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REBECCA BAIRD: Dundee restaurant owner need not consider closure a ‘failure’

The owner of popular city centre spot Andreou's announced the restaurant's closure in a heartfelt social media post this week.

Andrew McDonald outside Andreou's Dundee. Image: Gareth Jennings/DC Thomson.
Andrew McDonald outside Andreou's Dundee. Image: Gareth Jennings/DC Thomson.

When is bad news actually good news? No, this isn’t a philosophical riddle constructed by an overthinking journalist.

It was my response to the reports that another of Dundee’s popular city centre businesses – Andreou’s – is closing its doors.

Andrew McDonald, owner of the bustling Greek bistro, announced the closure of the Dundee venue in a heartfelt social media post this week.

And it saddened me, not just because I think Andreou’s is a cracking spot, but because in the post, Andrew frames the closure as a ‘failure’ on his part.

Which is ironic, as the wee place has been booming every time I’ve gone in.

Burnt out by the demands of running both the Dundee venue and the original Andreou’s Bistro in Arbroath, he goes on to explain that he’s closing the Dundee doors as a last resort for the sake of his health, and focusing on the Arbroath branch.

To me, this is a success, not a failure.

Don’t get me wrong – it is undeniably heartbreaking to let go of a venture that you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into over two incredibly difficult years.

But if the pandemic taught us anything as a society, it’s that nothing is more important that preserving the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones.

And yet, so many of us (myself included) still struggle with the pervasive idea that anything which does not last is a failure.

Mind you, it’s no wonder we think this way; it’s built into our language.

Failure is a feature of speaking English

Think about it; we call divorces or breakups ‘failed relationships’, even if two people have shared many happy years before parting.

We label students who leave their courses as ‘dropouts’, implying they have fallen down some imaginary crack of functional society, when often times they have simply moved to a path which suits them better.

“Heart failure”, “kidney failure”, “liver failure” – even when we speak of the inevitable eventual shutting down of our hardworking organs, we punish them for not lasting forever.

And especially in the world of business, the concepts of ‘success’ and ‘failure’ seem to translate only to ‘stay open’ or ‘close’.

Andreou’s has been serving Greek food in Dundee since 2022. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

How did we get to a point where the ultimate measure of success is to ‘just keep going’ – even when it’s not working for us? Shouldn’t success make life better?

Of course, ambition is good, and so is determination.┬áBut there’s a difference between commitment to a goal and sheer bloody-mindedness.

One is taking pride in your work; the other is being a slave to your pride.

Which of those sounds more like success, and which sounds more like failure?

Battling burnout is success in itself

To me, it’s obvious that Andrew, and any other business owner who can step back and acknowledge that a venture is no longer serving them, has succeeded.

They have succeeded in shrugging off a century of capitalist conditioning, prioritising their health and wellbeing, and paving the way towards a more sustainable way of life.

Because this is not a case of certain individuals being unable to ‘hack it’ in the business world. The fact is, work is getting more stressful – for everyone.

The team at Andreou's Bistro in Arbroath won Mediterranean Restaurant of the Year.
The award-winning Andreou’s Bistro team are a success no matter if the Dundee venue stays open or not. Image: Facebook.

The cost of living crisis means previously thriving businesses are battling behemoth financial pressures, with no respite in sight.

Therefore it’s no surprise that burnout is epidemic across the UK’s working population, with 88% of UK employees having experienced it in the past two years.

We simply cannot go on like this. And we certainly needn’t feel like we are personal failures when we are living in impossible times.

So what’s the answer?

Impossible times call for possible measures

Well, success is so often presented to us as a constant quest for ‘more’. More money, more stuff, bigger premises, more work.

But what if we redefined that success? What if success meant more time, more sleep, more morning coffees and evening walks?

Success should be defined by quality of life, not numbers on a spreadsheet.

So there is absolutely no shame in wanting to scale down, regroup, and give 100% to one thing instead of 1% to 100 things.

SookSouk Vintage owner Sharyn Farnan has closed her doors recently as well. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson.

And it’s nice to see local businesses exercising that ethos, because Andreou’s isn’t alone.

It joins the likes of Perth Road players SookSouk Vintage and cafe FIKA, both of which have closed their doors while their owners, run ragged by the task of staying afloat for the past two years, redeploy the troops.

That’s not a failure. It’s just an ending.

Besides, now we have an excuse to go to Arbroath for dinner.

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