The basics of business on Tenerife

“Why did they think that was going to work?”

It’s a question we ask sometimes when we see a new venture where the venture isn’t in the slightest bit new at all.

In our first summer on Tenerife we sat beside a young man in the Beehive Bar in Puerto de la Cruz. He and his wife had recently opened a bar, a Brit bar to be precise. It was in a local; business units which unless treated with creativity can be uninspiring places at best, depressing at worst. You mostly find them in the older areas of purpose built resorts.

He was offering snacks such as pies, toasties, baked potatoes etc. The bar was no different from numerous other bars in resort areas aimed at British visitors, except his new ‘old’ venture was starting up at a time when Brit bars in Puerto de la Cruz were on the way out. There was not a thing about it to tempt us in. Despite it being summer, when even us newbies realised that Spanish mainlanders made up the bulk of visitors to the town, there was not one blackboard or menu in Spanish.

British menu, Costa Adeje, Tenerife
Typical British bar menu on Tenerife

I asked him about this and his answer was “I don’t want Spanish customers, they don’t spend much.” I’d have thought that in summer months when there were few Brits around ‘not much’ was better than nothing at all.

The bar didn’t last a year.

I thought of him recently after reading about another new Brit bar venture in Puerto de la Cruz. It was in another part of town. But that was about all that was different. It was just another uninspiring business unit selling the same tired snacks to a market which had mainly moved elsewhere, replaced by one which expects something more. A significant number of current visitors have chosen Puerto de la Cruz for its Canarian vibe. They want tapas y vino not pie, chips and John Smith’s.

Arty bins, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife
Even the bins are shocked at how unoriginal some ideas are.

By the time I read about it, the bar had already closed. In 1980 it might have stood a chance. In the 21st century it was doomed before it ever opened.

The big question was why open a low-end bar of a type which not only does it offer nothing new, it is becoming more obsolete with each passing year?

Why didn’t the owner, before investing time and money, start with the basic question – what is different enough about my bar that will make people want to come through the door?

Cofradia de Pescadores, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife
This is the Puerto many of today’s visitors want.

The obvious answer would have been nothing. It might have been a question which saved him time and money.

A few years ago Andy came back from a press trip to Benidorm singing the praises of frozen yoghurt from a place called Llaollao. It was a couple of years before the first frozen yoghurt made it to Tenerife. A couple of years after that there was a glut of frozen yoghurt parlours in Puerto de la Cruz. And yet we overheard a British customer in a bar say to his friend. “I’ve got an idea for a new business in Puerto – selling frozen yoghurt.” It was all we could do stop ourselves from asking “why would you want to do that when there are already too many in the town?”

Frozen yoghurt, Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Frozen yoghurt from the days when it was a novelty.

Some people just don’t carry out any form of research before they dive in.

Copying what already exists is not a trait confined to British residents on Tenerife. There was a wonderful Chilean tapas restaurant (something different) in Playa San Juan which sadly had to close due to personal circumstances. So what replaced it? A traditional Canarian restaurant of which there are a hundred a penny on the island.

Chilean tapas, Playa San Juan, Tenerife
Chilean tapas in Playa San. Now that WAS different.

Recently in Los Cristianos we walked the length of one long street looking for somewhere to have lunch which rang our bell. The street was lined with Brit bar after Brit bar mainly offering exactly the same things – pies, toasties, burgers, all day British breakfasts etc. We ended up in a nice little Canarian bakery just because it had something that wasn’t aimed at a familiarity-seeking British market. What that showed was that within some resort areas there is still a demand for a type of Brit bar we had stopped going to in Britain a long, long time ago.

Bars aimed at British visitors, Los Cristianos, Tenerife
Bars and restaurants aimed at British visitors in Los Cristianos.

But it’s a demand which is diminishing. Travel trends show cultural/slow travel/personalised experiences and luxury travel are increasingly popular. People’s tastes have changed. Additionally all inclusive hotels have bitten into the section of the market which would normally opt for cheap, basic and familiar bars and restaurants. Even when people want budget, many now want quality budget.

The new Hard Rock Hotel in Playa Paraiso is a prime example of changing tastes. Many reviews for Tenerife’s hottest new hotel praise the hotel but have the same criticism; the area outside the hotel, Playa Paraiso, feels run down. Bars there belong to a Tenerife from the past. And yet there are still people who open similar.

Hard Rock Hotel, Playa Paraiso, Tenerife
The new face of Playa Paraiso.

Instead of copying what already exists, anyone interested in starting a business should be looking at what there isn’t.

For example, despite the number of British vegetarians being on the rise, so that around 6% of the population are vegetarians, it’s easier to find good vegetarian restaurants in traditional Canarian areas of Puerto de la Cruz, La Laguna and Santa Cruz than it is in tourist resorts aimed at British visitors.

Vegetarian empanadas, Tenerife
There’s a shortage of good vegetarian restaurants in Tenerife’s southern resorts.

A good, modern vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Tenerife’s main southern tourist resorts seems like a business venture crying out for someone with a bit of imagination to get their teeth into.

The basics of business on Tenerife is to do something which stands out from the crowd, not something which is indistinguishable from numerous other mediocre ventures.

 

Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+

3 Comments

  1. An excellent yet depressing article and Lanzarote is little different. On Fuerteventura, we wanted a coffee and the nearest bar was a British one. We asked for two cortados, only to be met with “what’s a cortado?” The mind boggles!

    • Thanks Adam. Your comment made me laugh and reminded me of a time in a supermarket in one of the resorts on Tenerife when I asked if they had bocadillos and the English shop assistant looked at me blankly before replying pretty much like your waiter.

  2. Adam Simmons, really? A coffee shop in Spain and they do not know what a cortado is!!! I mean, anywhere you go in Spain, noy just the Canary islands, people ask for cortados. I find it hard to believe there are people like that owning a bar in our country. It may be a tiny detail but for me that shows lack of respect for the country they are working in.

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