In my past career, I was immersed in PowerPoint all the time at work. Cranking out “decks” was a daily occurrence, and as sad as it may sound, I would take pride in a “crisp” set of bullets or slick-looking timeline slide that told the story of exactly where the project stood. Do it right, and there’s no need for questions like “Are we behind?” or “What’s the critical path?” Just read the deck. And quit flipping ahead, Mr. Executive!
Not wanting to put those talents to waste, I drew up an approach for bringing Verde to market. And naturally, there were three phases.
The idea probably started years ago over some underwhelming expense-account dinner at a national “casual dining” restaurant in south central Connecticut (or some other oft-visited consulting location). “Man, why don’t we quit our jobs and start up a restaurant?” was the question half-jokingly posed. Then we’d brush it off, and the conversation would drift back to some financial model that still needed to be created for the client tomorrow. Damn clients with their deadlines.
But over the years, mental notes were taken. Ideas fleshed out. Good and bad practices noted. And concepts developed.
A little after we moved back to my wife’s home town of Pittsburgh, she and I began speaking to folks in the restaurant community, including an established restaurateur, a real estate agent specializing in restaurants, an architect, and a few chefs. Everyone was incredibly supportive. Either that, or they were just as anxious as we were to enjoy a phenomenally good margarita.
So after too many years of getting up at 4am for that 6am Monday flight to ORD/EWR/DFW/Wherever, and after a corporate merger created an opportunity to take a break from it all, I jumped ship. And the ideation phase rapidly transitioned into…
Phase II: Planning
It used to be that a decent business plan was enough to get you a loan. (Right, stop laughing.)
Not in this economy. We quickly learned that we would have to plan out just about every detail of the restaurant, get quotes for every piece of equipment and furniture, have a full set of architectural drawings, create our full menu, select our general contractor, and MUCH more, all before getting those loan papers to sign.
Planning a restaurant is not for the faint of heart… and you’d better have a little cash in the bank to tide you over.
After absorbing the reality of how the modern lending system worked (that’s a long, expletive-laden beer conversation right there), I shook it off by realizing, Hey, this is the fun part! So like a good consultant, I made a project plan, a series of financial models, and a “pitch deck” to share with everyone.
I formally hired that local restaurant consultant, Ron Sofranko, who has been immensely helpful with financials and operations. I got restaurant real estate guru David Glickman to help us find the perfect location and sign a lease. I engaged Moss Architects, to begin designing and draw up plans. I found a chef, who could then help plan out the menu, which in turn, helped determine the type of kitchen equipment we needed. With the plans complete, we put the project out for bid to four General Contractors, selected one, and signed the contract. I spoke to neighboring business and residents, established our social media presence, and began speaking to press to generate buzz. And we worked with city and county officials to get the necessary zoning and permits to get going.
I may have glossed over a few ugly details there. (The “Lessons Learned” blog entry will no doubt be a good one.) But needless to say we’re excited to finally be entering…
Phase III: Build
What is it about seeing tractors pushing dirt around that makes you grin like an 8 year-old boy? That’s what the builders are doing this week as we “demo” the space and prep it for formal construction, and it makes me smile.
The weeks ahead are gonna get crazy. In addition to managing a tight 10-week construction timeline, we have to detail every aspect of how we actually want to run restaurant operations. We’ll be on the lookout for an ambitious Assistant General Manager and talented Sous Chef. And I’ll be writing a lot of checks to vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, purveyors, and who knows who else.
But all of it will be according to the plan.