Video Transcript: What I Wish I Knew: The Restaurant Business

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Anthony

So welcome, everybody. We're here at Eataly, having some delicious food. And we're here to talk about what we wish we knew when we were starting our businesses. One of the cornerstones of our industry is sharing and giving back and giving to the community and providing nurture and nourishment. However, sometimes in the process of starting these businesses, we don't necessarily do that for each other. So my name's Anthony Rudolf. I'm the founder of Journee, a community center and continuing education center for restaurant professionals.

Nicola

I'm Nicola Farinetti. I'm Italian, as you can understand from my accent in a second. And I'm the CEO of Eataly in the United States. And I opened the first one in New York.

Alexis

So I'm Alexis Trolf. I have a little restaurant in Long Beach, New York, not California, that is. And I just really opened about six and a half months ago. It's a small 30-seater, a small place.

Jake

My name is Jake Marlin. I'm the executive chef and co-owner of Speakeasy, Long Beach, Swingbellys Barbecue, and Speakeasy Catering Company.

Alexis

All from many and diverse walks, huh? But all kind of with a similar story.

Anthony

The idea of what we wish we knew, I love to share a little bit about my story, what I wish I knew. And, you know, what I wish I did understand better as an individual is I shared a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. And the piece, which was, in any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. And the worst thing you can do is nothing. And I spent a lot of time in my first year focusing on doing the right thing and making sure that I was doing the right thing.

Nicola

So you were not doing much.

Anthony

I wasn't doing anything.

Nicola

You were thinking.

Anthony

I was thinking. What's the right way to do it? What's the right-- three months later, what's the right way to do this? But when I get it, it's going to be great. So wrong. Like, just go. Just act. Just do. Yeah, you're going to make a mistake, but you're going to get some right too. We've been open for just almost two months. In the first two weeks, we completely changed the business model, completely, in the first two weeks.

Alexis

I applaud that boldness. I think sometimes those steps are necessary, even if you're not sure of what the outcome's going to be.

Jake

Your restaurant almost takes on your personality. So when you pull yourself out, how do you leave that there? How does it stay? How does it maintain that personality?

Alexis

I think, really, you have to figure it out.

Nicola

A few things that I've learned in time is, first, you should never be scared to hire somebody that is better than you, which is a mistake that I've done in the past. And I've seen many men just doing it, because you're always worried he's going to eventually take your position in the world, right? Which is going to happen no matter what, if you don't push yourself to the limits. So always look for better people and hire people who are better than you.

Anthony

It's not easy asking people for money. It's actually a really, really difficult thing. I mean, over the course of fundraising, in total, a million, a million two has come and gone, has been committed to and then disappeared.

Alexis

Wow.

Anthony

And ultimately, you know, I look back on it now, it was all of the right decisions, whether I could see it. Like the world, it all took care of itself.

Alexis

I really just wanted a nice little community place. I know when I was building it, I did not have all the plans in place. And you kind of-- you make these adjustments as you go along. Like you had said, like you had said, like I'm sure you would agree, I'm doing this like a step at a time. And when problems are presented to me, whatever they may be, whether they be over budget on construction, whether it be like conceptual flaws even, or kitchen design, restaurant being as young as it was just didn't have the money for it yet. I had to reach back into my own personal savings to get this going.

Jake

If somebody had told you that you were going to run into these pitfalls, you probably would have said, "OK," you know, "I know."

Alexis

Sure.

Jake

But you're still going to run into them. It's not going to change the way you did anything.

Anthony

Did anybody tell you those things?

Alexis

Yeah. A lot of people tend to know a lot of things when it comes to somebody else's money, you know?

Jake

A lot of our stuff now is on, you know, Facebook and Instagram. And you know, every single night everybody is, before they finished their meal, they're writing a review about your place. They're writing a review about your place before they've left. So everybody knows how great or terrible their food is, while they're eating it. And then, customers know. I mean, it's unbelievable how that's all changed. I feel like that's the biggest challenge for me now is keeping up with, you know, this advancement and this technology and using that. And I mean, they're all great tools and they all help us grow and they all-- I mean, I think if we use them right that, they're invaluable to us. But as you know, we're still figuring it out...

Nicola

--to build today your followers of tomorrow. So you're putting a lot of effort today in order to get those followers number going up, a thousand, 2,000, 3,000, because you can pay them. But if you build them, they're much better followers. So it's tough. It's tough to get to them and say, OK, this is what I'm doing. It's working.

Anthony

I think we're all in the same, because we do what we love. So regardless of financial success, accolades, awards, like all that stuff is what other people determine. But the world tells you to do what you love. And I think we're all in the same because we said, OK.

Alexis

Agreed.

Anthony

We'll do what we love.

Alexis

Agreed.

Nicola

Fantastic way of closing it.

Anthony

Cheers.

Nicola

Ciao.

Anthony

Salud.

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