You need a business plan to open a restaurant--go figure...!
So here we have two seasoned professionals in the restaurant biz (even at their young ages) who want to open a restaurant. Anyone will tell you--especially a business pro or a "numbers person"--that opening a restaurant is the riskiest business you can get into. But, well, they have a dream. They both needed and wanted their next professional steps.
Who ya gonna call for advice? Jay McSharry for one. He's one of the most experienced restaurateurs around. We all know Jumpin' Jay's Fish Cafe of course, but he has so many more. And they work. So, yes, he helped with ideas.
Then they called a bank and as Jen says, "very naively asked 'What sorts of things do you need to fund a restaurant project?'" If there was silent laughter inside the bankers' head, I would not be surprised. The bank directed them to the SCORE Portsmouth Chapter for advice and mentoring. The organization is made up primarily of retired business people who know what's up.
As Jen tells it, they sat awkwardly across the table from three gentleman who immediately looked at them like they were nuts. This makes total sense. It is a bit nuts. I opened a restaurant at the height of the internet boom in actual Silicon Valley and it was very, very difficult. But the couple understood that "these kind and talented people had seen many budding and hopeful entrepreneurs walk through their doors" and they quickly bonded with George and Harvey, their mentors.
So, they met every three weeks, then every other week, and by the end of it all several days right in a row. They gave up every day off that they had scheduled off from their “regular” restaurant jobs to make this a reality. They haven't taken a full day off from since the last week in December.
Well, George and Harvey at SCORE realized how serious Jen and Ben are. They pointed them to topics they needed to research for their business plan. One day, Jen walked up and down the streets of South Berwick and counted parking spaces while, she says, "looking like a cookoo bird". They visited the town hall to meet with the department of transportation and got an official report of how many cars pass by the new location in one day. 18,000-19,000 cars per day in the closest intersection? Good to know! George and Harvey helped them with financial projections, cash flow statements, profit and loss sheets, the actual business plan and how to talk with the bankers. While they didn't fund the project with the bank in the end (more on that in the future), they knew how to handle it. Now, they have the funding and a sharp business plan.
Next blog post....what color is that you're painting on those walls? And where's the bar going to be? Oh, and which seat is mine?
Rachel Forrest is the food writer and restaurant critic for The Portsmouth Herald, Seacoast Online and many other publications. She is the co-author of Maine Classics with James Beard Award winning chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier.