Small Business: Mature owners - Matt Gosset

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Simple, tasteful decor and traditional French fare draws creative clientele and their social circle to Petit Bocal.

The French theme keeps driving Matt Gosset's businesses. Photo / Richard Robisnon
The French theme keeps driving Matt Gosset's businesses. Photo / Richard Robisnon

When Paris-born Matt Gosset went out on his own after working for Auckland restaurateur Dennis Wiley, he shied away from a French theme.

"When I moved here, I wanted nothing to do with a French restaurant," Gosset says. He arrived in Auckland in his late 20s, managing two of Wiley's restaurants, Sausalito in Northcote Point, and Squid Row at the top of Symonds St.

He eyed the Herne Bay market and, in spite of himself, felt the French angle might be a point of difference. He has now successfully opened three bakeries since 2010 - La Boulange in Herne Bay, La Boulange in The Department Store in Takapuna - which he recently sold - and a tiny version in Lorne St.

Then an opportunity for something more ambitious caught his eye, at 177 Sandringham Rd. And the French theme has continued.

"What I wanted to create here was a real bistro. The area was lacking something that is open all day, that is always there for the local community."

He named it Petit Bocal (meaning small jar). It seats 40 and is open from 7am till 10pm seven days a week.

After opening on March 13, is now averaging weekly sales of $25,000.

He and partner Jess Brewer did the interior fit-out in a simple style that uses black and white photography, jars as light shades, a recycled timber beam across the main counter and homemade table tops.

Petit Bocal makes all the baguette sandwiches you will find at La Boulange as well as a more extensive menu. The dinner menu started with platters of food - cheeseboards and pates.

"We quickly realised it was not enough to attract a regular trade of locals, so we hired a young French chef who does three or four meals every night." Dinner, a set $28 price, is traditional French fare including boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin and a variety of wine by the glass.

From Dennis Wiley, who is working on new project Miss Clawdy at the Wynyard Quarter, Gosset learned about turning a profit from early on.

"He taught me to stay on top of running costs to keep a profitable business; to keep an eye on food costs and staff wages."

He has not done a lot of advertising because there is still a buzz about the place. "We are are gaining new regulars every week.

"It is a very creative neighbourhood, a lot of people working in TV, a lot of writers."

The Block's Ben Crawford is a fan.

Customers are happy to publicise the place using social media such as Instagram.

"Somebody puts a picture of a meal online and you've got people coming out of the woodwork, queuing on Saturdays."

Gosset doesn't rule out other Petit Bocals. "Every year I get itchy for something new," he says.

As for the tricky second year? "The idea is to keep it interesting for people - they come here but they don't know what they are going to get.

"I have got to keep being here as the owner - it does not stop me going off on other projects but you need to keep one finger in the pie."

Having a point of difference is important.

"I insist on being open every night, even sometimes when we don't make money. We will be the wild card."

Top tip
Don't overspend on fit-out.

Best business achievement
Going from an empty shop to a thriving business with great reviews in six months.

- NZ Herald

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