This is the second time we sat with Renzo at the Mighty Private Dining. Over time, we became privy to what lies behind this jolly, larger-than-life exterior. Not only does this motorhead, cigar smoking, wine connoisseur Roman holds a plethora of food industry knowledge, but is also a closet philosopher and deeply devoted father.
Renzo, with a background in finance and marketing, utilised his flair for enterprising to become one of the Bangkok’s pioneer Italian restaurateurs in 2002 with the opening of Giusto Italian Restaurant. These were the glory days for Giusto, the days of abundance, refinery and decadence, which later became financial darkness and emotional dread after a merger turned wrong and saw the restaurant’s permanent closure in 2015.
But in 2018, with very little resentment left in his being, Renzo, along with his friends cum partners have taken what valuable lessons from an all mighty success-to-shattered past, to create a single and most-unique private dining space in Sukhumvit Soi 49/14 – The Mighty Private Dining.
Bangkok Foodies, impressed by Renzo’s candid nature and come-back story, picked Renzo’s rich-in-experience brain to discover why he walked away from the traditional dining restaurant format forever and what advice he has for future restaurateurs to-be. We recommend to any F&B professional looking for an insightful and surprisingly profound read, to take 10 minutes of their perpetually-chaotic time to read this!
Full Name: Renzo Ambrosini
Occupation: Partner & Co-Founder Business
Name: Mighty Private Dining & Mighty Meal at Home Business
BKF: Tell us a bit about the Mighty Private Dining concept?
Renzo: MPD is a restaurant created to offer different parameters so far seen in Bangkok’s “restaurant scene”. We are not a Chef table or Home Dining; we are One Table Private Restaurant. Our dining room is never shared with other people; the whole organization whether it is kitchen or service, is entirely devoting to our guest.
The Main Menu is composed of a series of dishes exclusively created by us, which do not have a single price. The cost consists of how many courses you wish to have for your event. If you choose to have special dishes or a personalised menu, we are (almost always) welcome to accommodate our customer’s need. The relationship with our client is the core of everything. Whether it is a business lunch where maximum privacy is required, or an evening with friends to eat, drink, laugh out loud without having to worry about nearby tables or what time the restaurant closes, Mighty is the ideal solution.
We believe that as today, food however good it may be is not the only requirement that serves as motivation in choosing where to eat. Give an environment at your full disposal is an option that I do not see in other places. Private rooms area do not have the same privileges that we can offer.
BKF: Please touch on the issues you have had in the past that made you change direction from the public restaurant domain to private?
Renzo: The personal lifestyle and also how to relate to others definitely had a considerable weight in this choice. For some years the idea to embracing a more tailor-made project it flashed in my head, like a dream in the drawer. When I realize that my work has become purely mechanical and no more room for “human contact”, was the first sign that I had to change.
The “coup de grace” then came from a merger. There within was a hidden agenda, that compromise years and years of hard valuable working. A very hard blow that not only brought me serious damage, but that pushed even more to embrace a project let’s say more organic. Fortunately I had the opportunity to go further thanks to a group of friends and my two current partners, who share with me from the first day the Mighty-Idea, making it a joint project.
BKF: You mentioned you had an epiphany from an album cover – which gave you the idea for the name of Mighty Private Dining?
Renzo: More than the name, it was a flash about how much positive vibes will comes from table ready for banquet-hosting friends. The evolution of the restaurant has somehow forgotten or perhaps shelved one of the most important meanings in dining out: being in good company with great food and turn the moment into a pleasant memory, like use to be when I was a child. BTW….it was a Rolling Stones album!
BKF: What are some of the greatest challenges or advantages in Bangkok that restaurateurs faced ten years ago, as to nowadays?
Renzo: F&B is a dynamic business; you cannot fossilize in modules and static schemes. The culture of eating out has made great strides in the last 10 years. This allowed an increase in supply on the market for cuisines already present such as Italian, French or generally classified as western. Also the opening of ethnic cuisines it is a sign to desire to try and learn new food-culture, constantly increasing. I must however point out that most of the average Thai consumer, tends to frequently change their preferences when it comes to restaurants. Only those who have a strong DNA or offer a product hard to replicate, they will have a constant flow of customers.
BKF: What are the greatest (secret) pitfalls to look out for in the restaurant business?
Renzo: The pitfalls are many; it is useless to deny it. Sometimes even high-level chefs are not able to become successful restaurateurs, think about it. Nowadays many factors contribute to the success or failure of a restaurant. Taking for granted that the food is of quality, whether it is a fine dining or a simple family trattoria, you have to look up the service, how your waiters move and dressed. Select the right dish for menu and it’s graphic. Furniture that must be in line with the concept. Wine list that match the food. Marketing operations that bring you new customers, as well consistent marketing to keep them as your regular. And of course the quality – price ratio. Give 10 and ask for 8, will work! Give 6 and ask 5 and it is only a matter of time that you will be in bad shape.
BKF: What are the greater advantages of having your own private dining business?
Renzo: It’s my beliefs that arrive into “private restaurant concept” is a career evolution in the restaurant industry, whether is a Chef or people who works and orbit in this field. I always said that the future of fine-food it is in private or very small size restaurant. One of the advantages surely is the reduction of overhead costs such employees, storage need and management. The other side of the coin is that you must have a proven solid experience. Everything happens in front of the customer’s eyes, the margins of error must be calibrated to the lower possible, no room for mistake.
BKF: Why would you recommend some people do not go into the private dining business?
Renzo: I believe that my previous answer is already indicative. Often the trend of the moment clouds the real quantity & quality works that must be implemented to reach a solid and long-lasting operation. Without experience in F&B or even lack of knowledge in the territory where it is intend to operate, better to let it go.
BKF: What are some of the greatest moments and rewards you’ve had in the private dining sector?
Renzo: Give the customer a new experience. To be told that we offer a completely different product from others and we do it with sincerity and professionalism, this is the best sign that we are on the right track.
BKF: What are some of the ugliest or toughest realities in the restaurant business that you can warn others about?
Renzo: The list would be long. One of the common issues when you are too emotionally involved with the business and becomes difficult to let it go when not working. Better to close for a while, trying to figure out where you went wrong and then reinvent itself, finding useful synergies and start over. After all is just business.
BKF: What do you think of the arrival of the awards, such as Michelin and 50 Best? Do you think it has improved restaurants and the industry overall?
Renzo: Delicate issue (LOL). Overall it is a boost for the industry, no doubt about it. However is perceived somewhat as a dividing line between good and less good, which however is not; confusing perceptions generally on which you should base your opinion on a restaurant. Although a certain generosity may have been applied in granting the stars, I think it was time to include Bangkok in the map of starred restaurants, a recognition for the great steps taken in the last few years in this industry.
BKF: What are the top 5 advises you would provide to someone wanting to open their restaurant?
1) Plan, everything in advance in full detail. Once you finish your BP, read it often since all it in place.
2) Be sure having all the right intention and motivation…in balance.
3) Build the right team. Alone you can’t do much, no matter the size of your restaurant.
4) Secure funding – manage the cash flow – prepare to operate in lost for 6 months.
5) A solid marketing plan, without you are lost in the sea. Extra bonus: The old slogan Location – Location – Location. If there is not similar competition in that area, is a sign that there is no need.
BKF: What are the top 5 dangers to avoid to someone wanting to open their restaurant?
1) No unique selling point. Even your food is fantastic without “personality” your restaurant will not go for a distance.
2) Menu out of size: Not too large, either not too small. Offer quality.
3) Lack of marketing skill or outsource support. You need this!
4) Not enough capital found. Worldwide 60% of the restaurant closes in the first year for this reason.
5) Not making financial plan. F&B cost, operation, controlling in detail. Make sure you know where the money goes in your operation, day-by-day, dish-by-dish.
BKF: If you could turn back time, would be there anything about how you ran your business you would change?
Renzo: Yes. Never leave quality to increase profit. It was a poor choice. And concluding, the warning that I wish to point for anyone in this industry: It will happen when your business It is profitable and therefore attractive, that someone may offer you the possibility of expansion or diversification. My advice: weigh up whether it is worth taking these steps, both in financial term but especially in quality life-style that may be compromised when you will have to deal with new people.
BKF: What can be done to improve or give support to the restaurant industry in Bangkok?
Renzo: More new ideas and less “surrogates”. One of the negative trend in Bangkok, but almost everywhere in Thailand; when a concept works, it is immediately replicated, often for the worse. Pure “cosmetic” operations that bring the level of F&B down, in term of quality and in educate people for eat better and increase their knowledge. Another step, which I hope will happen soon, is the reduction on import duties for food and wine. It would be a huge benefit for everyone, from state revenue, operator and not last, the consumer.
Mighty Private Dining
2/1 Soi Prasertsit, Klongton-Nua, Wattana