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Haitian Restaurant/Lounge: The big Transition

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Many of our Haitian restaurent have failed in our community due to the fact that many got into the restaurent business, thinkign that owning a restaurant is fun and exciting and think it’s a way to make extra money and perhaps even become famous. Little do they know, owning a restaurant means dedicating many hours to running a business. While there are definite benefits to owning your own business and being your own boss, there are also drawbacks. Our Haitian  tradition and culture   does not support activities such as  going out to eat on a regular basis with family and friends. In fact,  traditional Haitian husbands won’t marry a woman who doesn't know how to cook, and sometimes see it as an insult if they are  forced to  eat  out when  there is a wife at home. When   I was  in college and would  go out to eat with friends after school , I naturally wouldn't eat my mom's (now deceased) homemade dinner. She would be upset and say  “Ou fè’m gaspiye tanm pou gran mesi, wa jwenn ankò”. This turned out to be an empty threat of course, since  she couldn't afford not to make dinner on a daily basis. During those times, it was definitely wiser to spend $50 on a week's worth of groceries, rather than $50 on one evening out.  So with such a tradition, it used to be very hard for a Haitian restaurant owner to be smiling walking to the bank, some barely survived. With the second generation of Haitians, born in this country or came at an early age,  things are starting to change, they do go out to eat much more often, , however they expect more than just a meal. 
 
Former  Mayor, Michael Bloomberg,  who  addressed the threat of proliferation of liquor licenses in the lower East Side, by issuing  over 300 liquor licenses  to the other boroughs that made up NYC. The goal was to encourage people to remain in their respective communities and not to have to travel to the city for a drink or a bite to eat. Many Haitian businessmen took advantage of that policy and opened an array of restaurants/lounges, especially in Brooklyn.  The list includes,  Chloe’s, Tonel, Kinanm, Lakay, 1804 Bistro, The Juicy Box, Yolie’s, and Kaché. Another honorable mention is Zanmi, which recently opened, and is owned by one of the former owners of Lakay,  Ralph Glemaud. Queens is actually struggling when compared to Brooklyn, beside Brasserie Creole, which is not actually a lounge , there are no “go-to places” in Queens to eat or to get a drink. 
 
In order to keep afloat, a lot of these venues had to create forms of  entertainment, in addition to  having a tasty and current  menu.  Chloe’s has remained consistent  with nightly themed events such as, Karaoke night, Seafood night, or Game night. Quite a lot has changed, it used to be a curse to go out on a weekday to go get a drink. The rule used to be. if you dare do that you are called an "epav". In addition to  featuring the top HMI bands on a regular basis  such as Klass, Nu Look, Kai, Vayb, Kreyol La Djakout #1 and many others. Kache is following the same trend,  with a list of nightly events featuring live music but not heavy on offering  kompa bands. Other haitians restaurant choose to focus more on take out due to the fact they don't have a liquor license and the size of the venue is not suitable for a lounge, such as Taste of the City.
 
It has become evident that it’s almost impossible for a restaurant to survive in the Haitian community without expanding its  offerings to include something besides food. Some are striving, some are struggling, some have even shut down, which is sadly  the case of Tonel and Lakay. Some owners don’t take the business seriously, even though at times it may be entertaining ,  it would be a bit of a stretch to assume that the restaurant business is all fun and games. In reality, it is a lot of hard work and pressure. Owning a restaurant means you will be at work a majority of the time, especially at the beginning, which  includes weekends and holidays. Restaurants can also earn a lot of money, however, most of what you make will need to be reinvested back into the business to keep it running. Expenses include items such as payroll, sales tax, insurance, rent, mortgage, food and supplies, liquor, utilities, and repairs. A restaurant owner can earn a lot of money but only if they intend to work hard and be part of the daily staff. Many people think they will open a restaurant and draw a paycheck while working a second job, without actually being there supervising the cooking and managing the staff, or waiting on tables if you have to. This may work in the beginning, but restaurants can’t support those who don't work. You have to be very consistent and take the business seriously. 
 
One disease that contineus to plague most Haitian establishments is the lack of customer service. Which is quite comical,  since by  definition, any establishment that serves food to people outside their home is considered a member of the food service industry. I’ve had a few bad experiences that led me to write a few bad reviews. Entertaining friends is not the same as serving people who are spending their hard-earned money. If your aim is to buy a restaurant to spend time with friends, build a bar in your basement, cook some food and invite friends over. If you don’t have the time, please do not invest your saving account into a business you don’t even have time to supervise. While you are spending time with your friends drinking, eating, and joking around, your consumers will disappear one by one without you even noticing. In addition, if you act like you do not care about your restaurant, neither will the people who work for you which will have a negative impact on  customers.  It is also unrealistic to open a restaurant  just for bragging rights, you are not in the business to become a superstar, you are in the business to make money. 
 
The Haitianbeatz team and I  are  looking forward to visiting each and every one of those venues in the weeks to come so that we may provide full reviews with  no bias and no bull. 
 
I report, you decide.
 
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