Entrepreneurship in the Dutch restaurant sector

By Dr. Jeroen Kuilman

The Tilburg Center of Entrepreneurship has developed a large database of about 700 entrepreneurs in the Dutch restaurant sector that were active between 2005 and 2015. Since we have consistent and detailed information on their restaurants, we are able to track the evolution of these ventures over time. So far, eight master students have written their master thesis based on this dataset. They coded large parts of the data themselves based on the Lekker restaurant guide and other sources. The most important variable that these students studied was the ranking of the restaurant, indicating quality or performance.

The dataset allowed for answering a variety of questions and research resulted in a number of consistent outcomes:

-             In the restaurant industry, we observe a variety of ownership forms. Some restaurants are managed by an owner-chef (the late Joop Braakhekke’s Le Garage) or by a husband and wife team (Jonnie and Thérèse Boer’s De Librije in Zwolle), whereas other restaurants are owned by larger corporations (The Bonheur Horeca Group owns several restaurants in the Tilburg area). By differentiating between these different ownership forms, we were able to study which form yielded the best performance. Findings demonstrated the success of husband and wife teams: their restaurants tend to perform best in rankings, when controlling for other variables.

-             Students investigated whether restaurants owned by female entrepreneurs outperformed those of their male counterparts. While most of the entrepreneurship literature seems to provide evidence that male entrepreneurs fare better than their female counterparts, the reverse appears to be true in the top of the Dutch restaurant sector. Even though female entrepreneurs are underrepresented in the dataset, their restaurants tend to fare better in the rankings on average.

-             Another student investigated how restaurants responded to performance feedback and what kind of changes (e.g. firing the chef, changing the menu or prices) restaurants make after experiencing a drop in the rankings. It turns out that restaurants only make significant changes to their organizations (for instance, firing key personnel) if the drop in the ranking is substantial (dropping more than 10 positions). In case of smaller changes in the rankings, restaurants only make small adjustments (for instance, only changing the prices on the menu). 

For more information on these and other findings that emerged from this dataset, feel free to contact Dr. Jeroen Kuilman (