Tommy Heaney: having no investors for Heaney's was hard, but worth it

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th August 2019

When you open a restaurant, Tommy Heaney said, "you come across things you've never had to worry about before."

The chef owner of Heaney's in Cardiff - along with partner and restaurant manager, Nikki Curnock - decided to brave the process of opening a restaurant with little outside assistance: from the interior design to drawing up cocktail lists, they did it all themselves. And they didn't want any investors, either. 

Here are the lessons they learned: 

Patience is a virtue

Doing most of the work themselves, they soon discovered how time consuming  opening a restaurant can be. 

In fact, Tommy explained, "everything takes time; down to the tills, your card machines, your menu design, cocktail lists.

"There probably aren't a lot of chefs that've written a cocktail list in their life, but I have." 

If you don't like paperwork, this is not for you 

From risk assessments,  EHO compliance forms and contracts, the chef said  he had to fill in "a s**ton" of paperwork.

"As a chef you were gonna just help with the finer details, then you start having to actually write contracts and that's very  different."

Heaney's restaurant 2

When you think you've spent all you can spend, there'll be more things to buy

With no backers, small costs can add up. When he realised just how much he needed to spend, Tommy Heaney turned to Kickstarter, raising £40,000 to get the restaurant open. 

"You go underneath things and you think: 'alright - what's left to go? Air conditioning?' then you realise air conditioning's like fifteen grand," he laughed.

Accept that you will get stressed - and you will p*** people off

Especially at the design stage, the chef explained, the pressure hit high levels. "It was a f***ing nightmare." 

"The stress of going in in the morning and thinking: 'well why aren't I here or why haven't they done this -  you find yourself starting to do too much, just kind of running about chasing people and upsetting people."

Know that you can find help in unexpected places 

When it came to putting together a business plan, Tommy, who admits to not being very organised, sought help from fellow chefs - namely, Ollie Dabbous and Tom Brown - who had opened restaurants themselves. 

"The thing is," he said, " it's an amazing industry to be in and there are so many people out there that have done it and experienced it and are more than happy to talk you through it and help you." 

Despite all the hardships, you won't regret it 

By no means was opening Heaney's easy, the chef said.

"But I wouldn't change it for anything. As much as I considered investment, and as hard as it was at the time, I'm glad I've done it. At the end of the day if I want to go out and spend 4 grand on a piece of equipment, that's a decision I'm able to make." 

"Like I said, the sleepless nights aren't great but it's worth it." 

"I think it was about six months down the line before I walked in the restaurant one day and thought: "we're doing alright."

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th August 2019

Tommy Heaney: having no investors for Heaney's was hard, but worth it