Chefs are the “Heart” of the Heart of the House. They run our kitchens, nurture, and develop the skills of prep and line cooks, and most important create and deliver the cuisines that bring guests to our restaurants.
In this episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast, I’m speaking with Brandon Boudet, Co-owner and Executive Chef of Little Dom’s of Los Angeles and the new Little Dom’s Seafood in Carpenteria.
Listen on as Brandon shares:
- Bringing his New Orleans roots and cooking inspirations to one of the world’s most competitive restaurant markets
- The importance of leadership style and his training philosophies
- Skillsets and personality traits of the best staff
- Creating ways of coping with labor challenges
- Best advice for operators now moving forward
And of course, the pivots. Chef Brandon shares the impact of Little Dom’s streetside “Deep Fried Turkey Feasts” on Thanksgiving and the success of selling market and retail items to satisfied guests.
Don’t miss this.
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You can be successful by just like focusing in on what what your restaurant is and what it’s about. And like really like driving that home and sticking to your guns with that, and understanding your your neighborhood, or your just like your local clientele figuring out what they are and what they want. Like, that’s where I see the biggest failure coming in is these people that want to open up this, like they have these grandiose ideas of opening up a restaurant and like make it it’s Yeah, because it’s like, I like to cook like
this, like this type of food, blah, blah, blah. And then it’s like, yeah, and they don’t take into consideration where it’s located, who their clientele is what their clientele wants. And I think that’s like, listen, I think one of the big things is just kind of listen to your customer.
Roger Beaudoin 0:49
Welcome back to the podcast, everyone. Thanks for being with us. This week, I have a chef, a co owner and executive chef of little Dom’s in Los Angeles, the Los Feliz neighborhood. And they’ve also moved a new operation up the coast to Carpenteria. It’s called Little DOM seafood. Of course, we’re going to talk about the usual the labor challenges, training philosophies leading by example, marketing, pivots, all those things. But speaking of pivots, I’m always impressed by those who look outside the box and think about okay, what can we do to stand apart from the competition, solve a problem and give our customers more reasons to come back. And I’ve always believed in multiple profit centers, and maybe you’ve thought about this, and maybe it’s something you can still execute in your restaurant. They’ve been particularly successful with market items based on the cuisine they serve. So we’re talking about meatballs and meat by the pound and pasta and pizza kits. And anything that a restaurant can sell to its customers as a retail item is just another profit center. Another innovative idea that we’re going to talk about, it’s a Thanksgiving tradition at little Dom’s where they have a deep fried turkey feast out on the sidewalk, which has captured the public’s imagination. So really, that’s what it’s about. It’s about standing apart. But we’re going to talk about all the other things about chef cuisines and early backstories and running successful restaurants and best advice of course, to operators moving forward. So stay with us. I’m excited to talk to Chef Brandon booty.
You’re tuned in to the restaurant rockstars podcast, powerful ideas to rock your restaurant, here’s your host Roger Beaudoin.
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Roger Beaudoin 3:34
Welcome back, everyone. This is the restaurant rockstars podcast and with us today chef Brennan who day and co founder of restaurants little Dom’s and little seafood in Los Angeles and Carpinteria, California. Welcome to the show. Brandon, how are you today?
I’m good. Thanks for having me.
Roger Beaudoin 3:49
I’m really excited to have you here. You know, we want to feature more chefs, because it’s such a heart of the business. Food, of course, is the universal language. And we have so many inspirations, and you obviously have so much passion for food. So we’re gonna take all that into consideration. But let’s start with how you got your start in this business. And I understand it started at a young age. So tell us about that experience. And then tell us you know, your restaurant career and how you came to co found these restaurants.
Yeah, so I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, big French and Italian family. So food was a really big important part of our lives. And it it became apparent at an early age and it was really into cooking. It all started off with a Valentine’s Day cookbook that the teacher was creating in this was second grade. And everyone’s recipes were pretty straightforward. It didn’t make much sense, but mine was very, very accurate. To this day, it the recipe holds up by far. And then from then on, like I just was always experimenting with food Like throughout my teenage years and such I wind up going to culinary school in San Francisco. Got my first big break opening up the Italian restaurant inside the Hard Rock Hotel. I’m at the, you know, what, how old was age 21. At the time, it was the chef of Thai restaurants. So I basically just that whole phrase act like you’ve been there. I basically live by that one for, you know, 10 years.
Roger Beaudoin 5:31
What culinary scoring in San Francisco?
CCA California Culinary Academy downtown San Francisco pokin. Eddie.
Roger Beaudoin 5:39
Nice. I’m just getting that down. Okay. Very cool. And then Hard Rock Hotel. So let’s talk about your New Orleans roots. Because you mentioned your French Italian descent. And obviously Louisiana cooking, you know, there’s a kegel, there’s a Cajun theme, there’s a Creole thing and all that is French influence, but then you’re bringing Italian influences to those influences. And then it all somehow combines, is that correct?
Yes, definitely. So all right. Like a big thing that always came up, that I learned at a pretty young age in the restaurant business was like, to define like, the restaurant needs to be defined, like you go to a place because it has this type of food. So you definitely need to have a strong definition of what the restaurant is, I think, for it to be successful. And so that’s where the, the Italian part came in. And I’d had experience in past cooking at with my family and such, so it kind of made sense.
Roger Beaudoin 6:40
Now along the way, you’ve also you’ve garnered some accolades with obviously the Food Network, and you’ve been on the show, chopped, and knife fight, tell us how those things came to be like, how do you get recognized to be a competitor on a show like chopped? And how do you get discovered for your talents and you know, have food network coverage, all that tell us about that?
I think it really, it’s It starts by just kind of getting your name out there and just getting some recognition through the restaurant and like showing that you know, you’re solid, you’re solid chef in the business.
Roger Beaudoin 7:13
Let’s talk about the history. Now, little Dom’s. I really like your website. Let’s go there first, because I looked at your website. And as my audience knows, I really believe that the importance of a website is to demonstrate to show your customers even if they’ve never been in the door before what the experience is like you’ve got beautiful photos of the food. It obviously has been professionally done. I’ve seen the exterior building. It’s called Little Dom’s, you know, in Little Italy, and it, it could be in Little Italy in New York, it could be in it could be in Milan or Naples or any of these places. Literally, you’ve made the building the ambiance, the vibe, give it that Italian flair. I think that’s tremendous. So accolades for that, for sure.
Thanks. Yeah, no, we definitely, like put a lot of thought and time into all of those little aspects of the, you know, the ambiance, the environment. You know, my wife’s an interior designer, it’s like every restaurant we walk into, it’s like lighting, the music, like people don’t quite realize you don’t realize the environment when you’re in it. But then once you walk away from it, it like starts to creep back up into your memory. And you’re like, Wait, why did I like that play so much. And to the untrained eye, you don’t quite notice those little things, like the details on the menu, the paper that is printed on the volume of the music, the other bathrooms clean, like all of those little things play a really important part. And people like people want to think it’s all about the food. But honestly, like coming from a chef, it’s hard to say this, but it’s the food is not one of the most important things. It’s up there. Yes, but service, I’ll say time and time again is more important than, than the, than the food itself. Because if you walk into that place, and they know your name, and you get taken care of the food can be good. But if the service and everything else around it is amazing, then that food is actually considered to be great most of the time. So not to take anything away from the like providing great food, but people don’t quite understand that like the level of service and all that other stuff that goes into it that really makes the restaurant successful.
Roger Beaudoin 9:31
You have got sort of a motto, they’re not just here for the food. And they may think that they’re going out to dinner because they didn’t feel like cooking or it’s a special occasion. But they’re really there for an experience. I think you made that clear. And I’m glad you brought it up. Because again, I think that there’s always going to be the element of human error. If you’re putting out hundreds of meals a day. Not everything is going to be perfect. And obviously, the staff have to be trained to put their best foot forward and to be empowered to handle something in the correct way. But if the service like you said is extraordinary, people are going to forgive a little glitch here and there as long as you make it right for them and they’re going to give you another chance. I’ve always believed that so I’m really glad you brought that up. Yeah. Let’s talk about the pandemic, what happened to you in the pandemic hit.
I mean, we, we closed the restaurant, we opened a new restaurant, we pivoted in another restaurant, we had a we had a busy time, we had a restaurant called the one on one coffee shop for it was going to be 20 years this December. And variable factors led to the closing of it, the pandemic being one but we knew that our lease was coming up and it wasn’t going to be in our favor or made quite sense to renew the lease at this time, so we knew that the end was probably coming to an end. So we close the the one on one coffee shop but an iconic diner that we had for 20 years and in Los Angeles. Very well known and then we had to little Dom’s we had to basically pivot the whole operation into to go and a little market inside of our deli and such which wound up being very successful and still to this day, we do a crazy bang up job on to go business
Roger Beaudoin 11:30
now attend then go ahead I’m sorry to interrupt you.
And then we had been planning to open up little DOM seafood March 17 2020 Yeah, we were like slated to open it up and something happened. So it made it not available to do so we pushed it back a little bit pushed back a little bit and then we started to like figure out okay, let’s let’s go for it. You know, we’re not we have to do it sooner or later. So we open little dump seafood uncovered RIA on August in what? middle of July of 2020.
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Yeah, so Dominics is the original restaurant that we had Dominic’s had been around since 1948. There was a guy named Dominic mozzie, who had a restaurant for many, many years, then in the late 80s, and went through a couple reincarnations. And then in the early 2000s, is when we took over Dominic’s which was like a rat pet rat pack Hangout. And so Jeff, yeah, and so that’s where we got the original idea to do the whole sort of Old School updated Italian American sort of theme food. That’s directly where Dominic’s came from in that, but that’s what we like based off little dogs. Everything is all of that came from Dominic’s and So originally we had Dominic’s for what 14 years starting off in 2003. Close it down and what 2018 or whatever. Can’t do the math up in my head too quick. Show that in the beginning. Once we got that up and running Dominic’s we thought about doing a little Dom’s and having it be like a storefront sort of pizza place. And so one day I was joined a doing some food at a wine tasting at a friend’s place that Silverlake wine and Silverlake in Los Angeles. And he like standing next to me as we’re like serving food and we’re shooting the shit. And he was like, hey, our friends have this restaurant that they were trying to get but they can’t come up with the money. You should go check it out. And so after I finished that wine tasting hopped in the car call my business partner was like hey LaBella Park in on hillhurst Endless feel is is is up for sale. And so sure enough, he went there the next day, started chatting up with the owners who also ran the restaurant and bakery. And within about three or four months we were able to obtain it and then a year later we opened it up. And that was little Dom’s and it’s been you know a neighborhood institution ever since.
Roger Beaudoin 16:38
And then little DOM seafood is most recent, right in the past year, year and a half or so.
Yes, so low DOM seafood. I live part time with my wife in Los Angeles in Ojai, California, which is about 40 minute drive to copper to Rhea, California my business partner lives full time in Carpinteria, California. Now it’s a it’s a it’s a smaller beach town right before you get to Montecito and Santa Barbara. It’s like a 10 minute drive to Santa Barbara, Montecito. Two blocks from the beach. This space came available a business partner was like, Hey, we can’t pass this up. With like, I think we should do a little bombs. And I was like, Yeah, a little dump seafood makes the most sense. Because we’re surrounded by two we have Santa Barbara Harbor, which is bringing in tons of great local fish and we have Ventura Harbor both within 15 minute drives of the of the restaurant. And so it was a little DOM seafood was a no brainer to us two blocks from the beach in this cute little beach town. In Southern California. It made the most sense.
Roger Beaudoin 17:50
That does for sure. What’s the division of responsibility? Now obviously you handle you oversee the kitchens of all three places, that sort of thing. And your partner handles the business side.
Yeah, I’m the sort of the the creative one dealing with the menus the kitchen, I’ll dabble in the talking with certain people about our bar and wine program and such.
Roger Beaudoin 18:15
How do you maintain consistency? Do you both spend time in all all the places and kind of move back and forth that sort of thing, like you’ve got in place?
You you kind of I’m sure you’re familiar with the two it’s like, you kind of treat them like children, the restaurants it’s like, you know, so little, um, seafood. It’s a year and a half old. So it’s the baby. So which one needs more attention? The the, the 12 year old or the or the two year old? So obviously the two year old needs as the one. This is the one with the most issues. So obviously we’re spending more time in carpet area. Little Dom’s in LA does well, like we do definitely stop and from time to time, and I spend time there also. But the majority of our time is spent at the at the younger restaurant.
Roger Beaudoin 19:08
Gotcha. Have you had labor issues at the restaurants right now? How would you describe that? And how have you dealt with it?
Yes, it’s been difficult it the funny part has been it’s been more difficult actually, I think almost enough in the front of the house where they used to never be a problem finding, you know, a server that would make you know, they were always making really good, steady money. And now it’s it’s harder to find that. I think, you know, back the house, it’s always had its challenges. Fine till, you know, trying to employ the lower positions like dishwashers and porters and stuff like that. It’s always been a little difficult, because it’s a it’s definitely a transient position that people tend to like want to move up or it’s a you know, a part time job for these people. So it’s always been and kind of hard to, to maintain those positions.
Roger Beaudoin 20:03
I see. Let’s talk about your leadership style, and not to demean chefs in any way. I started out young in this business, I bartended in college, and I worked at a variety of restaurants. And then I opened my own restaurants and either working or employing, I had a gamut of chefs. I had classically trained chefs, I had people that went to culinary school, I had people that apprenticed I had people that threw pots and pans and yelled at the servers, I had people that were very strong leaders, as well as strong culinarians. Where do you fit in? And what do you think is important when you’re a chef and leading an organization that you’re building?
I mean, like I said, my leadership that has changed over the years, it’s like, you know, I’ve done this, I’ve been in charge since I was 21 years old. So obviously, how I lead then, and how I lead now is obviously gonna be different. I don’t spend as I’m not on the line cooking every night, whatever, it’s more of a, you know, I come in and observe and talk to my leaders in each kitchen. So it’s like, there’s not like, I don’t like it’s changed. It’s like, yes, that would be more vocal, whatever. I still believe that like, when you’re on the lawn, and you’re expediting whatever it’s like, you have to treat it like you’re the coach. And like your expediter is your quarterback and all your line cooks or are part of the team, you know, and you just like gotta get them like, focused, Rowlett like get them in the mood to go, go, go, go go. Like and understand. Like, just under having your expediter and your and your cooks and your lead line cooks understanding like the nuances of service. And all of that is like one of the toughest things like, people don’t put much emphasis on. I think a lot of that and it’s super important for
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Yes, I do. It’s like I you know, I used to always find great joy and being in a quiet kitchen like before service or in between service. And like chopping an onion and cooking some stuff in like creating specials with the sous chefs. That’s kind of like my, like, enjoyable part of the day is when I can get in and do that kind of thing. And help create. And it’s also nowadays, it’s really, it’s really rewarding to be able to like, just even just talk it out with one of the chefs and say, Hey, let’s create this. And let’s do this. And, and when they kind of are understanding, like they understand you’re at this point, they understand your palate and your your taste and your like, what you how you like to play things and stuff, it’s really rewarding to be able to like, talk it out and then like, see it evolve and you didn’t you had a hand in it. But you didn’t do it all by yourself. It was like a team effort. That’s like probably the most rewarding thing. Being able to do something like that,
Roger Beaudoin 24:09
for sure. Probably one of the biggest shifts is pre pandemic, most restaurants really look for experience people, especially in the back of house and anyone work in the line had to have a certain skill set, that sort of thing. And now with the challenge, it’s like they’ll hire anyone and try to train them. Have you found that to be true? And if so, what skill sets are you looking for? And how do you train people? Or do you have trainers that are training your people? Do you get involved in that?
Yeah, no, it definitely get involved with it. Like I’d said, like, you know, my one thing that I do right now presently a little dump seafood is I’ll come in on the busier nights and help expedite in, like you’re right next to the seafood bar. And so you kind of have a good view of like, everything what’s going on? So it’s like, yeah, like I definitely play a part in some of the training. Um, but not all of it. Most of the cooks are trained by other cooks. And by the sous chef,
Roger Beaudoin 25:07
let’s keep on the training topic for a moment, I don’t know how involved you get with the house, if you have a dining room leader or a general manager, that sort of thing. But when I ran restaurants my competitive advantage, and you mentioned this earlier, the service really outshines everything. If you can deliver amazing, extraordinary service, then that is such a competitive advantage. But service is so much more than hospitality. It’s also salesmanship. And especially now during the pandemic, it’s like every sale is absolutely important to maximize, of course, maximizing profit and training your staff so well, that they’re suggestive selling, and that they have product and restaurant knowledge and that they’re building relationships with every single guest, to get them to come back and tell their friends and go on online, you know, social media and all that kind of stuff. All those things are critically important. Are you involved? Or what are your philosophies in terms of the staff that are interacting with your guests,
you know, like we’ll have, we’ll have meetings and stuff about that. And we definitely on a weekly basis, we talked to all the managers about that kind of thing. And it’s just, it’s really about providing the front of the house with all the tools necessary when it comes to like many descriptions, we have a food Bible, we have a wine Bible, and all of these things, they’re all sort of, they’re expected to know all of these things before they get on the floor. And with the pandemic, and trying to find staff, it’s like, yes, we’ve had to be a little bit softer, and are in our desire to have our front of the house staff know all of this stuff, like, like the back of their hand, which we’ve done in the past. So like, that’s been, I think the hardest struggle without the pandemic and like getting starting to, like move in the new direction, in this time is just like, you still want to expect in to have like that top notch service, but you also have to be a little bit more forgiving when it comes to these people and their knowledge and such to where it’s like, you know, do have, we had to take a little bit of a step back, I think, in service, I think just a little bit, it just makes sure that they’re providing people with just like being super friendly, and super nice. And provide him with that and taking a little bit of backseat, you know, a little backstep with the knowledge that they we expect them to know, because there’s been so many other things that we’ve had to like, throw at them. It’s like, you know, safety protocols, and all this other stuff that they have to deal with. And then it’s like getting them to have all this, like knowledge down about wine and food has become a little bit more difficult, because you’re working with a lot of people that are not, it’s not there. It’s normally their first time in the business, you know,
Roger Beaudoin 27:54
let’s talk about menus, because so many restaurants have had to pare down their menus, simplify their menus, request out their menus, because obviously prices are rising and some of the highest prices we’ve ever paid for certain items, as well. As you know, the labor crisis has led us or forced us to pay higher wages and all these things are shrinking restaurant margins, which are already pretty, you know, limb to begin with. How do you How are you dealing with all that? Have you had to pare down your menus? Is that essentially the same? Have you had to raise prices? It’s talking about that topic in general.
Yeah, so we’ve we’ve had to, at the beginning of the pandemic we pared down, we pared down the menu drastically. We like took a lot of stuff off like most of our fish and all of that stuff. Like came off the menu a little Dom’s and just had like one choice of fish and chicken and like it was very, it was very pared down menu, really devoted to go business. And then through this last one year and a half, it’s gradually come back and we’re pretty much back to I would say 90% of what we normally did in say 2019. So it’s been good and have we raised the prices a little bit here and there. But not it hasn’t been much the thing that’s really helped us out a lot I think especially with little dogs in LA it’s just the the sheer volume that we’ve been doing with to go business on top of our regular business has made full Dom’s like, even stronger than it was in 2019.
Roger Beaudoin 29:33
Yeah, I was impressed with that. I noticed we helped our food cost out. Yeah, for sure. Like you’re doing the grocery and retail thing and I know you’re doing meats and cheeses by the pound you’re selling sauces and meatballs and all that kind of stuff. Pizza kits, right and gelato sundae kits and all these things are innovative ideas that obviously capture the public’s imagination, but it’s moving stuff out the door to augment everything you’re doing in house which which is tremendous. So that’s right Would you would you have done that anyway if the pandemic didn’t hit what do we did you have a retail program in place and you just expanded out to
to a degree we had a retail we had a little bit of retail business in place. But it was funny like we started all that with the market and everything and it was really strong in the beginning and because people you know everyone’s into baking bread and making them pizza at home and once once people got a little tired of spending so much time in home it started to come around where I was like our to go business just stayed really steady and got crazy busy throughout the whole pandemic and the longer the pandemic went on our to go business it’s great because our our food travels so well. So like all that food people you know, once they got tired of baking bread and making their own pizzas at home, they’re like, let’s just I just want the food delivered to me and I can put it on a plate and eat it that became our like mainstay was the solid just to go business the the sort of like market and all of that was good in the beginning but people once once you’re able to go to the grocery store again, easy, easier, easier, easier. It was a it became you know, a little bit less of our business.
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We are fortunate to be one of the bigger players in the to go business. So businesses like that tend to give us a better rate. So it’s like if you’re, you know, a place that doesn’t do as quite as much to go business then you’re not going to get that better rate. And fortunately for us, we have been with a third party delivery business since began since the pandemic began and way before that, we were with them. And since our business has like exponentially grown since then we’ve we’ve stayed with them and they’ve given us you know, each year we’ve gotten a little bit better rate. So it’s you know, we’re one of the few I think that have benefited from all of this.
Roger Beaudoin 33:07
That’s another great example for our audience those that are growing their businesses I learned a long time ago you don’t ask you don’t get you never know what is negotiable. And you should always try to negotiate a better deal. Whether that’s credit card processing fees or third party anything it’s like you don’t ask you don’t get so worried otherwise there. Let’s talk about marketing a little bit. You’re doing Monday night, three course dinners was that traditionally a slower night and now you’re building Monday nights into something?
Yep. That that started back at Dominic’s back in 2000. For the summer of 2004. We started doing Monday night suppers because notoriously that was I’m sorry that we did Sunday night suppers. Yep. Dominic’s and then once little Don’s open we did Monday night suppers at little Dom’s. And now we do Tuesday night suppers at little DOM seafood because it’s very it’s a sort of a vacation sort of spot. It’s so little bit of seafood. The slower days are Tuesday and Wednesday. tend to be up there were Monday people tend to stay through the weekend and leave on Monday or leave on Tuesday morning. So our slower days are Tuesday and Wednesday up there. So it made sense to do Tuesday night supper up there. But it all started back at Dominic’s Sunday night supper because Sunday night in Los Angeles was the slower dining night and it was successful right off the start.
Roger Beaudoin 34:41
Now Thanksgiving just recently passed but you have another tradition there deep fried turkey feast Tell us how that came to be and how that’s working out.
So yeah, we had always had been closed on Thanksgiving and for I think the first year after a little Don’s been open. It was like a year or two after that. We decided to, like, hey, let’s do something to like give back to the community. And we’ve said, I was like, Okay, let’s deep fry turkeys. And the first year, we didn’t realize what we’re getting into. And we’re like, oh, yeah, we’ll do like 50 or so. And now it’s we’ve got it down, we got the pots all ready to go. And we sell sides and everything and we do it like clockwork. But uh, it’s yes, thanksgiving to go a little Dom’s deep fried turkeys is a tradition that’s been going strong ever since. And we just started that at little DOM seafood this year for the first time. That’s what
Roger Beaudoin 35:32
you got to do, right, got to get creative, got to get resourceful and figure out new ways on slower days are bringing in new business, right. And it’s just to keep your name
out there, keep the restaurants name out there, keep it relevant. Like all those little things, they just add up, like, you know, doing your little bombs, Thanksgiving, and we’ve done like Mardi Gras stuff from time to time, and we’ll do like some Christmas stuff and Feast of the Seven Fishes from time to time. Just to kind of get your name out there. Just keep it relevant. You always gotta like, be coming up with those little things that just, you don’t realize they help right away, but they do. What’s your
Roger Beaudoin 36:09
social media strategy? Do you have a dedicated person taking care of social media and also answering online reviews? And that sort
of? Yes, we have, we have a PR firm. And we also have a person that takes care of social media. And like I said, just like keeping our selves like relevant when it comes to social media and in PR, it’s like, we’ve had the same PR firm for, what, 15 years since 2005, or something. We’ve used them ever since. And it’s just keeping ourselves relevant. You know, all those little publications, the big ones come from time to time. But like, I think the thing that really drives it is the smaller stuff. And just simple things like getting on the Food Network, like for certain little things like make a pretty significant impact. When it does happen, have you
Roger Beaudoin 37:02
traveled to Italy for influences and to get new ideas that all does that happen?
Yes. Was trying to go back to Italy and during the pandemic, but that got cancelled? But yes, we go. I’ve been to Rome a few times and Venice and Milan. And one of the the, the reason why we do very, super paper thin pizza at little Adames was because my business partner was at a wedding in Lake Como. And he saw these pizzas being done by putting the pizza dough through a sheeter and creating this like long surfboard type pizza. And he was like, Hey, we gotta go check this out. So he and myself and his mother went to Lake Como specifically just to sit in a place and eat pizza for a few nights just to see it. And lo and behold, a few years later, we opened up a little Adames. And we created our pizza, which is like super thin, not as long as the ones that we saw in Lake Como. But it was very similar to that.
Roger Beaudoin 38:08
Yeah, I love those influences. In so many years ago, decades ago, I was in graduate school, and I did an internship in Milan, Italy, and I lived there for the summer. And that whole pizza culture in Italy, just totally swept me up. And I never thought I’d be in the pizza business. But, you know, I started my first restaurant, which was a woodfired pizzeria. And then we actually went back after we had opened it. Six months later, we went back to Naples, and we discovered like the oldest pizzeria in the planet with pizza, as we know, it was actually created so many generations ago, and the original descendants of that founding family still work that pizzeria. And I had very, very basic Italian skills back then I’ve lost most of it now. But it’s like I was able to communicate to them that we had just opened this woodfired pizza place in the state of Maine. And, you know, we just wanted to check this place out, they invited us behind the counter. And we spent the afternoon and making pizza and the oldest pizzeria on the planet. And I thought that was a great marketing hook. And we printed that on our menus and all the pizza boxes and all that kind of stuff. And we actually learned some secrets to pizza making from these people and just such a proud heritage. You know, people that work in the pizza industry in Italy are kind of revered like CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are here in America. Crazy.
Crazy. A good little business tip about our pizza, is that we’re sitting there eating it. We’re in Lake Como. And you’re like, you ate this. It looks gigantic. And even our pizzas that are a little Dom’s. They you know they’re like their size and like put in front of your chest and it’s like covers us. It covers up a big eight and a half by 12 board that it sits on. And you think that it’s a lot of food, but you can actually eat one of those and have something else. The trick is it’s so paper thin that we actually only use a five ounce dough to make this pizza when traditionally when you get an individual pizza For yourself, or whatever that, you know, looks like you know the size of your face. It’s, it’s usually like an eight ounce to like 10 ounce dough that they’re using. So it’s like you’re eating much less food, but you’re deceiving the eye and it helps with our, our ticket. Average.
Roger Beaudoin 40:18
Absolutely, totally. And, you know, there’s, there’s misconceptions, like people are used to American style pizza. And when we started this place, so long ago, we only had one size, you can’t get a large loaded pizza. So you could only get a 12 inch part, you know, and that because that’s the way it is in Italy. And the only difference is we cut the pizzas here, whereas in Italy, they give you a knife and a fork, but they don’t cut the pie. And it’s this round 12 inch pizza. So we surprised a bunch of people in the beginning and we started offering these one size, only pizzas. And you know, people eventually got it, it became very successful, but it’s such a culture.
Yes, speaking of like loaded pizzas, we were on the show that we’re on the pizza episode of The best thing I ever ate. And we were on there for our our breakfast pizza, which is three beautiful slices of spec in as the pizza is going into the oven. With fresh mozzarella, simple tomato sauce, an egg is cracked into it and create like a little well and slid into the wood burning oven to cook this egg. Yeah. And as it comes out, you have this like nice, like sunny side up eggs. And it’s a perfect it comes out. And when it was on the best thing I ever ate, the host that was doing our segment was like, Hey, little tip, I like to eggs on this pizza. And ever since that thing would run, people would come in and you’d be noticeable because the episode would air and then like the next day or if it was a weekend or whatever, the next day, you would see the like uptick in the sale of that breakfast pizza. And then it’s like, you would also notice that everyone had two A’s on the pizza, then we had people coming in and saying, Hey, we want can I get three eggs on my pizza? We’re like, no, sorry. It’s just it’s too difficult to try and try and get that right. So we have to put a we have to put a two egg lemon on our pizza.
Roger Beaudoin 42:22
But that’s a hook. Also, I think that’s tremendous. You know, you don’t see that every day, where every day. So I’m a huge believer in setting yourself apart from the competition doing really unique creative things with the food. And you know, I used to have this phrase called wow factor. I wanted everything in the restaurant to have what I call a wow factor. And it all started with the food. I wanted every plate that was put before a guest that the camera phones came out and they wanted to take photos of it before they cut into it, that sort of thing. But then we’re like, well, the ambiance has to have wow factor in the service has to have wow factor. And everyone has to walk out the door saying, wow, you know, we got to tell everybody about this. And that was one of the you know, secrets of our success as well. And it sounds like you’re doing a lot of that. Why don’t you if you could please and whatever you’re whatever comes to mind first, obviously, the pandemic has devastated this industry, well over 100,000 restaurants have closed, you know, previously thriving businesses are now no longer and those people that are still operating restaurants, whether the chef owners, or independent owners, whatever they are small chains of restaurants. If they’re still standing, they’re beaten up pretty bad. Okay, first, it’s a pandemic. Now it’s a labor crisis. And it’s like, our goal with the podcast is just to help them rediscover that passion of why they got into the business in the first place. And you’re in a really good position to give them some advice. It just keeps them going to they dig deep, get creative, get resourceful. What would you say to our audience? About? You’re still standing? Awesome. What’s the future look like? And why should you keep going?
I think like I talked about before, just like defining yourself just being very like, getting back to what you originally started out doing. I think you can be successful by just like focusing in on what what your restaurant is and what it’s about. And like really like driving that home and sticking to your guns with that, and understanding your neighborhood. Or you’re just like your local clientele, figuring out what they are and what they want. Like, that’s where I see the biggest failure coming in is these people that want to open up this, like they have these grandiose ideas of opening up a restaurant and like making it Yeah, because it’s like, I like to cook like this, like this type of foods, blah, blah, blah. And then it’s like, yeah, and they don’t take into consideration where it’s located, who their clientele is what their clientele wants. And I think that’s like, listen, I think one of the big things is just kind of listen to your customer. You know, I think we’ve had to do that through the pandemic because people would come in and say, Hey, can we get this and can we get that and like, we brought lots of other things in and I think the big thing is just like Focus on what you want to be. But also don’t forget to listen to your customer what they want.
Roger Beaudoin 45:06
For sure. I mean, I’ve always believed this is the business for 1000 details. And the word business is most important people that are starting restaurants because they think it’s glamorous or romantic, or whatever they think they don’t realize, as you know, that it is a business. And there’s so many aspects of running a business such as putting out great food every day. So thanks for bringing that home. That’s so important. Well, that was the restaurant rockstars podcast. Brandon, thank you so much for being with us.
Thank you for having me.
Roger Beaudoin 45:34
Absolutely. You’re a great guest, and to our audience, please stay well. And just dig deep and just keep going. This is all about the future. It’s only getting better. And the future’s bright. Obviously, restaurant customers are coming back in droves right now. And if you can just get through this. It’s going to continue to boom in the future. So stay at it. Thank you. Thank you, Brandon for being a great guest on the podcast, you and chefs around the globe are the heart of the heart of the house, and we appreciate all that you do. Let me shift gears for a moment. If you head on over to restaurant rockstars.com I’m giving away for free three ways you’re killing your restaurant profits that I get your attention from. That’s right, I said profit. It’s all about the bottom line and profit. And this is immediately actionable ideas that will help you be more profitable in your restaurant operation. It’s actually a two fold giveaway. I’m also giving away a free restaurant assessment. Whether you’re starting your first restaurant for the very first time, or you’re a veteran, you’ve been in business a while I’m giving away 40 to 50 different questions thought provoking questions that will help you evaluate your entire operation from a profit standpoint and see if you’re hitting the mark hitting all counts. Head on over to restaurant rockstars.com Thanks also to the sponsors that this week’s episode Smithfield culinary, pop menu, Davao and serve, which stands for study restaurant variety. It’s the incredible restaurant staff training app. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.
Thanks for listening to the restaurant rockstars podcast for lots of great resources, head over to restaurant rockstars.com See you next time.