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Unfortunately, the food and beverage industry isn’t just about the food and beverages. Soon after you’ve decided to open a restaurant, found your space, and put things into motion, is the realization that along with the dream comes a lot of planning, paperwork, and permits.
JoJo Soprano, COO of the Parry Restaurant Group, knows this well from his many years working in the food and beverage industry. From managing construction projects to working with city officials to obtain restaurant permits, he’s done and seen it all when it comes to building, registering and opening a food and beverage business.
The business side of opening a business can be challenging and bring up unexpected issues from construction mixups to permitting restrictions, but JoJo wouldn’t have it any other way. “That lifestyle, that hustle, that bustle, the constant pressure, I thrive off of that. And most people in our industry do.”
3 tips from JoJo Soprano of Parry Restaurant Group on building, registering, and opening a food and beverage business
- Connect with city officials: “The first step is you want to get in with those city officials and make sure that you have all your ducks in a row for them … As a food and beverage business owner one of the biggest hurdles we face when we’re opening up a new restaurant, is the tape and stuff that we’ve gotta go through with the city. You’ve gotta make sure again that your ABC license is intact. A lot of that stuff is what takes up the majority of the time when you’re getting businesses going. With the city officials, you’ve gotta be exact, you can’t be wrong on that paperwork, so that definitely is the biggest hurdle you’ll encounter when you’re starting.”
- Expect the unexpected with construction: The biggest struggles we’ve had has been with construction and getting the [construction] team set up, making sure the drain lines are ran to code, making sure that all of the code is met with the fire and safety hazards you have to encounter. The red tape is what we call it.”
- Look at your numbers every night: “Every night we have a report that comes out and the reason we do that is you can’t catch up. You know, if you’re looking at that on a weekly, or even worse, a monthly basis, how do you react? How do you fix it? You’ve already lost your money. You’ve already spent the money. You can’t get it back. So when you’re looking at it on a nightly basis, it brings it not only a lot more attention to you, but also the managers in the store, they see it every night as well. And that’s where you have to make your adjustments … We have our own internal reports we use, and then our POS system, of course, we use that to get the data from and compare it on a daily basis. We compare week to week, we compare day to day, month to month.”
Hi. And welcome to Tipped, a Square podcast. First comes the dream and then comes all of the paperwork. On today’s episode, we’ll discuss all of the nitty gritty details involved in getting a business off the ground for meticulously keeping track of permits and licenses to juggling ever-changing COVID restrictions and understanding the business management side of running a food and beverage business today.
JoJo Soprano: I think that the restaurant world is just a world where you have to be flexible.
That’s JoJo Soprano of the Parry Restaurant Group. A fast growing food and beverage focused group with over 20 plus businesses in the state of Virginia.
JoJo Soprano: It actually, led me to just fall in love with it, that lifestyle, that hustle, that bustle, the constant pressure. I thrive off of that and most people in our industry do especially, when you get up in the management level. My first experience with the Parry Restaurant Group was I started at a restaurant called Tuco’s Taqueria which is in Roanoke, Virginia. I started as the dishwasher. I worked my way up from the dishwasher to a kitchen manager, to a general manager, to a regional manager and now I am the VP of operations.
Once you’ve made the decision to open a food and beverage business, JoJo says that the key to success lies in all the meticulous attention to detail in the very first operational steps you take.
JoJo Soprano: Well, the first operational steps that we take are contacting the local city, finding out what requirements they have. For instance, in Roanoke, Virginia, we’ve recently done some exploration of opening restaurants. So we’ve had to contact the local health department, make sure that the city also has the location zone for restaurants. So that’s the first step you want to get in contact with those city officials and make sure that you have all your ducks in a row for them. As a food and beverage business owner, one of the biggest hurdles we face when we’re opening up a new restaurant is the tape and the stuff that we’ve got to go through with the city. You’ve got to make sure again that your ABC license is intact. A lot of that stuff is what takes up the majority of the time when you’re getting businesses going with city officials, you’ve got to be exact, you can’t be wrong on that paperwork.
So that definitely, is the biggest hurdle you’ll encounter when you’re starting. During the process of opening up restaurant number 23 and honestly recently, one of the biggest struggles we’ve had has been with the construction, getting the team that’s in the building, getting it set up for us, making sure that the drain lines are ran to code. Making sure that all of the code is met with the fire and safety hazards that you have to encounter. We’ve actually, delayed opening recently on one of those projects that’s the red tape is what we call it. We have someone in house who handles that, we have someone who’s familiar with the process. So obviously, if you have the ability to delegate that test to somebody, the more they do it, the more experience they get doing it, the better they’ll be at it.
But then when you are first getting in, I know it sounds redundant but it’s the city officials. So if you’re opening something up in Roanoke, Virginia, you want to make sure you’re speaking to the Roanoke City Health Department, the Roanoke City Business Office. And they actually, are very helpful in telling you what steps you need to follow. Because of course, any city you’re in opening a business in wants that business to be open and they want that business to be successful so they’re going to line you up with all the right information as to where you should go and what steps you follow.
Another crucial element in the food and beverage industry is continually maintaining and forging local relationships with community members especially, early on.
JoJo Soprano: The way we typically will tend to involve the community is we will go to a Chamber of Commerce. We’ll get involved with them, we’ll have ribbon cutting ceremonies when we’re open. We like to be part of all those communities and all those organizations. I reference Roanoke, Virginia again, because we do have a lot of properties there. And the Roanoke community has this organization called Downtown Roanoke Incorporated. And they’re actually, a non-profit organization. And they help you spread the word about when you’re opening, what you’re doing, when you are open. So it’s good to get involved with all those local community organizations.
We ask Square business owners to submit their most pressing questions for our guests. Today’s question comes from Pesso’s Ice Cream. What are some tips on navigating all of the regulations and local agencies for permits both when setting up a space and when setting up a business operation?
JoJo Soprano: Well, the first advice I can give on that is you definitely want to be patient. You’ve got to understand that it’s not going to happen overnight. The answers you’re looking for sometimes will take two, three or four different people before you get to the person who can answer it. So you certainly, want to make sure that you wear your patience on that day. The other advice I could give is just again, making sure that you are following the right steps once they’re laid out for you. If somebody gives you a map but then it says to go A, B, C, D, then you go A, B, C, D. You don’t do A then C then go back to B, maybe finish up A then work on D just go through the steps in the process because what you’ll find a lot of the stuff you need, what you did in step A, when you move on to step B or C or D and if you don’t complete everything with step A, you’re going to have to circle back to that and you end up doing double work anyway.
Our next question comes from Sugar Lab Bake Shop in Ventura, California. What are ways to help with staff efficiency in a high labor industry? Our food costs have always been low but our labor has been high as we make everything from scratch. How can we incentivize productivity for our staff?
JoJo Soprano: When you’re running a successful restaurant, you want to run those percentages at maximum at 30% and in order to do so, you have to adjust. If you see menu items that are taking way too long to prep and it’s causing way too much labor, you either have to pass that cost onto your guests or you may have to consider taking that item off the menu. When it comes down to it, labor dollar is a dollar for dollar. If you’re paying someone $15 an hour, you’re paying $15 an hour and you’re not getting anything in return. And I know you’re getting work in return but what I mean is you’re not getting a physical product sale in return. Where your food cost is a little more controllable where you can raise the price on something if you can see that it’s not costed out properly at a certain price.
So when it comes to those labor dollars, they are vital. Their time efficiency with your staff is it’s so important, making sure that they’re always staying busy, making sure that they’re always preparing for the next shift during the current shift, that also will help when those shifts start. Because the last thing you want to be is unprepared going into a busy night and you didn’t have your staff prepared. And earlier in the week, they were standing around during slow times, during down times, that’s where you have to optimize your labor. You can only go so low with labor costs. We analyze labor on a daily basis, every night we have a report that comes out and the reason we do that is you can’t catch up. If you’re looking at that on a weekly or even worse a monthly basis, how do you react, how do you fix it?
You’ve already lost your money, you’ve already spent the money, you can’t get it back. So when you’re looking at it on a nightly basis, it brings it not only a lot more attention to you but then also the managers in the store, they see it every night as well and that’s where you have to make your adjustments. Fridays and Saturdays, obviously you’re going to run a higher sales volume and your labor typically runs lower so that when a Monday or Tuesday rolls around and you’re running a higher labor, those sales are a little lower. So they’re not affecting the overall week. So we do take those into consideration as well but we look at that stuff daily. We have our own internal reports we use and then our POS system, of course, we use that to get the data and compare it on a daily basis.
We asked JoJo to pass on the best tips he’s learned from his experience in the food and beverage industry.
JoJo Soprano: The best advice I’ve been given as a business manager, we’ve got to put the employees first. At the end of the day, we are a very employee first company. Yes, of course, guest satisfaction is vitally important but at the end of the day, if your employees are happy, they’re going to keep your guests happy. We care about the employees from myself, ownership. We all talk to the employees, we hear the employees and most importantly, we listen to the employees. We’re not in there every single day elbow to elbow with them and experiencing the rushed, experiencing the pressure that they’re experiencing in their specific restaurant. So when they have something that they bring to us that is vitally important and that certainly is what we take and how we guide our business. We base it off of the employees and their feedback.
Thank you to JoJo Soprano for his thoughts for today’s episode. JoJo Soprano is VP of operations for the Parry Restaurant Group located in Virginia. Find them at www.parryrestaurantgroup.com to learn more. If you want to hear more like this, make sure to subscribe to Tipped on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your podcast app of choice. You’ve been listening to Tipped, a Square production. This episode was produced by Kaitlin Keefer and Clara Shannon. Our music was composed by Jordan Wallace with sound recording by Sorrentino Media and DR Baker. Thanks for listening.