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Entrepreneurial f The Premier Magazine For Food Entrepreneurs


September 2018 Issue 27


Entrepreneurial f Che


September 2018 Volume 3 / Issue #27

Publisher Rennew Media, LLC Editor Shawn Wenner Contributing Editors Sinead Mulhern Staff Writers Jenna Rimensnyder, Jay Michael, Marie Reynolds, Chloe Friedman Graphic Designer Rusdi Saleh Cover Spiceology Employees Cover Photographer Spiceology Contributors Chef Chris Hill, Deb Cantrell, Mark Kelnhofer, Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton, Tom Scarda Special Thanks Erik Oberholtzer, Richard Keys, Ricky Flickenger, Eric and Bruce Bromberg, and the entire Spiceology team.

Contact Us Entrepreneurial Chef 151 N. Maitland Ave #947511 Maitland, FL 32751 The opinions of columnists and contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by Entrepreneurial Chef and/or Rennew Media, LLC. Sources are considered reliable and information is verified as much as possible, however, inaccuracies may occur and readers should use the information at their own risk. Links embedded within the publication may be affiliate links, which means Entrepreneurial Chef will earn a commission at no additional cost to our readers. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any fashion without the expressed consent of Rennew Media, LLC. For advertising information, letters to the editor, or submission inquiries, please email: Contact@EntrepreneurialChef.Com. Entrepreneurial Chef donates a portion of advertising & editorial space to C-CAP, CORE, NRAEF & Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry. All Rights Reserved Š 2018 Entrepreneurial Chef Published by Rennew Media, LLC


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Contents Features


18 Erik Oberholtzer

Tender Greens’ $100 Million Dollar Journey

66 Bromberg Brothers

How a Massive Failure Spawned a Restaurant Empire


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Pete Taylor

How Spiceology Achieved Their Breakout Success

82 Richard Keys

How He Launched a Highly Successful Culinary Agency

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Contents Advice

10 Getting a Grip on Failure

Secret Menu Strategy with the Owners of Poke Burri

34 Five Ways to Shake Up Your Tabletop

54 Tools of the Trade with Elizabeth Blau

76 The Inception Chef: Food Trends Begin with Innovators 6



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Entrepreneurship: How Much is Enough?

58 The Food Bowl Revolution

62 Preleasing Undeveloped Property



Vetting Cost Control Systems for Your Operation

A Look Inside a Mobile Canna-Business with Chef Ricky Flickenger

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Editor’s Note


ne of my all-time favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs where he said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” In the world of entrepreneurship, one of the hardest parts is keeping the faith that the dots will eventually connect – especially when you’re in the weeds. In this issue, we connect with several individuals who shared great insights, but one story in particular really encapsulated Jobs’ quotes. Brothers Eric and Bruce Bromberg, who operate a vast network of restaurants, experienced one of the most gut-wrenching situations early in their journey.


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After ten short weeks of opening their new and exciting concept, everything came crashing down, and it failed miserably. Eric said they lost about a million dollars and at 29 he was in the hole for about a half a million – with no job to boot. Can you imagine? Going after your dream and it falling apart at lightning speed. But, just as Jobs said, you can’t connect the dots looking forward. At that time, little did the brothers know they would immediately dust themselves off and pivot the concept to what would become Blue Ribbon Restaurant. And in 25 years and 23 locations, they would build an empire. Yes, the dots connected. So, as you’re going through the hardships, obstacles, or setbacks as you’re building your dream, keep in mind, at some point, the dots will connect. And with enough persistence, I know you will make it. As always, I hope you enjoy the latest issue and pick up some fresh ideas, inspiration, and actionable advice.

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Getting a Grip on

Failure By: Chef Chris Hill


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e live in a world shaped, almost entirely, by people who’ve acted on some idea or vision for how they thought the world could

be better, and as a result, took action to bring something to life. We all have ideas but rarely do most of us act on them. What’s holding us back, keeping us from taking that risky leap into showing the world what’s truly important to us?

It’s not that Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, and Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world without facing adversity and the need to persevere, they did, however, leverage a unique vision of the world. They knew it could be better and took a chance. Time and time again, we see successful people decide to show up, willing to take a risk, all the while knowing that there’s absolutely no guarantee.

But why? What is it about them that’s different from most of us? I’ve failed as much as anybody, and it’s been heartbreaking at times. I’ve started businesses that have failed, I’ve bombed TV appearances, and without a doubt, being a chef, I’ve cooked my fair share of meals of which I was proud and stood behind, though customers, at times, have had different opinions. I hate this, we all do, however, born from this moment is also an opportunity. It’s given me the chance to unravel what these failures mean, however large or small, and determine how to better execute next time around. This process has, almost always, opened the door into some of my best work. Every decision we make in our lives is predicated on previous experiences. It’s the

choices we make, consciously or not and the opportunity we extract from them that ultimately write the narrative of our lives. Some of us feed off of this opportunity, using new possibilities as catalyzing forces to tackle new challenges. Others are absolutely paralyzed by it. A question mark in the future scares the hell out of us –  we are wired this way. Failure is a part of life. It sucks putting one’s self out there for something and realizing somewhere along the way it’s not going to work. I’ve been there before, and so have you. Often, we carve this pit of anxiety into our stomachs, warning ourselves of who we might let down. What will they think of me now? First of all, a welcomed sigh of relief should be had in knowing that almost anyone coming from a place of ridicule or judgment, most likely doesn’t matter. It’s the bully in high school making fun of you for being cut from the basketball team, or the school play, but him? Oh, he didn’t even try out. The ones who matter are there in the arena with us, or are at least cheering us on from the sidelines. They recognize the courage it takes to try something that might not work. entrepreneurial chef


The heckling haters from the cheap seats will always be there to point out our shortcomings. Even in our successes, they’ll insist that they could have done it better. Yeah, the chatter sucks, it takes developing thick and pliable skin, as well as constant personal reminders that we aren’t in the game for them. At the end of the day, we aren’t even in it for the ones supporting us — we’re in it for ourselves, and for something we care enough about to take a chance on.

The destination is a beautiful

My advice? Know the critics are there. They’ll often be making a lot more chatter than everyone else. Not if, but when you fall, just dust yourself off, and be ready to jump back into the game, hopefully taking some lessons with you for the next go round.

path, and towards something

What will I lose if I fail? Time? Money? The opportunity to get back in the game to try again? These are important questions to ask. Now, I wouldn’t suggest a forty-two-yearold father of three go out and put it all on the line. However, I do think there are calculated, smaller risks that he can take. There are things we can all do to move the needle for something important to us. We’ve got to find that sweet spot, though, and it’s different for everyone. Discovering ways to get over these two hurdles, is in essence, what it means to be a difference maker in this world. Success is found, not in seeing the destination, and then choosing a path that comfortably carries us to the doorsteps of success, but rather it’s in trying different paths that don’t work, until, one day, we find one that does. What’s learned is not the map to success, because that’s always changing, and is never alike for two people, but rather that there is a road, and it’s up to each of us to find the way that works for us. Every maze, without fail, has a way out. Though it might be difficult, trial and error allow us to envision and piece together what this roadmap looks like. No one tells us how to get there, but we do uncover clues along the way that help connect the dots. 12

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place, but the iterations along the way, they are just as important, allowing us to see how we got there. They give us a frame of reference for another venture that will lead us down another else that might not work. If I succeed, what will the world look like? Failure is absolutely a possibility, but so is success. Decide to go for it anyway, and you’ll find, that almost always, in the end, it will have been completely worth it. Figure out what’s important to you, and make the world a better place by sharing it with us, in your unique way. I implore you to leap. Embrace the scary question mark, turning them into beautiful opportunities. Maybe the better question to ask is, “What if I succeed?” Photo Credit: Kim Reinick

Chef Chris Hill is regularly featured on TV shows in various markets throughout the Southeast. His writing & work have been featured in numerous publications, in addition to authoring his book “Crush Your Career: A Proven Path to a Sustainable Life in the Kitchen.” He speaks at various colleges & universities regarding culinary media, branding, social media, and the realm of food writing.

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Business Strategy


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Secret Menu Strategy with the Owners of

Poke Burri By: Jenna Rimensnyder


oke itself has swept the country as the fastest growing food trend in America. Seven Chan and Ken Yu, owners of Poke Burri, have been one of the pioneers at the forefront of the industry. The traditional Hawaiian raw fish dish that has been fused with Japanese flavors to create what mainstream America now know as poke bowls. Bowls now traditionally consist of rice, fish, veggies, sauces, and toppings. The cult following fast-casual franchise has pushed the medium even further to include new variations to the cuisine with dishes like their sushi burritos, sushi donuts, sushi corndogs, tempura fried bacon, and even sushi pizza. Seven and Ken call these delightful innovations their “secret menu.” Recently winning #2 restaurant for the city of Atlanta from Yelp, Atlanta Food & Wine Festivals “Best of the Fest,” trophies at Taste of Atlanta, and countless other city-wide food festivals and competition. The duo credits their secret menu to many of these awards and accomplishments. entrepreneurial chef


What’s the secret behind your award-winning secret menu? The secret menu is meant to be our way of launching fun and creative new dishes to the market in a way that helps us differentiate ourselves from our competitors, showcase our fresh ingredients in new ways, and consistently attract new audiences to our brand. Our secret menu items go through a rigorous process before being considered worthy to be released to the public. Often times a dish can go through 5-7 versions before its official release. We start by thinking about how we can take traditional ingredients and present them in a new way with new flavor combinations people haven’t seen before. We also try to think, can this dish go viral, is it worthy of competitions or festivals, is it awardworthy, and will it be a hit for our customer base.

If the menu is secret how do people hear about it? People joke that we have the least secret, secret menu in the city since it’s a big part of what we’re known for, and we’re always featured for it, but it’s a big part of our marketing strategy. New items are always launched in limited quantities and for a limited time only. It gives our kitchen a chance to acclimate to a new item and work it into their workflow but also create demand and exclusivity with our audience. Once an itemis launched, we strategically and systematically release it to our favorite influencers in the city. It usually goes through starting with bloggers and Instagrammers, followed by newspapers and magazines, and if it becomes a hit, we push it to either


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For that week we decided to launch our now viral sushi pizza. The sushi pizza brought in a line out the door and record sales for us during a time where our competitors and other food friends suffered from record lows. It also hit millions of Instagrams, brought thousands of comments, likes and over 1000 new followers to our page in a short 48 hours. Since then, in the last week, it has also brought in new articles, TV spots, and features and is still only ramping up in its following.

What tips or tricks would you give people about building their own secret menu?

competitions and festivals or to TV and online media channels. If we’re lucky, the item will get picked up and go viral.

How does the success of the secret menu contribute to the business?

The core of the secret menu is making delicious, beautiful food with some kind of new element that’s different, surprising or amazingly photogenic. We partner that with a strategy of how to release the item, when to release it, who to release it to first, what limitations or level of exclusivity that item can offer, and put it through a campaign as you would any other kind of marketing or promotional strategy.

What it does for us as a business is consistently create new touch points for us to reinforce our brand with our customers and relationships in the media. It also gives us hit items that we know can drive traffic to our stores in a way that we can control, schedule and maximize the results from. An example would be over the July 4th week recently which is a notoriously slow week for most restaurants, especially concepts that don’t fall into the traditional BBQ or American fanfare of the holiday. entrepreneurial chef


Success Story

Erik Oberholtzer & Tender Greens’ $100 Million Dollar Journey By: Marie Reynolds


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rik Oberholtzer is the co-founder and CEO of the rapidly-growing restaurant group at Tender Greens, which is now on track to generate over a hundred million dollars in annual revenue for the first time this year. With 28 locations spanning from San Diego to Manhattan, Oberholtzer plans to double that number in the coming years. Such great success came from a simple concept – serving fresh, high-end food at affordable prices.

Oberholtzer is a chef by background,

and scalability of fast food. The trio

spent many of his years in the kitchen

possessed the business acumen

in San Francisco through the ‘90s,

to maneuver obstacles like raising

and then moved to Los Angeles to

capital, scalability, and staff training

run Shutters on the Beach, a luxury

and development – with a refined

hotel right on the beach in Santa

business plan as a roadmap; the team

Monica. It was there where he met his

set themselves up for success and

two partners, Matt Lyman and David

incredible growth.

Dressler, with whom he incubated

Oberholtzer shares his secrets to

the idea of Tender Greens, with a

success on how to balance between

simple mission of democratizing good

business and family, his leadership

food, that is, marrying luxury dining

philosophy, and the keys to building a

and hospitality with the efficiencies

hundred-million-dollar company. entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chefchef 19


& QA The


Erik Oberholtzer

What was the hardest part about bringing your idea of Tender Greens to fruition and how’d you overcome? The easy part was coming up with the idea; the hardest part was raising capital. Any startup is risky, but restaurants are particularly risky. It took three years to raise the money, but it gave us time to refine our business plan and convince those who would listen that this was a dream worth investing in.

to the business.” It was important to have that best support behind us.

How did you strike a balance between family and business early on?

Outside of friends and family, people looked at us critically and stalled a bit. We started to ask ourselves, “Do we keep going or do we pull the plug and go back to our old careers?”

For us, it was “all hands-on deck.” My mom worked the door, my brother came to help out during busy lunches, and our wives worked at the cash register. It became clear to us that it was important to keep family as personal, and business as business, so as not to confuse the staff and muddy the water and create what can be too much of a family-run business.

Our wives were supportive and cheered us on. They understood what TYP, Ten-Year Plan (company name), meant, that this was not a get-rich-and-glamorous project, at least not quickly, and that they would have to roll up their sleeves and help out, which they did. They were committed to us and were also “married

The learning was to be very clear on what culture you’re creating: we weren’t building a family-run business; we were building a company. We chose early on to keep the two – family and business – separate so as not to create any tension in the business and the partnership.


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The easy part was coming up with the idea; the hardest part was raising capital. What does “set up to scale” mean on a granular level?

Was it your goal to scale, 30+ locations, or to open one location and “see where it goes?” It was set up to scale from the very beginning. TYP, Ten-Year Plan, was very clear: it was ten years, three founders, growing the company to 30 locations in California. We didn’t make it to 30 in ten years, but we blew our volumes out of the water, and we ended up performing much better than we anticipated. I had seen a lot of my mentor chefs age out much in the same way that an athlete or an actor reaches their prime and then begins to fade. It’s a young person’s game: be on their feet, work weekends and holidays. None of us wanted to do that, so we wanted to create a brand that was scalable, that we could create real value and wealth – in the brand, not our names on the marquees. Tender Greens was designed as a means to bring good food – real food, whole food – to as many neighborhoods as possible, and it was an idea that can scale to be more influential and a stronger agent of change. 22

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We borrowed from fine dining, which is often not scalable, and from fast food efficiency scalability systems and blended the two – simplifying the menu, keeping the value proposition (price point) accessible so that as many people as possible could participate in Tender Greens, and coming up with the best version of food people already loved and craved. A book that we each read was “The E-Myth,” which I think is the most important business book I’ve ever read, the shortest read, and the one I recommend the most. The magic in that book is that you’re dealing with a plan to pull yourself out of the operations so that you run the business versus working in the business. All along that journey of scaling the business, you have a plan to replace yourselves. At first, we replaced ourselves with the night cleaners and then the dishwashers and then the front folks and then the cashiers. On that journey, you need to have the discipline to pull yourself out of the weeds at the appropriate time, not too early, not too late. That can be an emotional journey because all of us entrepreneurs want to be in the weeds, we want to feel as though we’re doing something and we’re adding value. But more and more, as you grow, the value-add is at 30,000 feet.

Having an executive chef at every restaurant that has creative freedom and uses local ingredients, how did you scale this model? Because we came out of fine dining as chefs, we understand what motivates the chefs. A chef is someone who needs to work with food, to express themselves with food, so we need to give them that room to be expressive. Whether it’s through the specials or unique relationships with farmers and artisans at the local level, they can protect some of the standards and the classics on the menu that requires the chef’s attention to detail. Also, what we have that a lot of other places don’t is career growth. We get these chefs who

are already successful chefs, but they’re not entrepreneurs, they’re not necessarily schooled in finance, and they don’t understand how to run a business. That’s why so many talented chefs go out, and they fail. What we give our chefs is an opportunity to become entrepreneurs. We prepare chefs to run business, to be successful at business, without compromising what got them into this business in the first place, which is a passion for food. We have a succession plan. In the early days, we recruited heavily from my network. They became our original executive chefs and later on were moved to regionals.

It took three years to raise the money, but it gave us time to refine our business plan and convince those who would listen that this was a dream worth investing in.

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Tender Greens was designed as a means to bring good food – real food, whole food – to as many neighborhoods as possible, and it was an idea that can scale to be more influential and a stronger agent of change.


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What was the turning point in your business journey? We were really fortunate out of the gates that Culver City was incredibly successful. We were a novelty; there was nothing like Tender Greens at the time, so we became this regionwide destination. But where it really started to move was in the summer when we opened our fifth, sixth, and seventh restaurants. It was at that point that I stepped back a little bit from the day-to-day kitchen to overseeing and supporting the restaurant team without being the guy who got the sick calls and when the chicken didn’t show up and deal with it.

We prepare chefs to run business, to be successful at business, without compromising what got them into this business in the first place, which is a passion for food. We started to put systems in place, and everything had an SOP. We also started to develop a more robust training program. We worked with a facilitator to come up with what we call Base Camp, which is our guiding principles, mission statement, and those bullet points that inform every decision. That helped us to scale.

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What is your leadership philosophy and how do you instill a culture of leadership in the company? We all look to our mentors as models. I would call it the compassionate or heartfelt leadership, meaning I lead with empathy and the spirit that everybody has a superpower. Everybody brings value, and everybody is equally valuable, from our newest dishwasher to the CEO. Sometimes the dishwasher is more important, in reality. That cascades down through the organization that we are a thoughtful, compassionate, oftentimes very vulnerable organization, where it’s safe to share and safe to fail and learn from failures – just not chronically. We’re clear on what we stand for and who we are and what that sounds, feels, or tastes like. If you get it right, you don’t really have to manage it too tightly. You hire the right people, and you let them live it. From time to time, we might need to bring people to the center. They may come from a more intense environment where things are done differently, and everything’s on metrics

and results. That’s also important, but it all needs to be done with sensitivity, meaning we are not a zero-sum game organization. We look to make sure that the needs of everybody are balanced, not just our team or shareholders or the guests, but also the farmers or the guy who picks up the dirty linen every morning. Everybody needs to have a positive interaction with Tender Greens. As long as we’re living those values and we’re driving the results that we need, executing best in class and people are happy, both internally and externally, then it works. It’s in conflict or crisis where you really need to be strong and keep to your convictions because whether it’s a financial issue or something else, your core values can be threatened in the face of adversity. That’s where you’re really tested. There are those who react to things as a fire alarm. That leadership style can create a lot of action, a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, a lot of pressure. I’m not saying that that’s not effective; it can be. In the kitchen, classically that was the chef freaking out and throwing plates but is sitting on 3 Michelin stars. So, you can get results that way. It’s just never been my style. I call it relationship taichi. The more negative energy that is thrown at the team or me, the more we just slow it down, ask the right questions and keep our heads, so while there’s chaos in the marketplace or there’s chaos in the office, we direct that energy, keep our clarity, and figure out the best step forward. If you keep your heads and keep everybody calm, then their heads are clearer, and we can work through it. However, you can be almost too calm that everybody relaxes and doesn’t understand how serious the situation is. So, it is a balance. You don’t want to sit too far on one extreme or the other. Sometimes the intensity is necessary. But for me, intensity with a foundation of calm and clarity is most important.


entrepreneurial chef

Have you ever seen your leadership style almost like a “double-edged sword?”

I lead with empathy and the spirit that everybody has a superpower. Everybody brings value, and everybody is equally valuable, from our newest dishwasher to the CEO.

When you live with empathy and compassion and a belief that everybody has something to offer, you might take too much time to make a hard decision. If you’re that leader who is moving that player to all nine positions before taking them off the field, you may end up losing some games. So, I think it’s important to be able to identify when some of those harder decisions need to be made, and make them, versus trying to save everyone. That’s been something that has taken me a long time to get used to because you become connected to people, you become family. As you grow, sometimes the people who got you to a certain point aren’t the people who are going to get you to the next point. So, those decisions never become easier, but you get better at it, I suppose. entrepreneurial chef


Loaded question, how does someone build a hundredmillion-dollar company? You surround yourself with smarter people than you. It started with me and Matt and David, really good partners who balanced each other, and all along the way, we added talented people who were aligned with our mission and principles, and we gave them the room to succeed. And like I said, sometimes we gave them too much room or leeway, and we had to learn from that. But at the end of the day, you have to put the right team together at the right stage; sometimes you have to rebuild for the next season and the next journey.

Follow the guidelines of “The E-Myth” so that you’re not in the weeds working in your business, but you’re always working on your business. In that spirit of surrounding yourself with really smart people, have mentors along the way. There’s this constant chain of learning and teaching that everybody in the organization has an arm pointed upwards toward somebody who’s smarter and wiser and can see around the corner for them, and then an arm back that says, “Here, I’ll help you to the next stage.” It’s timing, it’s luck, and it’s the ability to navigate what is now an incredibly dynamic disrupted world that changes a lot faster than what we’re accustomed to. You have to stay on your toes, and you have to stay nimble. The bigger you get, the harder that is, so don’t relax on your laurels. And never become arrogant. Photo Credit: Tender Greens

You have to put the right team together at the right stage; sometimes you have to rebuild for the next season and the next journey.


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How Much is Enough?

By: Deb Cantrell 30

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few years ago, a chef asked me this question during one of the two-day business workshops I host. It stopped me dead in my tracks. At the time, I was in the front of the room, presenting on Big Picture Vision and planning when he said to me, “How much is enough?” Insert record scratch here.

I thought to myself, “What is he asking? How dare he ask me to put a limit on my success!” At that very moment, I knew what it would feel like to actually experience living inside the Matrix movie. Everything felt weightless and heavy at the same time, and it was like time stood still. It was hard for me to concentrate the rest of the workshop because I kept thinking, “Why would he ask me that?” Then I thought, “I have no idea. I am on a freight train in my own mind, and it’s running at top speed to accomplish my goals. I have goals and plans each year, and I will create more goals and plans.” I realized that one question that day would change the very way that I did business. It took me awhile to figure out that this question had to be answered by all entrepreneurs. Otherwise, you have no idea how far to take your business. Oftentimes, we keep building and growing our companies but to accomplish what? Sure we have goals, but we don’t know where and when to stop. Yes, stopping is not a bad thing. Knowing how much is enough in your business gives you permission to make decisions. When you know the end result of what you are working toward it is easier to say “no” to things you are on the fence about or “yes” to the right things for your business. Some things may explode your business and others things may keep you playing small. If you know your end result then the roadmap to help you get that end result is much clearer. entrepreneurial chef


You can continue to grow your business or even do a hard right turn and do something completely different. If you really understand when your business has met all of its goals and you personally have met your business goals or decided on your end game, then you have permission to stop or even throw the baby out with the bathwater and change course completely.

It is so hard for entrepreneurs to give themselves permission to ask this question because for many it feels like a sign of defeat or feels like you’re giving up. Owners never allow themselves to stop and really feel a sense a relief or give themselves permission to possibly slow down. They just keep adding on and eventually it all gets very messy.

We are often frustrated in business because we’re attending seminars, watching YouTube, reading books, going to conferences, and chasing the next sales funnel because we never answered the question of “How much is enough?”

When you are brave enough to ask yourself how much is enough, and you finally reach that goal, it will be a day you never forget. You will finally feel happiness and a sense of accomplishment knowing your business is exactly where you want to be.

Let me give you an example of what my enough was. I started out by asking myself if I liked the quality of life I was building. Did I need more money personally? Did I enjoy my life as it is? Do I want more employees or am I fine with the eleven I have? Do I really want a higher monthly rent for my commercial kitchen if I have to get into a bigger space?

Photo Credit: Grafvision

I always wanted around 40 families to cook for, and I was able to reach that. I wanted a 7-figure business, and I did that. Did I still want more? The answer for me was no. I was happy with where I was, and that was my “enough.” 32

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Chef Deb Cantrell is an award-winning, best-selling author, sought-after speaker & Senior Certified Personal Chef. For a decade, she has helped chefs across the country level-up their culinary business by teaching the same proven strategies used to grow her 6-figure personal chef company.

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Five Ways

Vibrant Dinnerware Can Shake Up your Tabletop Sponsored by: Libbey®

The white plate has, and probably always will, reign supreme in the foodservice universe – for its extreme flexibility and ability to make virtually every type of food shine. But, when used wisely, infusing distinctive colors and styles to your presentations can bring new energy and create a unique character that set you apart. Expressive dinnerware can make for an experience that is funky, eclectic or adventurous – and always memorable. Whether it’s a colorful accent or a full-on visual spectacle, here are 5 tips for bringing new hues, textures and shapes to your presentations to help your brand stand out.


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A LITTLE GOES 1 A LONG WAY It doesn’t take a rainbow of dinnerware to introduce a fresh look. Consider mixing in just a few elements to your existing collection. Whether for a shared plate or the chef’s specials, a unique accent piece of tableware can focus attention on the main attraction. Libbey’s extensive and growing dinnerware selection provides stunning trend-forward options that are made to flexibly mix and match for virtually endless combinations. That means you can get even more usage from your tableware through endless inspired combinations.


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Shown Above: World® Farmhouse® dinnerware. Shown Below: World® Coos Bay™ serveware.


STRIKING CONTRASTS Creating vivid contrast between the dinnerware and food helps create presentations that pop. Dishes that can look blah against a white plate, like fettuccini or white rice, take on new depth and interest when plated against a rich color. This kind of contrast can dramatically influence people’s perception of food. In fact, contrasting the food and plate has even been proven to make a smaller amount of food look more substantial – great for presenting dishes with a more modest portion. Well-chosen color complements are a great way to create pleasing contrast. The deep blue hues of new World® Stonewash pattern create a stunning backdrop to orange and brown hues, like those in the oyster dish featured here. Add to the visual tapestry by pairing it with the stylish patterns of SCHÖNWALD Shabby Chic, from Libbey’s Artistry Collection™ of premium brands, or create striking contrast against bright-white dinnerware, such as Constellation™ dinnerware.

Shown Above: World® Pebblebrook in obsidian. Shown Center: SCHÖNWALD Shabby Chic platter. Shown Below: World® Stonewash platter. entrepreneurial chef



THE “HANDMADE” LOOK As evidenced by the rising “maker” movement, the handmade look is definitely in vogue. Pieces that are “perfectly imperfect” create a down-to-earth charm – adding authenticity and depth to your presentations and brand. Serve your guests with stoneware that’s rich with character – like new World® Dulcet pattern. With a distinctive dashand-dotted design, it comes in natural-looking colors, including pink, cream and gray.

Shown: World® Dulcet dinnerware. 38

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Shown Left: World® Hedonite bowl


Shown Below: World® Driftstone dinnerware

ORGANIC HUES AND TEXTURES In addition to going to the vibrant side of the color spectrum, your dinnerware can also create a rich natural aesthetic that brings a cultivated feel. Introducing organic textures and design can further intensify the character and intrigue. The new Hedonite pattern from World® Tableware is formed with a heat-reactive glazing process that introduces a distinctive spectrum of intermingling colors, and no two pieces are the same. Additionally, options from Libbey’s World Driftstone pattern provide a range of rich earthy tones, including new clay body color. entrepreneurial chef



FAR-OFF PLACES Introducing global influences lets guests taste the world without leaving the neighborhood. Let your tableware enhance the adventure with bold designs that engage the imagination and inspire the wanderlust within your guests. The tribal style of newly introduced Afar is ideal for creating adventures on the plate with your worldlyinspired dishes – taking guests on a thrilling journey to far-off lands. As with Hedonite, these expressive textures look great when contrasted against Driftstone. 40

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Shown: WorldÂŽ Afar dinnerware mixed with Driftstone platters and High Rise flatware

LIBBEY OFFERS A FULL SPECTRUM OF CREATIVE OPTIONS Your guests constantly crave something new. That’s why Libbey® is always bringing you the fresh, insight-driven tabletop solutions that help you serve your one-of-a-kind experiences. We help you blend your venue’s unique character with today’s major culinary trends – keeping your guests coming back for more. For more inspiration, explore our new 2018 re:FRESH product introduction LookBook or visit

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Cover Story




Their Breakout Success

By: Christian Saddler


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t began like most startups, solving a problem experienced by a critical mass. With their share of challenges, pivots, and a few rounds of crowdfunding, Spiceology is redefining

the spice game. The two co-founders, Pete Taylor and Heather Scholten, originally launched the company with a completely different vision–a meal subscription box. However, in true entrepreneurial fashion, they found a niche in foodservice dying for innovation – spices. What started as their line of “world’s first” flavor combinations – Raspberry Chipotle, Thai Peanut, etc. – has quickly and methodically evolved into the fastest growing spice company in the space. With their official launch into foodservice in 2017, and by quickly amassing a team of chefs, the company is well on their way to gobbling up market share. In our interview, we connect with co-founder Pete Taylor who breaks down the journey and gives stellar insights and advice to hungry food entrepreneurs vying to build their brands, attract customers, and achieve breakout success.

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Q&A The


Pete Taylor

Where did the idea for Spiceology come from and how did the company officially get off the ground? Just like many startups, we identified a problem and came up with a solution. I’m not sure if we all had really bad luck with our previous spice vendors, but we could all agree that the spice industry needed a major shake-up. We sat down and figured out how we could provide chefs with the best spices, at the best prices and the best selection possible. I’m not going to say it was easy, but after a couple of years of development, we officially launched our foodservice program at the 2017 National Restaurant Show. It’s been gangbusters ever since.

What was the hardest part about bringing this company to life? And how did you overcome the adversity? Fortunately, we’ve brazened through countless 44

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challenges over the last six years. Although taking that initial leap of faith and quitting our chef jobs was an obvious hurdle, I’d have to say that raising money was technically the “hardest part” so far. Crowdfunding carried us through the first couple of years, but we also raised capital through a Friends & Family Round and most recently a Series Seed Investment Round. Most people do not understand how expensive it is to grow a brand, nevermind how difficult it is to raise the money. For our Series Seed Round, it took about 12 months to finalize. That was a full year of selling our vision to potential investors and being absolutely stressed out of my mind. Yeah, sure there was rejection, but you just can’t let that hold you down. After all, it’s not just about the founders. We had 25+ employees that depended on us making it happen. I’d attribute the following factors to the success of that major milestone : Perseverance, having a strong team, having faith in myself, and having family that believes in you.

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Thank God for crowdfunding because, at the time, it was the only viable option to raise cash. Oftentimes new businesses need to pivot from their original plan to become successful, as such, what pivots were made with you all? We actually launched the company with a totally different product about six years ago. We 46

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pioneered into the world of “meal subscription boxes” and launched a concept about eight months before Blue Apron launched theirs. After a few months, we decided to make a 180˚ pivot and concentrate on something that we were extremely passionate about, spices. We noticed the seasoning and rub market was lacking flavor innovation, so we ended up launching a line of “world’s first” flavor combinations (like Raspberry Chipotle, Thai Peanut, and Black & Bleu). This put us on the map and helped scale our brand at a pretty rapid rate. Over the next couple of years, we recruited an arsenal of chefs to join the team. There’s something about how we’re (chefs) wired, and the passion and hustle that reside in our DNA. Even though we embraced being a chef-owned and operated spice company from the start, we never really sold spices to chefs. Ironically, it took almost four years before we launched our foodservice line, and that truly changed everything.

How long until the company began “taking off’ and what contributed to this growth? Our first major growth spurt was when Williams Sonoma picked us up and put us in all of their stores. This happened about 18 months after our initial launch, and it really built up our brand equity. Being in Williams Sonoma catapulted our business to the next level, but that growth is dwarfed in comparison to what happened when we launched our foodservice line. This is what we consider the “unicorn” of the business, and it took us four years to figure this out.

Build a product or service your customers want, not what you think they want.

Can you give an overview of what the business model looks like? A peek behind the curtain so to speak. Traditionally, chefs receive their spices through a distributor. We identified this as the core to the “spice problem.” Even though buying spices through a distributor can be convenient, it deeply affects pricing, quality, and selection. A distributor needs to make “their” cut, and that’s why you pay more. They also need to have the products manufactured for them, shipped and warehoused. This is why the quality and freshness isn’t always the best. Furthermore, a distributor isn’t going to carry a large selection. They’ll only carry the popular items and “special order” everything else, which can take weeks. Once you eliminate the distributor from the equation and buy direct, you’ll get a fresher product, a better selection, and even save some money in the process. This is our business model. entrepreneurial chef


Although taking that initial leap of faith

and quitting our chef jobs was an obvious

hurdle, I’d have to say that raising money

was technically the

“hardest part” so far. 48

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From a capital standpoint, you all have four crowdfunding campaigns resulting in about $300k thus far, so what do you believe contributed to the success of those campaigns? Thank God for crowdfunding because, at the time, it was the only viable option to raise cash. From a macro level, success came from having a strong marketing team. On a micro level, it was a ton of trial and error. Each campaign we ran performed better and better. To give you perspective, we only raised $12,710.00 on the first Kickstarter, and over $187,000.00 on our last one.

For others trying to use crowdfunding to raise capital, what’s your advice for them? Loaded question, but here we go: First, pencil it out, so you’re not in the red when it’s all said and done. Don’t forget about the platform’s fee (how they make money), credit card processing fees, taxes, shipping & handling, labor, etc., because it all adds up. Speaking of costs, make sure you budget a minimum of 5k to launch the project. Unless you possess photography, videography, graphic design and marketing skills, you’ll need to shell out some cash to build the project out. Kickstarter, or whatever you use, is just a platform to collect payments. It does not do the marketing for you. So many projects fail because entrepreneurs do not realize the amount of time it takes to develop a solid pre-launch marketing plan. You need to create a solid plan before you launch. Get your products into the hands of influencers

before you launch. Build your PPC ads and test them before you launch. Build a solid newsletter subscriber base before you launch. You get the picture. Rely on social media heavily, and build up your social sphere as much as possible. Set a lower goal and crush it on the first day. This will help out with Kickstarter’s popularity algorithm and ultimately get you some organic exposure. Keep your video short, sweet and entertaining. Try not to have the video run longer than 3 minutes. Use photos and infographics to tell the story, not words. People do not like to read anymore, so please embrace this throughout your project. Once you press launch, it’s a non-stop fulltime job. Make sure you have the bandwidth to answer questions, send out press releases, contact other creators to line up crosspromotions, etc. – be prepared. If it’s your first project, don’t be afraid to ask for help from other project creators. They’ve been in your shoes and might give you some much-needed guidance. entrepreneurial chef


How big of a role has branding played in the overall success and growth of the company? For example, you have a unique periodic table look to your products. Having a sexy brand will always help, no matter what you’re selling. If you can stand out from your competition, that’s half the battle. Another value proposition that meant so much to us was being able to keep your spices easily identifiable and organizable. That’s why we developed the “Periodic Table of Flavor” label. Now chefs can keep all of the chiles with the chiles, red label, all of the herbs with the herbs, green label, salts with the salts, blue label, and so on. 50

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Having a sexy brand will always help, no matter what you’re selling. If you can stand out from your competition, that’s half the battle.

What advice do you have in the area of branding for other food entrepreneurs out there? Branding is an area I would invest in heavily. It doesn’t matter if you partner up with a creative genius, hire a reputable firm or bring on a legit designer to join the team, just make sure you work with folks that will make your brand shine. Also, it’s perfectly fine to get inspiration from what others are doing, but innovation should be top of mind.

What’s the marketing strategy look like to ensure you have a steady flow of customers? Also, any granular insights into the specific marketing activities you all do?

It doesn’t matter if you partner up with a creative genius, hire a reputable firm or bring on a legit designer to join the team, just make sure you work with folks that will make your brand shine.

We embrace the “lean startup methodology” and constantly throw new initiatives against the wall to see what sticks. For us, digital marketing, trade shows, and social media seem to do the trick. When it comes to marketing, it’s a completely different landscape than what it was 20 years ago. Think of how much it would have cost to get a million impressions in 1998 and how much it would cost today. It’s pennies on the dollar. Bigger brands will eventually catch on, and once they do, it will make everything 10x more difficult and expensive to build your brand. That’s why it’s so critical to double-down on building your customer base as fast as possible.

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Any major lessons learned from a product marketing standpoint that you picked up along the way that others can learn from? Build a product or service your customers want, not what you think they want. Be as customer-centric as possible and know your industry passionately. If you can put yourself in your customer’s shoes, you’ve already won. Your customer should be your #1 advocate, so make sure you take care of them. Being customer centric is so key for us, that we decided to launch a loyalty program that rewards chefs for simply using our products. They earn points for every dollar they spend, and they can redeem those points for some cool gear. Gear that they actually want, like PolyScience Smoking Guns, TrueCooks apparel, knives, Swag or even the new Messermeister Chef Backpack.

We embrace the “lean startup methodology” and constantly throw new initiatives against the wall to see what sticks. For the food entrepreneurs out there with an idea and ambition, what’s your advice to them about leaping? Stop perfecting your concept, and just do it. Execution is everything. Once you launch and get your product/service into your customer’s hands, you’ll learn so much valuable information. Just make sure you listen and pivot when necessary. Start perfecting after you launch, not before. Your team is just as important as your customer. Choose your partners and employees wisely because you’ll have zero chance of doing things on your own. I owe everything to my partner and our amazing team. Photo Credit: Spiceology


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For the forward-thinking passion-driven food entrepreneur (and anyone else who loves reading about them)

Read about the successes & failures from the most celebrated chefs & restaurateurs in the world. Start your free trial today.


Tools of the Trade with Elizabeth Blau

With an impressive career spanning nearly three decades, Elizabeth Blau is the founder and CEO of restaurant development company Blau + Associates. She’s made a name for herself worldwide by creating exciting concepts and transforming her own business into an international empire – recently spearheading the food & beverage concepts for the $600 million Parq Vancouver. Appearing as a judge on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” as an investor on CNBC’s “Restaurant Startup,” and as a special guest on the Martha Stewart Show, Blau shares the tools that keep her at the top of her game. 54

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Breville Juice Fountain Plus

I love freshly made juice; it gives me he energy I need for the day and, most importantly, it’s delicious. The Breville Juice Fountain has been a staple in my household to extract all the best nutrients and flavor out of our favorite produce.

Global Classic 3 Piece Set

If only allowed one cooking tool for the rest of my life, it would be a good knife. Global’s perfectly balanced and ultra-sharp 3 piece set, including an 8” chef, 5” utility, and 3.5” paring, can do nearly every prep task with ease.

KitchenAid Classic

My KitchenAid stand mixer is an absolute must when producing baked goods (especially en masse) and helps me do everything, from creating bread dough to whipping up a huge batch of pastry cream or cheesecake filler without whisking my arm to death.

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Nespresso Lattissima

Coffee fuels me through the long hours of my workday, I love my Nespresso Lattissima, which can make me not only a perfect espresso but also a wonderful cappuccino or latte within seconds, and simply at the push of a button.

Vollrath Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

These USA-made stainless steel mixing bowls are extremely durable, heat-resistant and great for double boiling a delicate liquid, combining dry ingredients, whisking an emulsion or quickly tossing a salad/tartare.


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Best Manufacturers 12-inch Standard French Whisk

If the power went out everywhere and we still wanted whipped cream, meringue or mayonnaise, there is only one tool to turn to, the humble wire whisk. I think it is very important for every chef to keep these types of basic skills sharp.

Microplane Classic

If you want that perfect, Instagram-ably grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of your pasta or delicate lemon zest for your ricotta pancakes, you’re going to need a reliable rasp like the industry standard Microplane Classic

Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler

Nordic Ware Ebelskiver Pan

My son Cole loves Ebelskiver, small round Danish pancakes filled with jam and/or fruit. Nordic Ware’s Ebelskiver pans have been made in Minneapolis for more than a halfcentury and will last long enough for Cole to make the treat for his kids one day.

An excellent Y-shaped peeler such as the Kuhn Rikon Original will blaze through potato skins - quite affordable, razor sharp, durable and can do double duty, also making great peel garnishes for cocktails.

Lodge 12-inch Skillet

Lodge cast iron skillets are perfect for “one pan” meals since they spread heat very evenly (removing hot spots), can go immediately from stovetop to oven, and are naturally non-stick once they have been properly seasoned.

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Food Bowl Revolution

If you want to take the pulse on food trends in franchising, just walk the show floor at any franchise expo in the country. Food purveyors and entrepreneurs are rushing in with anything in a bowl. Have you seen Acai Bowls and Hawaiian Poke Bowls in your town yet?

By: Tom Scarda


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Food franchise concepts are typically based on simple recipes and limited menu options that make for ‘duplicate-able’ concepts that anyone can execute, even folks who have never been in the food business in the past, or any business for that matter. The bowl concepts today require light cooking or none at all, most of the time. No stoves and ovens make for an uncomplicated, inexpensive business to open and operate. For many brands, no ‘wet space’ is needed which makes finding real estate a lot easier. Code-heavy plumbing and electric specs are not required. Exhaust hoods, fire suppression systems, and grease traps – not necessary. Just a horde of refrigerators and freezers are the backbone to these concepts.

Most Americans are under the impression that food franchises and quick serve restaurants (QSR) are unhealthy by default. Foods wrapped up in carbs, fried and covered with sugar has been the trend for a suburban, car culture generation, but that is all changing now. It’s no secret that American consumers, especially pre-baby boomers, have an appetite for healthier, organic, locally sourced and gluten-free options. Older franchises and the new, trendy bowl concepts seem to be answering the call.

Consider that the Acai fruit, grown exclusively in the Amazon rainforest, is chock full of anti-oxidants (a buzz-word these days). When mixed in with bananas, blueberries and granola, it’s healthier than a bagel with cream cheese. “I believe what gives Acai fruit and their bowls legs for the future is that it’s not a dessert. It is truly a meal replacement for many of my customers,” says Eric Hajdukiewicz, a former electrician and now Franchisee of three Sol-Bowl stores, an Acai Bowl Franchise on Long Island, NY.

If you’re one who is trying to cut down on carbs or you feel that gluten makes you sluggish, a poke bowl is a great alternative. Poke bowls are pieces of fresh fish and rice or just veggies in a bowl. I think of it as a deconstructed sushi roll but in a bowl instead of a roll wrapped in seaweed. As a business proposition, getting in on the bowl trend makes sense for many entrepreneurs. A Poke Bowl franchise, as an example, is simple to operate. The fish can be purchased pre-cut, flash frozen and brought to your store buy a national food distributor. You need to only steam some rice and slice up vegetables and other fixings. In addition, the bowls also answer the consumer demand for no chemicals, pesticides sustainable produced, no hormones or antibiotics in food. There is also a movement to have clear, transparent labels on food. Hey, we’re talking fruit and sushi grade fish. These bowl concepts are on point. entrepreneurial chef


Many American, carnivorous consumers are calling for the humane treatment of animals – which should be the norm by now, in my opinion – enter Halal food franchises. As a matter of definition, Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the dietary standard, as prescribed in the Qur’an (the Muslim scripture). In short, it is considered by Muslims and many others, as the most humane method to slaughter an animal. Gary Occhiogrosso, Founder and Managing partner at Franchise Growth Solutions says, “Middle Easternor Halal food is the most underserved market in the country. Halal food is now the fastest growing segment in food right now. This category also caters to the “better for you” foods that younger folks are insisting on eating. The bowl concepts and Halal establishments make customizable, fresh and easy to consume food. Think of Chipotle Mexican Grill and the way food is ordered in an assembly line method. It’s a healthier option for when millennials sit down in their sharedworkspace.” Gary explained, “This is food packaged for a generation on the move.” Fresh foods are clearly more expensive to source and serve, but many Americans who 60

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are health and sustainability conscious are willing to shell out a few more dollars for better quality food that is purveyed from a caring supplier. Smart restaurateurs tend to market their organic and fresh foods wisely and curtly. The messaging is simply stated: You can pay less down the street for carbs, sugar and salt, or you can take care of your body and the earth by eating here.

Now with the FDA requirement of having nutritional information on menus, the newer, healthier food concepts can really take advantage of this law and use it as marketing against the old dinosaurs and the norm of traditional, unhealthy foods. If franchises and non-franchised units can control costs and market this information to an uneducated or new, untapped consumer, there is no stopping the bowl revolution. Photo Credit: Veta Zarzamora

Tom Scarda is a Certified Franchise Expert. He was the #1 franchisee of the year in one franchise concept and failed in another. The lessons learned from failure is what makes him an expert. Tom is the author of Franchise Savvy. He has helped more than 1500 people figure out if franchising is for them.


Add diet and allergen tags, calories and nutrient data to your recipes and menus. Sign up now for the Nutrition Wizard Pro with promo code to receive 20% discount. This is less than $20 a month for unlimited number of recipes.

1. Go to: 2. Select Wizard Pro 3. Enter promo code on payment page

Commercial Leasing

Preleasing Undeveloped Property

— For Food Entrepreneur Tenants By: Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton (The Lease Coach)


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s either a new or existing commercial tenant, you may be tempted to prelease undeveloped property – to open a new business or move your business to. As we

explain in our book, Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES, this is potentially the most unpredictable lease agreement for a tenant to enter into. Why? The answer is simply because you are making a long-term leasing decision based on little more than a hole in the ground and you can’t visually assess the property or physically touch the bricks and mortar.

Often in these types of deals, the commercial tenant is required to make a long-term leasing decision and commitment based only on the landlord’s design drawings – which the landlord can typically unilaterally change. We remember one prelease deal where the landlord not only changed the color scheme and exterior look of the property (to save money) but also did so against the wishes of all the tenants who had signed up to date. Additionally, there are no existing tenants to talk to about how their business is doing within the property (as there are no tenants open for business yet). On the other hand, some of the best leasing locations are preleasing opportunities or new properties under development, especially if the physical location or land is well situated. The Lease Coach has successfully completed many prelease deals for our clients with excellent long-term results. Just keep in mind

that landlords often reserve the right to make changes to your unit without tenant consent. This can affect the size, shape, physical location of the tenant’s desired premises, the building itself, or even the grouping of buildings. One trap to avoid is signing the lease agreement and then waiting for months while the landlord tries to finish leasing up the property. Some landlords won’t – or can’t afford to – start construction until they hit a set percentage of done deals or leased space. The agreement with the mortgage holder may be that once the landlord gets signed lease agreements for 50 or 60 percent of the property, the funding package is approved and finalized, and then the property can be built. Ensure that you have a termination date in the event the commencement of the development is delayed beyond a reasonable timeline or your requirements. entrepreneurial chef


Another trap to avoid is where the landlord is going forward with the development but has only secured a handful of tenants. This will result in a more vacant property that customers will not be encouraged to visit. To be successful, a proper tenant mix and synergy is required – especially for retail plazas. Again, you can look to have a right of termination if there is not a certain level of preleasing achieved by a specific date or negotiate to only have your rent commence in full once the tenancy reaches a predefined level.

If you’re one of the first tenants signing a pre-lease deal for a new development, you may be disappointed with your new neighboring tenants. The marketing material for the new commercial property may show a great mix of potential tenants; however, this is only a wish list for the landlord. If a specific anchor or other tenant fails to materialize, this obviously affects your site selection process and even the rental rate you’re willing or capable of paying at that property. As one of the first tenants in a new property, also think of the potential headaches for visiting customers – no matter how enticing your business will be, these people may not want to navigate a construction zone just to get to you.


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In closing, remember the biggest challenge is anticipating unknowns – timing, other tenants, the final product built – and the more you can anticipate for some of these potential hurdles through strong planning and a wellnegotiated lease, the better your opportunity to end up with a strong lease in a desirable new commercial property. Photo Credit: Andy Dean Photography

Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield — The Lease Coach – are Commercial Lease Consultants who work exclusively for tenants. Dale and Jeff are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013). Got a leasing question? Need help with your new lease or renewal? Call 1-800-738-9202, e-mail DaleWillerton@TheLeaseCoach. com / JeffGrandfield@TheLeaseCoach. com or visit

Small Business Accounting Software That Makes Billing Painless

The all-new FreshBooks is accounting software that makes running your small business easy, fast and secure. Spend less time on accounting and more time doing the work you love. Š 2018 FreshBooks


Success Story

By: Shawn Wenner Sponsored by Le Cordon Bleu

How a Massive Failure Spawned a Restaurant Empire for the

Bromberg Brothers 66

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hey’re a household name, and the brains behind one of

the most adored string of restaurants in the U.S. The items on the menu of Eric and Bruce Bromberg’s Blue Ribbon restaurants are mouth-wateringly delicious, and though they’ve amassed a great deal of fortune, this Cordon Bleu-trained

Their flair for French food started during childhood. As sons of a father with an affinity for cooking and eating out, many of Eric and Bruce’s early memories are centered around food. Their grandmother, an accomplished cook and baker, often arranged fine-dining experiences at home during holidays and weekends. During vacations, the family regularly headed to France and so after they started experimenting in the kitchen at a young age, it’s no wonder the brothers developed a flavor for French food. Yes, Blue Ribbon is undoubtedly a smash hit, but here, the brothers stay humble and tell us of their crazy journey to success.

duo keep a down-to-earth approach when running their kitchens. Their goal has been to stay true their craft and honor the traditions of classical French cooking. Likely, that’s why they’re so successful. entrepreneurial chef


& QA The

with the

Bromberg Brothers

You attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris; what was that experience like? Eric: When I went, I had just graduated college. I didn’t have a career path and didn’t even consider cooking as a career until I saw what it was about. I cooked short order in college and realized it was something I had the coordination to do. It made sense to me. Cordon Bleu was an extraordinary opportunity. Our dad was focused on France as being the heart of cooking and brought us there several times, so it was comfortable and exciting. At first, the language was a challenge, but the most extraordinary thing about going to Cordon Bleu was being immersed in French food and culture. We’d learn things in school and then walk down the street and see that same dishes and pastries. Bruce: Because I followed in Eric’s footsteps, I had coaching and great insights before I went. One of them was that while Cordon Bleu focused on the basics of French cooking, it wasn’t so much about restaurant management 68

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[at the time]. Eric gave me the advice to never become complacent with what you’re learning. Every single thing is relevant. Even if you’ve made that sauce ten times, just keep learning and pay attention. I think that basis that you get at Cordon Bleu prepared us for basically every culinary and restaurant challenge because we were so rooted in the cuisine. It was all based on that education and culture of the importance of the basics. That’s how we still approach the restaurant business.

It lasted ten weeks, and we lost about a million dollars. I was 29, and after the legal stuff went through, I owed $446,000 and had no job. — Eric Bromberg

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We never had this trajectory of opening three restaurants in three years. We don’t map it out like that. We take on meaningful things that excite us. — Bruce Bromberg How did the education prep you to transition into the industry? Eric: [After returning to the U.S.], my training was above everyone else’s. I used that as a foundation to always be the best cook I could be. Then, I learned the business from the ground up instead of coming out of school and thinking you’re a chef and should open a restaurant. My education was almost entirely about food and the basics of French cuisine. Going to school and working in a restaurant in Paris and learning French food from the French was an extraordinary opportunity. Bruce: What was relevant to me was the way Eric was running the restaurant which was 100% from the kitchen. It was the point of control for the whole restaurant. Every question came back to the kitchen. That was different than what had been going on in the states and maybe even in France. It made us connected to the front of the house in a way that was more significant than most restaurants at that time. It made the runners, the waiters, the bartenders, communicate with us throughout the night. That has a lot to do with how we were educated at Cordon Bleu. I think that made Blue Ribbon a game-changing restaurant where the chef was now the boss. 70

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What was it like stepping out to open your first place? Eric: [Working in Long Island for a couple of years], I met a guy who was opening a restaurant in SoHo. He asked me to help make a menu for his restaurant, to be called Nick & Eddie’s and asked me to be a chef. We made a deal. He made me a partner. We opened Nick & Eddie’s in 1989. We were as busy as could be. We got cocky. There was a place available across the street, and we decided to open another place. It was called the Crystal Room. It became a disjointed mess. It lasted ten weeks, and we lost about a million dollars. I was 29, and after the legal stuff went through, I owed $446,000 and had no job. I lost my partnership with Nick and Eddie. I called Bruce and to help re-open the Crystal Room. Weeks later, we were sitting in the worst possible disaster. It took me 11 years to pay back the money from the failure of The Crystal Room. I’m very proud of the fact that we paid every penny to every vendor that we bought food from and everyone who believed in us. It was quite a challenge. Bruce: We sat in the dining room that night when the world came crashing down. The restaurant closed and Eric was looking at a pretty miserable situation. We had a few drinks post-work commiserating, and the food runner said: “This place could be so cool if we just change a few things.” The restaurant still had the construction equipment in the basement. We got some sledgehammers, and by morning we had demolished the inside, tearing out the walls and chandeliers and the stuff we hated. We regrouped. It was an amazing moment. We decided to open the restaurant we wanted from the time we were little kids playing in mom’s kitchen. All of our crazy thoughts culminated and turned into Blue Ribbon. The whole team stayed together. We built Blue Ribbon in six months. It’s history from there.

Did the two of you absorb that location solely or were there other partners that stayed with you? Eric: Believe it or not, the original investment was $180,000 at that time. All those partners stayed on with me. My partner and his wife retained full ownership of Nick & Eddie’s. So, we basically split it. He took Nick & Eddie’s which was a thriving place, and I took on the liability of the Crystal Room. We asked one of the investors for a $25,000 loan so we could buy wood and sheetrock allowing us to reopen as Blue Ribbon. Bruce: We built Blue Ribbon by ourselves. We had nothing. We had a working kitchen so we didn’t have to rebuild that but we gutted the dining room and rebuilt it. That original team from the Crystal Room laid the sheetrock, did the plumbing, and it was quite an experience.

Was there a point when things really started to take off – considering you have 23 locations in 25 years. Bruce: We never had a plan beyond the fact that we love making restaurants and we love making people happy. The first Blue Ribbon operated for three years prior to opening Blue Ribbon Sushi. Sushi happened on a whim. We were looking for a storage space because Blue Ribbon was bursting at the seams. We were one of the hottest restaurants in New York. We expanded our storage in a space down the street with a storefront. That’s how Sushi started. The bakery was a similar situation. We never had this trajectory of opening three restaurants in three years. We don’t map it out like that. We take on meaningful things that excite us. That said, with 25 years with 23 locations (and we have four more opening this year) we obviously consider more things now. There’s a lot of factors now that we didn’t consider back in the day when we were just going for it and had these crazy ideas. It has been a progression; I think that’s mostly because we have more great qualified people. We’ve grown very organically.

I stopped trying to make the right thing for other people and instead asked what’s our passion, what do we believe in, and what can we do better than anyone else. — Eric Bromberg entrepreneurial chef


om r f d e ant w en. e h w c t t i n ’s k ura a m t o s e m in er h g t n i n y ed a l pe t a o p n s o i t d ki ulm ed e c d l i t s c t t i e l h ug n. ere o o We d h w b t b e i y az ew eR r c u m l i r t B u o the into d e All of n rg r e u t b d m an Bro e c u — Br


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After everything you’ve learned, what advice do you have for someone who’s venturing out to open a restaurant or food business? Eric: When we came out of the difficult situation, we were so committed as a unit. We made what I thought was going to be my dream restaurant and it turned out to be a catastrophic failure. I stopped trying to make the right thing for other people and instead asked what’s our passion, what do we believe in, and what can we do better than anyone else. We wanted to solve the negative issues with other restaurants and make something where every element is a positive from the lighting to the music to whatever’s on the plate. That became the entire driving force, and I think it’s a beautiful way to start a business. The reality is there’s no trick. You have to have something good to offer. The timing, economy, and location have to be right, and you have to have a ton of luck. When I tell my story, many people think that as long as they’re passionate and put everything into it, they’ll be successful. That’s not a given. Failure happens frequently in the business. You have to be flexible to overcome. If your idea isn’t a good one, you can be as passionate as anyone in the world and work your ass off and ultimately lose your shirt. There’s a fine line of being committed to a goal but knowing when it’s time to shift course.

Bruce: There’s this goal and a false idea of what it is to be a chef. There’s a lot of good cooks who open their restaurant and bite off more than they can chew. They want to be the next star chef. Instead of running a business that responds to the people, they try to create an idea and shove it down people’s throats. I did this when I was first back from France. I would make dishes that only I could make but we were doing 250 or 300 covers a night, and I couldn’t make them all myself. I’d make these dishes and fail during service. I’d say to a lot of chefs; it’s just as rewarding having people come to your restaurant and laughing at dinner than having them say you’re the greatest chef in the world.

The reality is there’s no trick. You have to have something good to offer. The timing, economy, and location have to be right, and you have to have a ton of luck. — Eric Bromberg

There are zero reasons to fight for your vision of a dish. It’s about feeding people and making them happy, not about how ego filling it is to make something you feel is important. We experienced chefs who refused to re-cook food or let someone order a duck if they didn’t want it rare or give ketchup if you asked for it. That’s ridiculous. We make our dishes, but since day one, there hasn’t been a time where we haven’t accommodated every request. entrepreneurial chef


At the end of the day, we make the decision that benefits our customers, but we take everything into consideration for our staff. — Bruce Bromberg Any advice for those who are thinking of going into business with family? Bruce: We learned from an early age that life is way better with the two of us in it together. We had our last major fight a year into Blue Ribbon some 24 years ago. We saw the effect it had on our staff, so we sat down and talked about it. We have a similar view on cooking and life, so we don’t run into confrontation often. If one of us feels very strongly about something, the other defers. It’s an extraordinary situation. We’ve had 25 years of a pretty blissful work relationship. 74

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Eric: My advice would be not to fight. Those who know the dynamics of the family know well enough to know if it’s a good idea in the first place. The difficulty is never when things are going well; it’s when things get challenging. I’ve seen so many people turn on each other when it gets hard. If that is a possibility in a family relationship, it’s a risk not worth taking. But there couldn’t be anything more rewarding than working with my brother for my whole professional career. There have been plateaus and dramatic dips. There have been times when we were on the brink of everything crashing down. There are things that you have to weather. You have to be able to absorb those things as a team. If you can’t stick together as a team on those major decisions, that will be catastrophic. Most people starting out together get super excited about the positives. The positives are always there, but the negatives also are always there. You have to be on solid ground when those things happen.

After 25 years of success, when you look back now, what do you think are a couple of key things that helped you with the longevity of what you’re doing? Eric: We let our partners make decisions on a regular basis. They can control their own hours and manage their own time. They’re invested and have the reality that it’s their business. We all work towards the simple steps of one, every decision you make must be focused on the customer, and secondly, it must benefit your coworkers. We’re simplifying that core value. We are there to serve our guests in a way that uplifts their couple hours that they spend with us. Then you need to care for your coworkers and believe that this job has value and it’s not just a paycheck. In terms of getting to where we are, it’s that we’re loyal to our staff and customers and they’re both loyal to us. We have well over 50 people who have been with us for 20 years. We have 30 people who have been with us almost 25 years. We have people who actually worked with me in the American Hotel as well all the way back from 1989.

Bruce: We value every single employee. We work to create an environment that you want to come to. In 1992, when we sat and talked about what Blue Ribbon was, the number one thing we said is it’s a place when you wake up in the morning, you’re dying to go to, not where you’re dreading going to work. We value everyone’s opinions. At the end of the day, we make the decision that benefits our customers, but we take everything into consideration for our staff. Without that backbone and those basics that we learned at Cordon Bleu, you can’t move forward. You can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you don’t have that team of people, the structure and basis of how you do business is really complicated. You run into a huge number of pitfalls.

There’s a fine line of being committed to a goal but knowing when it’s time to shift course. — Eric Bromberg

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The Inception Chef:

Food Trends Begin with Innovators In Collaboration With: The following food trends are all in the Inception Stage of Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle (MAC). Inception is where trends begin – these ingredients and dishes exemplify originality in flavor, preparation, and presentation. 76

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Zhug A hot sauce native to the Middle East and ubiquitous to Israel. This spicy condiment is typically made with green or red peppers, coriander and cumin seeds, and a number of various spices. Why It’s Trendy: After the rise of sriracha, many are asking about the “next sriracha.” Zhug could become a contender, offering a unique but approachable spin on similar condiments like Argentine chimichurri or Spanish salsa verde.



1% Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Consumers Know It

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Tried It


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Dukkah An Egyptian blend of spices with chickpeas and hazelnuts as the foundation. Ingredients vary, but it also often includes coriander, cumin and sesame seeds.


Why It’s Trendy: With the growing popularity in Middle Eastern cuisine, dukkah adds both flavor and texture to everything from bread dips to meat rubs.

10% 4%



Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Consumers Know It

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Tried It

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Arepas A South American round flatbread made with corn flour, grilled or fried, and often filled with a variety of meats. It’s particularly popular in Venezuela.


Why It’s Trendy: Searching for global variations on staple pantry items? Consider arepas, which are endlessly customizable. The flatbread can be filled with all kinds of ingredients like eggs for breakfast and hearty meats for lunch and dinner.


19% 10%

Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Consumers Know It

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Tried It

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Jackfruit Jackfruit is native to Southeast Asia. It’s distinguished by its large size and tough, spiny skin. Ripe jackfruit is sweet and used mostly in desserts; unripe jackfruit is savory and can be used as a meat substitute.


Why It’s Trendy: With the growth in meat substitutes on menus, jackfruit provides an all-natural and flavorful plant-based alternative for vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, and those just looking for something different.



38% 15%

Inclusion of U.S. Restaurant Menus

Consumers Know It

Growth On Menus Over Past Four Years

Consumers Tried It

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Success Story


Richard Keys

& Partners

Launched A Highly Successful Culinary Agency By: Jay Michael


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hen the going gets tough, turn to a professional – because there’s no use in reinventing the wheel, right? That’s why Chefs Richard Keys and Scott Randolph launched the Food & Drink Resources back in 2009 and have been streamlining processes for restaurants across the country ever since.

Co-founder of Food & Drink Resources (FDR), Richard Keys, oversees operations and client projects. Keys doesn’t just follow the trends in the restaurant industry, he makes them – most notably being Sous Vide cooking. Moving from roles of executive chef in restaurant kitchens, Keys transitioned into culinary sales and operations finding his niche in the market and sharing it with brands around the world through his company, FDR.

The co-founders utilize decades of combined experience in the food and beverage arena to steer companies in the right direction from the hub of their Innovation Center located in Centennial,

Colorado, just south of Denver. The facility includes culinary meeting space, test kitchens, and focus group rooms. Connecting brands and concepts to actualize innovations throughout the food and beverage industry including consulting on menus, products, and strategies to strengthen brands and grow customer reach. Chef Richard Keys shared his wisdom on his successes – and hardships – launching, growing and sustaining Food & Drink Resources. Keys weighs in on chefs making the transition from the kitchen to consulting, the turning point in the company’s success and FDR’s business model. entrepreneurial chef


Q&A The


Richard Keys

Can you give a little insight into what your company does? Food & Drink Resources (FDR) is a culinary agency that works with multi-unit restaurant brands and the food and beverage manufacturers that support this restaurant segment. Our services focus on Ideation & Product Development, Consumer Research, Product Commercialization, Marketing, and Sales.

Where did the idea for this type of company come from? In 2009, the economic environment was trending downward, which impacted both multiunit restaurant brands and manufacturers. Everybody was downsizing to reduce overhead cost, yet certain operational functions still were required, so they were outsourced. My business co-founder, Scott Randolph, and I saw an opportunity. 84

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Usually, culinary agencies provide a single offering or a few services that they don’t do well, but we try to be a full-service resource for our clients.

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What does the business model look like – essentially, how does it all work?

What was the hardest part about launching the business and how did you overcome this?

Our team is comprised of sales, chefs, insights and marketing folks, all with great working knowledge of multi-unit restaurant operations and food and beverage manufacturing. With three partners who drive strategy and business development, we are able to provide our clients with many different services. Usually, culinary agencies provide a single offering or a few services that they don’t do well, but we try to be a full-service resource for our clients.

The hardest part, probably like the start of any business, was client acquisition and retention. We had to run lean the first year or two. Until we were able to build a clientele base and industry reputation, we wore many hats. We were both the fire starter and the project managers – and everything else in between. We were not well capitalized to start the business, so client acquisition was key to our success in order to stay cash flow positive.

The hardest part, probably like the start of any business, was client acquisition and retention.


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Who were your early customers and how did you attract them? Before starting FDR, I was VP of Sales at Cuisine Solutions. I made the pitch to make them our first client. Cuisine Solutions was extremely supportive in the startup of FDR and continues to work with us today. Our only marketing the first year or so was really just word of mouth and plain ole hustle and determination. Failure was not an option.

How long did it take until the business was viewed as a “success” in your eyes, and what contributed to this specifically? Within the first year, we knew we were on to something and could make this work, so this was certainly viewed as a success. However, I would say the real turning point was when we went from working out of our homes to moving into the 11,000 sq. ft FDR Innovation Center in Centennial, Colorado in 2014. Having a brick and mortar space validated our work and expanded our capabilities, too. Now that we have a focus group room, two test kitchens, and meeting space, we can do so much more.

Did you pivot the business model at any point, and if so, what was the pivot? Our business continues to evolve. We add services to accommodate the ever-changing needs of our clients, like the logistics services (FDR Logistics) we now offer for shipping food/ beverage product and the mobile charging stations (Pawā Box) that bring in revenue for restaurants. Though, probably the biggest evolution to the growth of our business, as

Put a value on your time, and budget your time wisely. mentioned earlier, was the opening of our Innovation Center. The business saw 40% growth in the first year after opening our center. entrepreneurial chef


We had to run lean the first year or two. Until we were able to build a clientele base and industry reputation, we wore many hats. 88

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What gave you the confidence this type of company would be a worthwhile venture? I would like to say there was a lot of research that went into this, but there wasn’t. I knew only a couple of things, 1) I saw the trend in outsourcing certain corporate functions of restaurant brands and 2) My personal goal was to open my own company by the age of 40, so the drive was there.

What was your transition like from restaurant chef to chef entrepreneur? Although I did experience my share of headaches growing this business, my transition was relatively painless. I went from restaurant chef to food manufacturing VP before becoming an entrepreneur. This allowed me to understand the corporate side of the industry better and gain skills like finance and customer interaction, which were crucial to becoming an entrepreneur.

For chefs wanting to venture into this type of business, what’s your advice for them? I see culinary agencies and consultants come and go. Whether they are coming from positions with multi-unit restaurant brands or food and beverage manufacturers – people just jump into it and believe that the phone will ring, but that phone does not ring. My suggestion, before you leave your current position, test the waters. Reach out to your network and see who is on board to join you as a client. This way, you reduce the odds

Don’t take on or commit to more than you can handle. of falling off people’s radars as soon as your email address changes.

Similar to above, how about cautions you have for chefs wanting to pursue this type of business? Put a value on your time, and budget your time wisely. As a consultant or agency, you are held to a much higher standard on project deliverables than you may have been held to as an employee. A time suck of a project could prevent you from moving on to the next. Think of it like a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t take on or commit to more than you can handle.

If you were starting the same type of business over again, what would you do differently or the same? To be honest, I believe we did it the right way. We grew at a manageable pace and delivered a good product always. Photo Credit: Food & Drink Resources entrepreneurial chef



Join us to end childhood hunger in America.

Co-chaired by Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) is a national non-profit that promotes and provides career opportunities for underserved youth through culinary arts education and employment. WHO DOES C-CAP SERVE?


17,000+ students 191 public high school teachers 179 schools 2,000+ industry partners

Mentor or hire a student Donate products or equipment Support our programs and scholarships Host a fundraising event

@CCAPInc For information or to get involved: contact us at, (212) 974-1711, or visit Founded in 1990 by Richard Grausman


Vetting Cost Control Systems for Your Operation By: Mark Kelnhofer, CFBE, MBA


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e have many challenges in operating and managing a foodservice business. Whether a restaurant, catering operation, hotel, casino, so many other

operations, we look to technology to assist in become more efficient and profitable. Systems create a more formalized process and control to increase the discipline of our operation. Making decisions on any system is not an easy task, and certainly, we should spend some quality time conducting the proper research. Here are some aspects to consider during the vetting process:

Interfaces versus Exporting. We participate in an industry that has available to us many different types of systems. Think about all the technology that we have available for different purposes: labor management, catering, point-of-sale, back office, accounting, loyalty programs, and many others. The issue becomes how the data we receive from the new system may or may not communicate with our existing systems. There is no one system to manage all aspects of running the business. An interface is a direct communication with other computers and databases. There is a relationship that exists between systems. The ability to export data from one system to another is not a direct interface. It is a manual process to move the data out, possibly reformat the data, so that it can be read by the receiving system. This could take some time to do, and you may have to do it frequently. Ideally, true interfaces are what is desired. When research and vetting any system, time needs to be spent to understand how the new system may or may not work with your existing systems.

Features and Field Vetting. It’s one thing to vet features of a new system, but a whole another thing to vet the fields and structure of the database. When reviewing any system, get into the details of each part of the database. As an example, let’s review some of the data that you may want to have or know about on all purchased items for your operation:

• Item description field length.

• Limitations, if any, on the number of unit-of-measures (UOMs) per item.

• General ledger coding and tax flags.

• Flags to annotate retail product, glutenfree, non-GMO, kosher, allergens, and catch weight products.

• Purchase specifications (i.e., size, color, grade, average weights, etc.).

• Primary and secondary vendors identification.

• Point-of-sale attachment if a retail item.

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As you can see, if you don’t look at all the details of the fields and capabilities, you may find out post-purchase instead. Finding out about shortcomings after the purchase is not always the best experience. The shortcoming may affect a feature critical to your operation. There are so many aspects of a system that you may review as well: recipe cards and costing, physical inventories, banquet event orders, and so many others. This requires more than just sitting in on a one hour demo by the sales representative. Your decision needs to be made on data. The more research and vetting you do, the more satisfied you will be with the decision you choose. Involve The Team. To make the demo and vetting a success, involve all personnel that will be affected by the system. Identify any personnel whose hands are actually going to be touching the system and entering data. They may have some questions that come up as a true user that may not otherwise come up during the demo.

Training Programs. Training on the new systems is another critical area to vet. Today, there are so many methods and usually some additional costs involved, especially for live on-site training. With live on-site training, you should anticipate travel and lodging costs as part of the package. Training in some cases is conducted via webinar and not live. Make sure to ask if there is a user’s manual available and if it is hard copy or in an electronic form. This will allow you to possibly find an answer to an issue before contacting customer service for support. In many cases, this alone tells you something about the company you are vetting. If they have their systems and processes documented, you should become more comfortable about working with them as a vendor. There will probably be some additional costs for their time to train your personnel, so anticipate it. Review if these costs are based on the number of attendees or are the fees for total time spent.

Maintenance Contracts and Customer Service. Understand the terms for all other services under an ongoing contract. It is not unusual that these contracts can last several years with a monthly subscription charge attached. Not only should you understand the service, but also how it is being delivered or how it is accessible to you. Support can be email, chat rooms, or live calls. You need to understand how effective and accessible the support is as part of the decision-making process.


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Sunk Costs versus

Subscription Models. When costs are discussed, we need to know the total purchase contract which includes subscription model services (standard monthly fees) versus those items which require amount paid upfront or sunk costs. In most cases, the sunk costs, are those dollars going out the door for computer hardware and equipment up front. The subscription model is usually related to the computer software use and in many cases hosting. You should confirm how

Ask For and Contact References. Don’t be afraid to ask for existing customer references. One of the largest areas of opportunities is that existing users are not being interviewed to get perspective on how satisfied they are with the product. It is your opportunity to interview a true user of the product, and you should take advantage of it. A prospective vendor should be able to provide you with several existing company names and contacts of existing users that are similar in size and operation. If they don’t or cannot do this for you as a prospective client, a huge red flag has been raised. The vetting of systems is a critical juncture for any company and should be taken seriously. In most cases, there is a substantial amount of invested cash at risk. Due to this, there is a lot of emotion around the decision, before and after. If the proper research and effort are not made, the cash that is dedicated to the purchase may not provide you with the return and efficiency that you expected. At the end of the day, systems that you purchase should drive the bottom line. Photo Credit: Studio Arz

the subscription model is being assessed. It could be based on each physical location or the total number of actual users on the software. Identifying this could assist not only in your budget for the capital expenditure, but also potentially identifying who will eventually have access to the system.

Mark Kelnhofer, CFBE, MBA is the President and CEO of Return On Ingredients LLC and has over 20 years in management accounting experience including over ten years in fine dining restaurant industry. He is an international speaker and author. His two books are Return On Ingredients and The Culinary Pocket Resource of Yields, Weights, Densities, & Measures. He can be reached at (614) 558-2239 and entrepreneurial chef




Are you in?

To get your company involved, visit

Success Story

A Look Inside a Mobile

Canna-Business with Chef

Ricky Flickenger By: Chloe Friedman


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annabis infuser and cooking instructor, Chef Ricky Flickenger has a passion for food,

science, and horticulture. After the legalization of cannabis in

With nearly 20 years’ experience in the culinary realm, Flickenger has been exploring alternate avenues to get his

Washington, the self-taught chef

message out to the

set off on a journey to spread

masses while figuring out

his love of food and cooking with cannabis to others by creating Mortar ‘N Pestle, an interactive mobile cannabis cooking class

what is best for his brand. His journey in the food industry has proved to be a continuous learning experience, and the

held at private residences. In

chef is looking forward

addition, Flickenger is continuing

to growing with the

his pursuit of educating the public on cooking with cannabis with the release of his first cookbook, Cannabis & the Art of

expansion of legalization of cannabis throughout the nation. Being in a unique field, Flickenger connected with us to

Infusion. Scheduled to debut late

share some insight on

summer, the cookbook includes

potential obstacles in the

over 30 detailed recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts.

industry, the evolution of his brand, and advice to those looking to tap into the infusion. entrepreneurial chef


& QA The


Ricky Flickenger

What is your background in the culinary industry? I am a self-taught chef& pastry chef. After college, I broke into cooking about 17 years ago when I moved to Seattle. I wanted to change my path, so I decided to dive right in and begin working at various bakeries and restaurants in the area. My first big break was landing the position of head pastry chef at Trophy Cupcakes. Being that the bakery was just beginning to open at the time, I was able to assist in the process. Martha Stewart noticed our recipes and designs, and my work eventually landed the bakery on her show, making Trophy Cupcakes known nationally. That position gave me first-hand insight into running a business, which has been invaluable throughout my journey as an entrepreneur.

Where did the idea to start your business come from and what was it like getting it off 100 entrepreneurial chef

the ground? I wanted to start my own business because I couldn’t stand working for someone anymore – especially running a business for someone else. I wanted to operate a business on my own terms and be my own boss. The second factor was being laid off after the economy crashed. I was unemployed for the first time, and it put me at a remarkable crossroads. I had two choices, find another job or create my own business. Being that I didn’t have the financial backing to open up my own place, and loans were hard to come by at the time, I had to think of an alternative that included my newfound passion. Thus, my traveling chef business was born. I would travel to people’s homes; teach them how to make virtually any dish – from basic knife skills to cheese making – involving food science. I am a self-made chef, and as my mentors have instilled in me, I am always a student. My goal was, and is, to give a home cook confidence in the kitchen.

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I wanted to start my own business because I couldn’t stand working for someone anymore – especially running a business for someone else.

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What does the business model look like from a granular standpoint and what are the challenges? My marketing has transitioned from advertising in the past to strictly word of mouth – the best publicity are recommendations from clients that enjoy my services. After doing this for years, with various difficulties in profits, I’m moving from standalone classes with higher price tags to media/internet publications to cast a wider net at a lower price point. Being that I am my only employee, I max out on profit I can make in a year. I can only do one class per day, and even if I were booked all the time, I have to incorporate days off and office hours. Balance is important to me, and I want to avoid being overworked. I also recently started a Patreon page, selling interactive recipes. Whether consumed electronically or printed, you can click live links and scan QR codes on to see short tutorials for recipes. It’s like having me in the kitchen, without costing what some consider an arm and a leg. The basic idea is to move my business from expensive single classes with a smaller audience, to media based outlets where a wider range of people can enjoy them for a smaller price tag. If I can’t be everywhere at once, at least my knowledge can.

How have you altered your cooking class if at all since launching Mortar ‘N Pestle? For the first five years, my business was branded as Bourgeoisie Brunches. Originally, I had the idea of just teaching brunches on weekends rather than throughout the week. When that didn’t pan out, my business quickly evolved into teaching courses by demand rather than set dates.

My goal was, and is, to give a home cook confidence in the kitchen. Two years ago, I rebranded to Mortar ‘N Pestle and added the cannabis classes, a natural evolution for me and my journey with cannabis. The essence of my classes has always stayed the same though. Good food, custom menus, taught with food science for understanding, writing simple recipes to prevent discouragement for clients, and educating my clients on the basics in the kitchen. Being that everyone needs to eat to survive, we should make every meal as enjoyable as possible. entrepreneurial entrepreneurialchef chef

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What are some obstacles you’ve had to overcome with your business? And how were you able to maneuver them? Similar obstacles anyone has starting something new; what permits are needed, conducting taxes, client meetings, how to establish partnerships and gain advice from others in the industry. The best answer to these is to network. I found some food groups in my area that host local meetups, which represent a number of industries including photographers, bartenders, chefs, restauranteurs, and bakeries. When we began attending, we made sure to hand out business cards, chat and look for opportunities to work together or recommend one another. One cannabis specific obstacle was working within the law. Every state is different where it is legal. Just because cannabis it is legal, keep in mind that it is still highly regulated. Here in Washington, the Liquor and Cannabis Board polices our laws. I work closely with them to obtain the permissions I need to conduct my business.

I rebranded to Mortar ‘N Pestle and added the cannabis classes, a natural evolution for me and my journey with cannabis. 104 entrepreneurial chef

What’s your advice for those looking to get into the cannabis-infused industry? Learn who regulates your laws, be honest with them about what you want to do, and have them guide you through the process. Accidentally breaking the law is not something you want to deal with. The Liquor and Cannabis Board in Washington has been an invaluable resource, and always willing to work with me, not against me.

What is in the 5-year plan for Mortar ‘N Pestle? Recently, I have acquired a financial partner, The Evergreen Market, to help produce my book, Cannabis & the Art of Infusion. After perfecting my technique for cannabis cooking, it was time for a cookbook. I have always wanted to write one, but needed something that would stand out in an ocean of cookbooks. Having a book that written in the same style I teach my classes is an amazing way to reach more people for a lower price point. I want to become a go-to source for cannabis cooking. As more resources about the process are becoming available to the public, books and even shows, the options are endless as this is an ever-changing industry as more research is released. Although my first book has recently become available for preorder, I am already compiling material for a second one and looking to acquire more collaboration, similar to Evergreen Market. It’s is a big industry with a lot of room for growth, and there isn’t any reason we can’t do it together. Photo Credit: Angie Norwood Browne

My marketing has transitioned from advertising in the past to strictly word of mouth – the best publicity are recommendations from clients that enjoy my services.

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Entrepreneurial Chef #27 - September 2018  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Erik Oberholtzer: Tender Greens’ $100 Million Dollar Journey + How Spiceology Achieved Thei...

Entrepreneurial Chef #27 - September 2018  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Erik Oberholtzer: Tender Greens’ $100 Million Dollar Journey + How Spiceology Achieved Thei...