Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: November 2016

"It’s just an incredible business"

I recently interviewed Michael Chernow for our upcoming book, “More Restaurant Owners Uncorked.” Michael started The Meatball Shop in Manhattan with Daniel Holzman in 2010, and it quickly grew to six locations and gained national attention. Last year he ventured out on his own to open Seamore’s, a very popular local seafood restaurant in Brooklyn. Michael’s passion is contagious for the restaurant business is contagious. Here’s a small clip from the interview.

What lit your fire to get started in the restaurant business?

“I grew up in Manhattan, and I wanted money in my pocket. In order to have a five-dollar bill in my pocket at all times, I needed a job. When I was thirteen years old the only place that would hire me was a restaurant. So luckily, I kind of just fell into it. But very quickly thereafter I found out that I was more passionate about people, hospitality and food than anything else. And, really, my passion resides in people. The best way to feed that passion is to surround myself with people all the time. So, that’s ultimately what I set out to do. I followed my passion, followed my dream, and ended up really creating a life beyond my wildest dreams through luck and hard work.

Without the people, the food doesn’t matter. It’s really a people business, internally and externally. You can have amazing food, but without the right people behind it or serving it, it doesn’t resonate. My real pride and passion is in the people that work with me. I put them before everyone and anyone, outside of my wife and my son. If you put all your blood, sweat and tears into your staff and into your people, that makes everything work like a well-oiled machine. Everything else will fall into place. The people are the most important piece of the business.

I break it down like this … If you have a retail concept, like a clothing store, a guest walks in the door, and you have one or two people walking around the floor trying to sell product. You have one or two cashiers. In the restaurant business, somebody walks through the door and there’s a host at the door. There’s a manager on the floor, there’s a bartender, there are five servers, four bussers, somebody at the take-out station, six cooks in the kitchen, five cooks out there prepping. So, that same sixty-dollar transaction which needs about four people in a retail store, needs about sixteen to eighteen people in a restaurant. You have to understand the amount of people that it takes for the same sixty-dollar transaction is huge.

Being able to keep all those people happy and excited and pumped to work is a full-time job. I love it. That’s the part that I love most. The instant gratification is truly incredible if you do the right thing. Every day is a new battle, a new challenge. You have a lot of people that are doing different jobs. Everybody has a protocol. If everybody works well and does what they’re supposed to do, you win. It’s just an incredible business.”

You can listen to the entire conversation with Michael as well as interviews we’ve done with dozens of other successful restaurant owners here on our iTunes podcast.

Wil

"Have an intentional life"

Angela Salamanca owns Centro in Raleigh, N.C. During her interview for our podcast, this exchange stuck out to me…

What is it you hope that people who area a part of the Centro team take with them?

To not be afraid. To take what’s there and run with it. To honor your talents. To learn how to work as a team and realize that there’s really a lot of power in letting other people be part of your dream, or be part of this journey. How to be intentional every day when it comes to the shift, when it comes to your relationships, when it comes to everything. Just how to be intentional about who you are in the world, or who you are through your team, or who you are for your family. Because it makes a difference. Everything that you do and everything that you say to anybody in the world makes a difference. Sometimes that difference can really change their lives. It could be something little or it could be something huge. Make sure that the difference that you’re making is a real difference, where you can move somebody into action so they can do whatever it is that they want to do like moving to another country or pursuing a different career or really taking on the possibility of recreating family and relationships. Have an intentional life. I feel like that’s what’s made the biggest difference in the way that we work.

Angela is a very passionate woman who inspired me when I interviewed her and who lives the life of intention she hopes her team members will. You can listen to the entire interview here on iTunes.

Wil

Steve Palmer of The Indigo Road Restaurant Group shares his story…

Here’s a fun clip from our new podcast episode with Steve Palmer. You can listen to the entire interview here on iTunes.

What are the pros and cons of being in such a competitive market like Charleston?

It’s forcing us to think more creatively. I’m paying a lot of attention to the twenty-eight to thirty year olds that are opening their own restaurants. I looked at Jeremiah Bacon, who’s our chef-partner in two restaurants and is my age, and said, “Listen, in two or three years we’re not the ones that need to be coming up with the creative ideas. We’re just not. We need to be listening to the generation behind us.” I’m paying a lot of attention to the young kids that are opening restaurants much earlier than my generation. I was forty before I was a partner in my first restaurant. Now they’re working two, three, four years in a restaurant and then opening their own. I’m watching them both for what I want to do and what I don’t want to do.

The servants-heart mentality isn’t there as much anymore. That’s a non-negotiable for me. I will never compromise on serving others. When I see these hipster restaurants where you feel like you’re privileged just for them to be serving you, I learn a lot about what I don’t want to do. I think people will tire of that. I think when the cool factor wears off, what you’re going to be left with was how you were treated. And I do believe that’s a phase in our industry. It might be a ten-year phase (laughs), but I do believe it’s a phase. We just opened O-ku in Charlotte and it’s very, very busy, and people are, over and over again, talking about the service, the service, the service. I’m starting to see where people are starting to go, “Hey, we want to be treated nice again.” I don’t care if the chef has a bunch of tattoos and they’re playing rap music while I’m eating. Yeah, the space is cool and it’s packed and everybody wants a beer, but I want to at least feel like the people are glad I’m there.

On the other side of that, I see a lot of very creative ideas and things that I wouldn’t have thought of. It’s fun to watch. There’s something to be learned, concepts that five, six, seven, eight years ago, people would not have resonated with. There’s a restaurant here called Xiao Bao Biscuit. It’s an Asian restaurant that was opened in a gas station. The chef is American and his wife is from Vietnam and they opened this small plate Asian place. They’re in a huge spread in Bon Appétit Magazine this month. From a cuisine point-of-view, the lines have gotten really blurred. There are people that are opening Southern restaurants and they’ve got kimchi on the menu. There’s this blurring of the lines, and the food press seems to love those kinds of places.

It’s a very interesting time in our business. But good service is timeless. I think people will come back for it over and over again. It’s what makes people feel good. And I don’t think that’s going to go out of style. I hope it doesn’t.

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