months, Merijn and his brother close the restaurant and finally take some time off in November and December. Last year Merijn spent five weeks in Thailand and went skiing with his family. “I try to relax. I like to see my friends and family.”

In January, Merijn and Floris start to look for staff for the upcoming opening, and the cycle starts again.

This style of business isn’t for everyone, “The work is hard, and sometimes hard to enjoy…but we are working each year to learn and improve.” But the brothers’ outlook is not just to create a successful business but to also ‘give back’ and look after their staff."

“That’s why it’s called Friends, we are quite simple people, you know? I don’t need a big car or whatever, I just like eating, drinking, being social with friends, like everybody."

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