I once spent a very late, boozy evening at a dinner with an accountant. Yes, it appears that sometimes accountants can be fun but maybe it takes a three course meal and a couple of bottles of wine. Anyway, we had a mathematical argument. I told him that a banker once told me that restaurants were considered risky businesses and that 19 out of 20 independent restaurants go out of business within three years. He slurred that it was much riskier than that and it was, in fact, 23 out of 24. Well, as is my want, I argued long and hard into the night but, in my defense, he was right up there with me, arguing tooth and nail.
It wasn’t until the morning as I sat on the edge of my bed, feeling wretched with my head in hands, wondering if I’d done anything wrong the night before, that I decided to get out my calculator and see what the difference was between 19 out of 20 and 23 out of 24. It was close. Very close. I reckoned that 95% of all new independent restaurants failed within three years. He said it was 96%. Well, as an accountant and obviously being trained in the subject of maths, he could have said that during the evening and we could have moved on to more cerebral topics.
But what an appalling statistic, regardless of whether we were within 1%. No wonder banks don’t lend to restaurants and it also makes me wonder why many people think that restaurateurs make lots of money, but that’s another subject. We’re all used to seeing new restaurants pop up and it seems so soon that they’re gone and another has taken its place or there’s another empty shop on the street.
Well, by the time you read this we should have doubled the number of restaurants we run – from one to two; albeit only until Sunday. It’s our very own pop-up restaurant in support of the Bishop Auckland food festival and, interestingly, it’s in an empty shop in the centre of Bishop itself.
We’re going to be serving tapas-style British dishes with, and this is where I get very excited, a special Saturday evening called the Art of Dinner Conversation. You see, we’re being helped by an organisation called, appropriately enough, Empty Shop (www.emptyshop.org), who are a not for profit organisation that bring together artists with nowhere to exhibit and unused spaces that could be ideal for art exhibitions. So, with the now-not-empty-shop filled with light installations work from local artist Mick Stephenson along with tables and chairs and kitchen equipment, all sorts of celebrity chefs will be joining the diners on Saturday evening to . . . . well, just sit and eat and talk. We’ve Sean Wilson, late of Coronation Street but more recently of the Great Northern Cookbook, and John Whaite who won the Great British Bake Off,along with Ivor Peters otherwise know as the Urban Rajah and Tim Maddams of the River Cottage Canteen to name just a few. And it’s all happening in Bishop Auckland.
The Saturday evening’s a ticketed affair at £25 but that includes the food and if you want tickets, there may be some left if you call 03000 262626. The rest of the time, from 5 until 9 on Friday and from noon straight through on Saturday and Sunday you can just come and say hello to us at the same time as visiting the food festival as well.
Oldfields is not like other here today, gone tomorrow restaurants – I hope. And, although we won’t be in Bishop Auckland after Sunday, I also hope we aren’t added to the statistics so as to give the banks even more excuse not to help small businesses.
We’re popping up on Newgate, opposite Boots. Come and see us. But hurry, we’ll be gone after tomorrow.