Sunday, December 12, 2010

Smokin' Steve's Bar & Grill

One day, many years from now, I will retire. I will hang up the chalkholder--well, the presentation pointer--and open a barbeque joint. Like many Americans, I dream of one day being my own boss, running my own business.

And with the commonly-held old saw that nine out of ten new businesses close in the first five years, no time like retirement! Actually, no one really knows where this statistic comes from, but it is pretty easy to disprove. It was a matter of a couple of clicks to find this, from the US Small Business Administration:
Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least 2 years, half at least 5 years, a third at least 10 years, and a quarter stay in business 15 years or more. Census data report that 69 percent of new employer establishments born to new firms in 2000 survived at least 2 years, and 51 percent survived 5 or more years. Survival rates were similar across states and major industries. Bureau of Labour Statistics data on establishment age show that 49 percent of establishments survive 5 years or more...

Koreans feel pretty much the same way about owning a business, I ruminated as I dined in 노리노리 Nori Nori, one of the twenty small businesses that occupy the ground floor of my officetel, most of them mom-and-pop affairs. I wondered what the success rate of Korean start-ups is, especially considering their seeming ubiquity.

A DongA Ilbo story yesterday had this:
The National Tax Service said the number of self-employed in Korea was 4.8 million people last year, or 20 percent of the economically active population. Among them, 1.2 million or 26 percent are in 30 business areas, including restaurants, clothing stores and bars, so they inevitably face cutthroat competition. Nevertheless, 35 percent of the 930,000 people who launched businesses last year did so in the 30 areas. People who wish to open a business can find out how competitive the intended business area is by referring to the tax authority’s Web site. Opening a venture in highly competitive sectors could worsen the serious problems of the self-employed.

And a Reuters story from July 20, 2010:
The ratio of South Korea's newly started companies against failed entities in June rebounded from a one-year low with an increase in new business registration, data from the central bank showed on Tuesday.
The business start-up/failure ratio rose to 58.6 last month versus 47.6 in May, which was the lowest since May 2009, according to a Bank of Korea statement.
A total of 5,448 companies were launched in June, up from 4,565 the preceding month.

But nothing definitive about overall continuance rates of Korean small businesses. Icidentally, the title of the DongA story I referred to above is "Chicken War":

No, not that one! The one where Lotte Mart is selling fried chicken for 5,000 W per pack, thus driving the small retailers nearby out of business. Or so they are claiming. The article points out, though, that the move is analogous to E-Mart's recent foray into the pizza business. E-Mart's half-price pizzas "are known to have caused a sales drop of under 10 percent at neighborhood pizzerias, so the impact of the Lotte chicken might not be significant." Personally, I remain unconvinced that a sales drop approaching 10% is "not significant".

I also remain unconvinced about the quality of the E-Mart pizza, mainly because I haven't had one yet. The are so popular you have to sign up a day ahead in order to get one. They smell pretty good when I walk by, though.

Like it will when you pass by Smokin' Steve's.


조안나 said...

It's amazing the turnover of restaurants/businesses around here. they pop up, last a few months or a year, and they're gone again. Some of them are surprising, but others just have terrible buisness ideas, for example the "Mexican Donuts" that opened near me. Of course, maybe if they had had good coffee they could have attracted some clients, but with their burnt coffee and a name like mexican donuts, really, who's gona go? It lasted maybe 4 months.

Now there's a new place opened on one of the tiny backstreets near my house. It's supposed to be a bar, I guess (it's called 밥&술) but it looks like a poorly decorated cafe with stark white walls with some flower trim and blindly bright florescent lights. How can that compete with the new chicken and beer place that opened across the alley with dimly lit lights and faux wood on the walls. That's the way a pub should look like.

Anyway, I guess it's probably similar at home, but living in the suburbs doesn't allow me to walk past the same establishments and examine each place on a daily basis like I do now, so I wouldn't know.

Tuttle said...

Bap & sul? That's rice and alcohol, right? Sounds doomed, even Mexican donuts would be preferable. The latest in my officetel is the closing of the photo studio, which I never, ever even once saw anyone enter or exit, to be replaced by Bon Juk, which moved from two doors away in the same building. The old Bon Juk is now some kind of discount clothing place, the kind with racks and boxes spilling out onto the plaza in front, and loud speakers playing obnoxious music or the barker yammering away about the bargains to found within.

This is why they don't have guns in this country: three bullets and I could fix this situation.

kevin.thurston said...

what constantly surprises me is the persistence. i imagine the conversation going like this:
realtor: it is a mixed zone space. what are you looking to open here?
client: a cafe
reatltor: it is perfect for a cafe
client: what was it before?
realtor: a cafe
client: and before that
realtor: ummm...a cafe
client: and before that
realtor: well, to be honest, it has been 5 cafes in the last two years.
client: sold!

Chris in South Korea said...

Two words seem to escape most business owners: market research. Do you have something that isn't already 50 meters away? Do the people in the area need / want what you have to sell? If the answer to both is NOT yes, seriously reconsider...

What I'd love to know is how much money is transferred from the small business owners to the land / property owners...

Chris said...

then there are the streets where they seemingly try to open identical stores. Near my office is a block which has 4 or 5 garlic chicken stores, literally side-by-side. And they all seem to be doing well. You can visually see this in mild weather, when the diners from all the restaurants spilling out onto the spacious sidewalk. Very strange.