For you personally, do you see a way forward?
Me, I’m trying to grow and build more concepts, package it up. I’m a fighter. But then I talk to other people in fast casual and without the delivery companies they couldn’t stay in business. And then the delivery companies are extorting them because they’re a huge conglomerate and they’re using software and technologies and they’re charging them to come up first. People don’t talk about that. All these delivery companies have all merged and they’re almost one, and they’re charging people 20 to 30 percent of the sale of the ticket to deliver.
Have you had any experience with delivery?
Uber reached out to us and that’s what they were looking for. I said, no thanks. I talk to guys with six or seven fast casual locations, like Jack’s Shack, and they wanted me to buy them and I was looking to buy them, it was a healthy Mexican restaurant, and then when we looked at sales I said, ‘Your sales are all through Seamless and you’re giving them 30 percent. You’re not making money. You’re pumping your numbers up.”
This business is a 10 percent profit margin business. It used to have a lot more meat on the bone. Now, it’s 10 percent, but you better have systems, technology, and set up accountability everywhere. I have a full corporate infrastructure. Right now, they’re making all the money. I’m not making the money. I employ more people to oversee it.
How many people do you employ?
With your new Uncle Jack’s Meat House concept it sounds like you’re taking the route of diversification, not scaling up a single concept at this point.
We’re going more for affordability. With the Meat House, we’re talking about five different burgers. They’re all pre-loaded. Five different styles. They’re $14–$15. We have 12 core appetizers from $6 to $14. We have five, six sandwiches. It’s much more of a eat-in, all-day, anytime of day. But we built this really cool, incredible looking spot that looks like an old meat factory wearhouse. Then you have your cuts of steaks. But I’m doing choice cuts. And then we’re going to have rotations of some prime cuts. You can come in and get a nice, choice, dry-aged type steak for $20–25.
This value-driven concept, why do you think this is a great fit right now?
Look at American Express card. Everybody talks: Why isn’t the American Express card hurting. Businesses have been regulated. Businesses have been scrutinized. They’re not allowed to expense and they’re not allowed to entertain as much.
Every action the government takes, there’s a reaction. Do they think of it? I don’t think so.
Again, New York might be one of the most, if not the most, difficult places to deal with these regulations.
I just think New York State, New York City, is going way too fast on these increases. It’s going to kill us. It’s almost like we’re opening the door for anything and everything. But you know what unbelievable? This city and state wants to regulate everybody’s business but who’s regulating them? Everything this city and state does. How about their workers? How about their function? How about their accountability? How much are we getting out of them an hour. Look at the MTA. Look at how many billions it makes. It’s a mess. The trains are always breaking down. They’re not on time. Why? Why? They don’t have a revenue-making problem. It should be privatized.
People talk about the flying process the same way.
Airlines right now are killing us. They’re making more money than ever. They’re charging you for everything. We bailed them out and they went a la carte and they’re charging you for everything else. And that’s what the restaurant business is going to become. We’re going to ride this tough wave and you’re going to go out to eat and you’re going to have to pay for bread, for butter, nothing is going to be free. Everything is smaller portion, more controlled. And service is going to go down the tube. You’re going to see a lot less people working in restaurants.
What’s inspiring you to keep putting the gloves on?
It’s what I do every day. I wake up to do it. I’m a fighter. I figure we keep innovating and keep adapting and keep opening new concepts. But hey, sometimes I look in the mirror and say, what am I doing? Everyone I’m talking to is saying the same thing. And then, you know, you see these other big guys and they’re going public and they’re blowing up spots and opening up with the public’s money, but a lot of them are doing cheap, dummied-down junk food.
That’s one thing you’re definitely not doing.
Well, it’s my taste. I only know how to do things good and high quality. You have to learn how to do that and still execute more at a mid-level concept.
Jack’s Shack, Meat Houses, definitely can be scaled. I’m going to do a Jack’s Tavern. It’s like a little bit more upscale than the Shack. You can have a bar and come in. If that’s what people are looking for, that’s what you have to build them.