3 Things to Consider in Choosing a Consultant

Consultant’s presence might greatly help you in building your business. The question is, what sort of consultant?

Lately, we have many consultant services in F&B industry. It might confuse those who want to use their services, therefore, we met Chef Rahmat Kusnedi (CRK) to discuss about the rising profession. Although he’s been known as the President of Indonesia Pastry Alliance (IPA) and owner of Physalis’s, supplier of bakery & pastry products, CRK is also involved in various brands as consultant. Here’s our interview with CRK:

Why there’s some sort of booming for this profession?

Actually consultancy business has been around for a long time, the problem now is it’s difficult to find a good consultant. Here’s what I meant, basically consultancy means counseling. If I want to make a building, I need consultant for the architecture. The result of the consultancy is the blueprint. For the inside, I need another interior consultant; the same goes for electricity, and so on.

The problem is, we have many money-minded consultant. They think, “If I can take the whole projects, I’ll take the whole money.” But remember, you’ll also get the whole problems. Sometimes people are bad in measuring their ability. The same goes for F&B business, a chef might be good at menu development and operational in the kitchen, the back end, but he’d better not messing around with the front end. It would be wise if he has partner that has expertise in it.

In reality, does that happen frequently?
What happened was, many consultant take whole aspects of the project. If I see someone who did that, I’d ask, “pardon me, as consultant, what’s your portfolio? What have you built? What are your success stories?” Ideally, a consultant has the experience of building a business from scratch, forming the team until running well and has good reputation. Similar to doctor, after graduation, someone can call himself a doctor already, but what’s his experience? What sort of patient has handled?

You have to consider that, there are so many bad quality consultants. As a result, we have many new restaurants using consultant that closed down within 2-3 months. These kinds of things make me sad. I also act as consultant, but I have limitation for what I can do. If you talk about menu development, that’s my expertise, but when someone ask me for interior design, it’s better to go to the experts. If needed, I can give recommendation for counseling.

When do we need consultancy services?
Only you can answer that yourself, how well do you measure your own abilities, strengths and weaknesses. If you can do it on your own, you don’t need one, but if there’s anything you don’t understand, perhaps you can consider it. For example, I’m good at food costing, managing cash flow, but I still need a tax consultant, because I don’t fully understand that aspect.

Please give us some tips, which factors shall we consider when choosing a consultant.
Basically you need experience, big name, and success story. With big name, at least it will boost your image. For experience, the more they have, they more they charge. Success story is also crucial. A consultant might have lot of experience and big name, but it’s a problem if the brands that he’s been handling have no success.

If I have big capital, as owner I’ll rethink 10 times if I were to use consultant without those 3 things. There’s so much things forsaken when you build F&B business. There’s also calculation in building a kitchen, there are minimum equipment requirements, how big the kitchen should be, required plug ins, and then the installation and exhaust system. Do you understand what you need? Be it upright chiller, upright freezer, salamander, deep fryer? The capacity? The quality differences among the brands? There have been many miscalculations in this section. As a result, after operating for 1 year, many have broke down, and the owner complains, ”I used a consultant but they gave me these craps.”

If I were an interior consultant and have good result And then if the restaurant closed down because the food was bad, can I be blamed for it?

That’s not how it works. You might have a point, but on the other side, success story is the one thing your clients remember the most about you. If you handled the interior of restaurant A, but in the end it was closed down. People remember it as a failed project, and you’re involved in it, even though you might not know the kitchen staffs. If you were involved in similar situation, you should recommend a good food consultant.

Therefore, a consulant has to be smart in choosing the projects he’d take, similar to lawyer. He has to be able to know, which other consultants involved in the project, who else behind the business. A consultant got to have class; he should not take all available opportunities for short-term gain.

The problem is, the one with those 3 requirements will charge very high.
The solution is, you got to be good at building network. Many of my students ask for a meeting and asking for tips to build small business. When we discussed, they request the conversation to be recorded, this is what I call hidden consultation (laugh). But I’m happy to do it, I’m not the kind of money-oriented person that was like, “you have to pay this price.”

To me, being a consultant is not all about money. I’ve counseled for Kopassus who want to build a bakery from scratch. Did I get money from it? Not a single cent. But thanks to the project, I was able to build networks, I had the chance to know the TNI Commander personally, the wives of the high rank officials, they’re so thankful to me because of it. To me, friendship is priceless.