Observation, intuition and data: this is how Evert-Jan van der Hoed builds and maintains successful hospitality businesses

28 Feb 2024
Reading time 5 min

During his studies he already worked in the hospitality industry and afterwards he started working full-time. Evert-Jan van den Hoed is a real entrepreneur. In addition to cocktail bar Kelder65 and culinary hotspot Roast in Leeuwarden, he has also been the owner of It Foarûnder on Starteiland in Sneek since 2023. Own observations, intuition and data – hard figures – play an important role in the choices Evert-Jan makes to keep his business running smoothly. He takes us through his way of doing business and shares his tips.

Roast: smart concept change from 'chicken and beer' to almost fine-dining

“I already was the owner of Kelder65, the cocktail bar under Roast, for a number of years when I opened Roast in 2017. We started out as a no-nonsense business where grilled chicken and draft beer played the leading role, but I soon realized that this concept was not the right one. The volume of the business, with 140 covers inside and space for 350 guests on the terrace, is larger than the target group you attract with such an approach. Of course, not everyone wants half a chicken and beer. When I looked into the figures, the conclusion was that only 25% of dinner turnover came from the Roast Chicken and that other dishes were very popular. That was the deciding factor to do something completely different that is attractive to a broader audience.”

“It was also noticeable that the large beer tables for 16 people were not popular. Guests who had a reservation did not want to sit there and we saw that walk-ins did not like to take a seat there either. If you observe something like this, you have to dig into the data and make a calculation. What is the turnover of that beer table, what is the turnover per chair, and what about the smaller tables around it? My suspicion was confirmed. The turnover of the large beer table was lower than that of surrounding tables. Then you know that you have to change things to achieve a better result. If you put a few smaller tables in that location, that could mean an additional 100,000 euros in turnover per year.”

“Those beer tables and the chicken were removed and we opted for an approach that makes us, my team, partner and myself, the happiest: a culinary taste experience, with beautiful, freshly prepared dishes, perfectly matched and with a high service level. You can place Roast at the top of the mid-range. We are not a stiff fine-dining restaurant, but we do offer the quality and service you would expect there. The informal and spacious setting makes it more accessible to a larger audience. This turned out to be a good choice. After the changes, visitor numbers, turnover and returns increased significantly.”

It Foarûnder: step 1: Gathering information and learning

“Last year I got the opportunity to take over It Foarûnder. A business that is familiar to me - as I have worked there in the past - at a special location: the Start Island in Sneek. That location offers both advantages and challenges. It is beautiful and busy when the weather is nice, but when it is bleak and wet you simply have no business there. Then you do the math: what are the costs and forecasts? At best we can open about 9 months a year. In addition, it offers fantastic possibilities for celebrations and celebrations, so we decided to do it.”

“In 2023 we were open as much as possible to collect data. To be able to look closely at what is happening and learn from it. We have already received many satisfied guests and experienced very cool things, such as the Sneekweek, the Skûtsjesilen and various company parties and weddings. It Foarûnder is a top location for anyone who wants to relax by the water and for both large and small events. We have used the winter to freshen up the business and can't wait to open the doors again at the end of March!”

Entrepreneurial duty: conducting good business operations

“As an entrepreneur I feel a strong responsibility, especially towards my staff. Becoming and remaining successful starts with good personnel policy and involvement. That's why I think it's important to see what's happening in the business. Only then can you coach your team. In addition, you obviously have to focus on figures. Personnel costs, purchasing, margins; everything must be in order. And if not, you need to take action. In addition to what I observe on the floor, data also plays a very important role. Tools such as booq BI and the Staffplanner have made it a lot easier to get a grip on business operations.”

Tip 1. Take a critical look at your opening days and times

“Start by gaining a good insight into your busy and quiet days and times. The BI tool from booq is really great. I can get all the analyzes I need from there and switch much faster. If turnover is structurally lower than we want on a certain day, we will simply keep the doors closed that day. Is it quiet in the morning or later in the evening? Then you might be able to open later and close earlier, or do something to attract more guests at those times. Based on last year's data, we now know exactly which days It Foarûnder should be open and which days only by reservation. At Roast we are closed on Mondays outside the high season. We then only generate 4 to 5% of the weekly turnover and that one day when the entire team is free brings a lot of peace to the team and to the planning. That is also very valuable.”

Insight per district/terrace

“Thanks to the BI tool, I not only have insight into performance per location, but also specifically per district. This way I know exactly which district generate turnover in which period and at what times, which influences our opening hours and staff planning. For example, it makes little sense to schedule employees on the indoor terrace in May if there is sufficient space on the front terrace. Then we focus on that terrace, so that turnover is good there. Actually, it's just a calculation.”

Tip 2. Make sure your personnel costs and turnover are in balance

“There are really only two scenarios: your personnel figure is good, or it is not. If you analyze the figures and know the patterns in terms of busyness, you can also plan targeted staff and keep your staff figures at a high level. The booq Staffplanner gives us real-time insight into the personnel figures and helps us to make the correct planning based on all the collected data. Thanks to the link with booq Reservations, I can also see the number of reservations that I can take that into account. Past results provide really valuable information for proper tuning. As an example: historical data shows that it is busy earlier on King's Day. Then we schedule more people than usual that morning.”

Tip 3. Choose a user-friendly POS system

“Fast and smooth order taking is essential for a high level of service. At It Foarûnder they already worked with the booq POS system. Kelder65 and Roast worked with Vectron, but when we noticed how user-friendly booq is, we switched. The younger generation has of course grown up with touch screens and swiping. This fits in perfectly with the way booq is structured. This allows new employees to get started with the booq cash register and handheld much faster. I have worked with Vectron for a long time. It therefore took some getting used to, but I am very happy with the switch to booq. The back office in particular is much clearer.”

Tip 4. View your turnover at a detailed level

“As I said before, good analysis and observation are crucial for good business. I constantly see things happening in the business and then test that based on the figures. For example, I noticed that the large beer tables generated less turnover than the smaller tables around them. By replacing those beer tables, sales increased.”

“It is also valuable to look at turnover at employee level. If you see that two employees at the same time, in the same district, have a significant structural difference in turnover, you should take action. How do they approach things and what can they learn from each other? I think it is very important to train my staff, to explain how we do things and why. I therefore regularly invite employees to eat in the restaurant. So that they can experience for themselves how hospitality is provided.”

Tip 5. Renew your menu gradually

“We want to continue to innovate at Roast. That's why we replace a dish on the menu every week with something new. It is a very conscious choice to no longer rigorously replace the entire card 4 times a year. This gradual approach offers much more peace of mind for our kitchen and service staff. It minimizes stress and anxiety, while at the same time ensuring consistent quality and manageable stock and purchasing. And this way you have replaced your card four times at the end of the year, but without chaos.”

Tip 6. Laat gasten reserveren met aanbetaling

“We have been using booq Reservations for some time now, which allows guests to easily make reservations via our website. Initially, this was to reduce the number of telephone reservations and therefore save time. On the other hand, to get a clear overview, because that is simply not possible with a paper agenda. Due to a high number of no-shows and late cancellations, we started working with a deposit of 15 euros per person and that works very well for us. Although the number of telephone reservations has increased slightly, more than 80% are reserved and paid in advance. This gives us much more peace and security and therefore a much more pleasant working method.”


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