|Dear HL Clients and Friends,
If I opine with my truthy truth about the Worker Protection Unit created by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, I may get disbarred for conduct unbecoming, so I’ll try to keep it cool. If you haven’t heard, Bragg has created a legal SWAT team to crack down on employers who “steal” wages from employees. Restaurants are the main targets and are now in his crosshairs because of course, NYC restaurant owners have nothing better to do than scheme to take tips from their employees.
So now Manhattan restaurant owners are public enemy #1 in the eyes of our DA? Perhaps Alvin should redirect his prosecutorial zeal and create a crack legal team to combat unscrupulous attorneys who sue restaurants for millions for spelling errors and innocent mistakes made trying to comply with the mind busting wage and hour and tipping laws. Or how about a million other things that need attention in this city rather than busting our chops more than they already get busted every day. And don’t you have a yuuuge trial coming up soon? Focus Alvin, and leave the restaurant owners the hell alone.
Do our Dearly Elected even realize that NYC restaurateurs are JetBluing out of town because it’s so hard to do business here? That we are ditching NYC and heading to Miami, Nashville, Vegas and Charlotte where they roll out the champagne carpet for us? The Mayor, the DA, the City Council, the Albany pols and the money behind them all need to recognize and step the F up and stop taking our bars and restaurants for granted. The city needs to start showing us some love or the exodus of talented hospitality people will continue and the NYC restaurant scene will lose its luster and cache and our reputation as one of the dining capitals of the world will be yesterday’s news.
Deep breath and moving on. Let’s redirect our flow and discuss how restaurateurs and bar people are giving more meaningful thought to their careers and reconsidering what it is to be a hospitality owner these days. It’s an exciting and changing time in the industry and we have to make sure we are being clear-eyed about the current state of affairs and that we are prepared to take advantage of the fair winds when they blow our way.
By now, we have all come to grips with the reality that the romantic days of settling down with the perfect little neighborhood gem or two, grinding for 5-10 years and then retiring to the North Fork to fish and float are over. Covid and the shallow employee pool and dwindling profit margins beat that shit right out of us and forced us to reassess how we do business.
We figured out that we need to be thinking more broadly about our opportunities and that we need to build hospitality groups that can readily morph and expand. Now, it’s not all brick and mortar as we consider licensing and management deals, fast casual and QSR concepts, franchises, food tech, product endorsements, development deals, content creation and more when we are building the modern hospitality group. A lot to consider, so planning is key.
A friend who was at Per Se for many years told me that they always asked “What do we do when things go right?” before embarking on a new venture. They were smart to plan for success, but that’s not always the case. I have seen too many restaurateurs neglect to prepare themselves for the “hospitality fame” that ensues if they crush it and their spot blows up. And because they are fuzzy about what they want to do next, they can’t always parlay the success into a winning next venture.
And when the developers, landlords, hoteliers and investor types come a-callin’ with heady offers and deals of the century, you will be knee deep in the shit as you deal with the stress of your success. If don’t have an idea of the road ahead, you may not have the bandwidth to analyze and seize the good opportunities and you could end up either missing the great ones or taking on a lemon and getting derailed.
You don’t have to be an MBA to plan a few steps ahead. Not all paths are the same but there are many proven ones, so read the websites of the biggies (Jose Andres, JG, Major Food) and check out their portfolios and learn about how they made it happen and study their successes and failures and then chart out your own.
Do you want to be a group that owns different concepts and brands or do you want to build one strong centerpiece and expand it in different ways? Do you want to get into CPG’s and onto the shelves of Wholefoods and Wegman’s? Do you want to be on tv and deal with the complexities of fame or would you prefer to stay your under-the-radar cool self? Will making content make you content?
If you plan for success with each new venture and consider how you will leverage your gravitas into the next deal, you will build a profitable hospitality group and you will command respect and you will get the best deals and you will prosper and you will find peace and plenty of perch on the Peconic.