Michael has always wanted to open his own restaurant and that became even more clear to him this past couple of years, when he was dedicating himself to The Chautauqua Dining Hall, as first the banquet chef and then the sous chef. He loved what he was doing and the customers were singing his praises. He has a particular talent to turn out exquisite food and has amazing presentation skills. He loves serving people and helping them make the special moments in their life even more memorable.
That said, after you work in an industry so long, the desire to have creative control becomes paramount. Also, as a restaurant professional, being able to manage a kitchen to your standards becomes part of who you are.
It seemed like for Michael to be able to rise to the next level in his career, he was going to have to open his own place.
We discussed it as a family and thought that starting our own was worth the plunge. Running your own business has lots of advantages. For one thing, if we own the business, we work on it together. He was working 12- to 14-hour days regularly at his past job and while he loved it, it made family together time a little more difficult to pull off. Our boy is 13 and was really missing hanging out with his step-pops.
In addition, his salary was not keeping up with the cost of living increases in Boulder. We love living here and we realized that, in order to stay in the neighborhood we’ve lived in for the past five years, we needed to put a little bit more hustle into our game.
We had some money we could tap into to start something and we are not afraid of hard work or risks. I also very much trust my husband’s ability to not only turn out fine food but to manage the business side of things. After all, he’s been working in this industry since he was 15.
We started looking at restaurants. We poked around at the old site of John’s Restaurant, which was a beloved landmark in Boulder for many years, but decided it was too small and needed too much work. We chased down a place in downtown Longmont that looked promising, but it was snatched up before we could pull our financing together.
Then one day I went to the bookstore (imagine that), picking up books on how to run restaurants, I ran across a book on opening a food truck. It wasn’t exactly what we planned on doing, but it was well written and I thought it might have a few tips we could use.
When I got it home, I left it with a bunch of other books on the table. Michael picked it up a few days later and started paging through it. The next thing I knew he was reading it from cover to cover and he told me: “This could be a very good thing.”
Food trucks are not only fun and trending, but they offer a lower barrier to entry. We could buy a truck and still have some money left over to run it. We wouldn’t need as many employees and the fixed costs were lower. While margins are much tighter for food trucks, it seems like we might be able to make enough to support our little family. Which is really all we need.
So we decided to buy a food truck. But that was just the first step in our journey.