Sticking to your beliefs

When I interviewed Bret Oliverio from Sup Dogs for our second Restaurant Owners Uncorked book (it’s coming soon – the first book is here on Amazon), we had an interesting exchange about being bold enough to be different from the crowd…

Wil – “One of my favorite business books is called Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd. It talks about how important it is to take a stand and to be different. If you really want to create something special, you have to go about it that way.”

Bret – “I totally agree. I think a lot of that applies to what we’re doing. College is the most fun time in your life, so I want to be the most fun restaurant out there.

You have to know who your audience is. I think one of my strengths and my wife’s strengthsis knowing what college students in a college community want. We do get a ton of families in for lunch and a ton of families in for dinner. It’s not just college kids that come into our restaurant. But when I think about college, it’s all about girls and having fun. That’s what our business has to be all about.

Our hotdog is six inches long, but it’s not too thick. It’s not like you’re eating some big, giant hotdog at the stadium. Our patties are hand-packed fresh, hand-smashed. We smash them out real thin. To me, it’s a little easier for a girl to eat it. A group of college girls isn’t going to want eat a big, giant piece of cow before she goes to a house party with her friends. Everything we do is sort of with the college girl in mind — everything from our drinks to presentation of our food to the décor of the restaurant. My mentality is that if you can be successful doing that, the guys will follow and the community will follow. If I visit a college town, I want get a college experience. We went to the University of Florida a couple years ago to go to football game and I wanted to see my wife’s whole college experience. I wanted to be around the students — I wanted to be around the Gators. We get complaints: the restaurant’s too loud, it’s too bright, there are too many girls in there. They say, ‘Your staff act like sorority girls.’ Well, this is college. I mean, what do you want? I saw one Yelp review where some guy was like, ‘The food was great and the service is good, but their staff is laughing and they’re loud and they’re having fun. This isn’t a sorority house, girl. This is work.’ I’m thinking, ‘This dude just doesn’t get it.’

Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the stuff I hear is positive, and I love it. With complaints, my dad always says, ‘If there’s someone that really doesn’t like being there, it’s like having a remote control. You could turn the channel if you want.’ There are always other options. You’re not going to be for everyone, that’s for sure.

If we make a mistake, or we’re in the wrong, I am over-the-top apologetic. I’ll do anything I can to make it right. But my mentality, first and foremost, is to side with our restaurant and our staff, because most of the time they know what they’re doing. Those are the people you are working with, day-in and day-out. I really side with our staff first, but if there is stuff that comes up and if we mess up a ticket or the ticket time’s thirty minutes or whatever it is, then I’m the first one to apologize. I know when we’re in the wrong. But there is something to be said for sticking to your business and your staff and your beliefs.”

You’ll hear more from Bret soon. His is the most amazing story I’ve come across in five years of interviewing restaurant owners, and we’re sharing it in a new film we plan to release in March.