Anyone who has ever dreamt of opening a restaurant has also fantasized of growing into a mini restaurant empire. Unfortunately for the overwhelming majority of those who try their hand at the restaurant business, a fantasy is exactly how it remains.
It takes hard work, dedication, talent, and a sprinkle of luck to make it. But for those who are lucky enough and have worked hard enough to succeed, what’s next?
For many of us, getting through the first year is a badge of honor, and if you’re as crazy as I am, you start to think about opening your second location.
You convince yourself that you can duplicate the principles that made you successful in your flagship restaurant. Perhaps one of the most important lessons you learn is that the money going out is far more important than the money coming in.
Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency
To be a successful restaurant in New York City, it’s a must that you maximize employee productivity, minimize waste, and generate as much revenue as possible with the space you have.
After doing a pretty good job of all that I began looking for space for my second baby. While narrowing down my search, I had a moment of deep reflection. Who was I going to hire for this next project? Would I be as lucky as I had already been with staffing? Would I be able to manage both locations effectively?
One day, I walked out of my office to speak to my event coordinator. Her desk was in a second floor storage area above our main dining room. That’s when it hit me—I was going to open my second location inside my first. I would turn the office space into an exclusive restaurant inside my existing restaurant.
Chef’s Loft at The Stone House was born. Chef’s Loft is a boutique restaurant that is incredibly intimate and boasts a five-course wine paired tasting menu that is prepared in the room while guests look on. The menu changes each month and features uniquely innovative dishes, expertly paired with wines that complement the dishes flavors. We adorned the walls with a mosaic compilation of wine corks and broken down wooden wine boxes. It also houses a show-stopping, two-ton illuminated Himalayan salt wall. The list of reasons why this was a good idea just kept growing. Much of the fear and uncertainty vanished. I could eliminate the need to sign my life away to rent another location. I could eliminate the need to undertake an extremely pricey and time consuming build out. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars saved. I wouldn’t need to go out and hire an entire staff, and I could avoid all the growing pains that go along with that process.
Who says you can’t be in two places at once? With the opening of the new restaurant, now I can be.
On top of all the benefits I already mentioned, maybe the most important aspect is the all-important buzz. New restaurants can have amazing food, impeccable service, and great ambience, but if there is no buzz created, no one will be there for the experience. New restaurants can have amazing food, impeccable service, and great ambience, but if there is no buzz created, no one will be there for the experience.
Being bold in the restaurant biz always garners attention and publicity. The key is to go all in. Own the concept whole-heartedly. There needs to be a concrete differentiation between your existing restaurant and the newly minted entity. A new name, new concept, and new menu. The social media and web presence need to mirror that sentiment.
In my case the buzz generated by opening Chef’s Loft far exceeds our capacity. We are currently 8 to 10 weeks out for reservations all while building a book of permanent reservations that will result in the “Rao’s” effect by the end of 2017 if we continue at our current pace.
The question now is what will I do for my third location?