Restaurant Rockstars Episode 391

The Secret Sauce of Scaling Up in The Restaurant Business

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Restaurant business success is elusive.

It’s even harder to find in a saturated marketplace. Just because you’ve been successful in one city doesn’t guarantee success in another.  Would you take the plunge with your restaurant brand?

In this episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast, I speak with Debbie Roxarzade, the Founder of Rachel’s Kitchen. Debbie built seven successful restaurants in Los Angeles and then decided to move her restaurant business to Las Vegas.  What’s her secret sauce?

Listen as Debbie speaks about restaurant business success including:

  • Key-learnings that made the biggest difference in her 20+ year restaurant career
  • Reinventing herself amidst celebrity chefs and thousands of restaurants
  • The importance of repeat business in a tourist town
  • Rachel’s company culture, team spirit & formula for success
  • Today’s restaurant challenges ie: labor, cost of goods and shrinking margins
  • Training & recognizing staff for top performance
  • Cross-promoting your restaurants with multiple locations

And of course, the challenges she faced being a woman restaurateur.

And don’t forget for just $7, The Restaurant Profit Maximizer course will show you proven ways to boost profit in your restaurant. Check it out here https://restaurantrockstars.com/profitmaximizer – Then, go Rock YOUR Profits and YOUR Restaurant!

Roger

Connect with our guest:

 https://www.facebook.com/RachelsKitchenFB

https://www.instagram.com/rachelskitchen/

https://twitter.com/RachelsKitchen_

https://www.tiktok.com/@rachelskitchen_

https://www.linkedin.com/company/rachel%27s-kitchen/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSZWFuc4b8kUoxVD6X96acQ

Hey there, and welcome back to the podcast. Thanks for joining me. My guest this week is very inspirational. She’s got 20 plus years of experience. She spent her formative years in restaurants, building out multiple concepts, building them from scratch, selling them in Los Angeles, and then suddenly moving to Las Vegas and starting all over again.

Her name, Debbie Roxarzade. And her brand is Rachel’s Kitchen, and she’s since gone on to all other brand extensions and franchising, but this is an operator’s operator for sure, and we’re going to share all best practices in terms of staffing, and onboarding, and challenges, and overcoming those challenges, and brand building, and marketing, and menus, and limited time offers, and everything that she’s done has definitely led to success.

with a local community. She’s built tremendous loyalty and now she’s franchising, moving on to Texas and then the rest of the country. So you’re not going to want to miss this episode. Thanks so much to our sponsors this week. And if you haven’t already, check out the show notes to this week’s episode for less than the cost of a craft beer.

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So check that out in the show notes this week’s episode. Thanks for tuning in. Can’t wait to see you next time. Listen on.

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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welcome back, everyone, to the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast. So glad you’re here. Debbie, welcome to the show today. So glad you’re with us.

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

I can’t wait to hear your story. You’ve been in restaurants for 20 plus years. You’re obviously very passionate about this business.

You’ve got a lot of experience. Where did it all begin for you?

 Yeah, it’s been a wonderful ride for me. It’s been many years, as you’ve said. And it all began for me in Los Angeles, in Beverly Hills, when I started my first restaurant and started with a very small kind of cafe type setting and slowly but surely the food started to become more of a focus and I grew and developed from there to multiple locations in Los Angeles and then eventually brought it out here to Las Vegas.

There’s a special place in my heart for LA. I lived there from 1990 to 1993. I was in Hermosa beach, Manhattan beach, Westwood, Glendale. I moved around a little bit when I was a young person, right after graduate school.

And, What a great food scene it is, and

Is so spread out, and there’s so many neighborhoods, and they all have their own special places, so I’m sure you fit right in there. Can you tell us a little bit about your different concepts of your first restaurants in L. A. and what made them special, and tell us all about that. So when I started out I was actually called Debbie’s Cafe and I opened a few of those and then I got into a partnership with a developer and I started developing concepts and then selling them off.

And those were throughout the valley. I had multiple ones. One was called Cafe 440. One was called Gourmet Bites. Just different ones throughout LA at the time. And I really enjoyed what I was doing with that. And it, gave me options to create and develop and, find new locations and all the, do all these great things and then I would sell them off to great people, but unfortunately what ended up happening was that some people would buy the locations and then they would make certain changes and then sales would start to plummet and they would, call and say, hey, I don’t know what happened, I bought this and it was doing great and now, That’s not doing so great.

So I’m like I’ll come and take a look. I don’t know. And I’d go back in there and I’d say they’ve changed, extra virgin olive oil to canola oil, or they, buy different grades of Turkey or change the cheese or, things that in some people’s mind is just, why not cut some costs and save money?

And I’m like, you can’t do things like this. You can’t change the product and just expect it to taste the same, consumers understand. That was the level of frustration. So that’s why when I. Started Rachel’s Kitchen in Las Vegas and decided to go to grow the brand. I decided to do it through franchising so that I would still have, control over things and make sure that specs are being followed and recipes are being followed and people aren’t switching items and switching, ingredients,

whether you have a single independent location, or several independent locations, or you’re franchising a concept, I think the key learning here is don’t fix what isn’t broken, and so many people try to do that, put their own stamp on things. I think you mentioned a key point about cutting costs here or there, but you’re absolutely right.

If you want a consistent product that was always successful, that your customers love and rave about, They’re going to notice. Even the slightest difference in the portion sizes or the flavor profiles or whatever it is, it’s they’re going to notice. And it’s just not the same anymore. And there’s so many choices.

They’re just going to move on. So thank you so much for sharing. Let’s talk about some of the things that made a big difference in your career. When you first started, what are the key elements? Because our goal here is to make sure that Obviously to share information and best practices from successful people, from experiments, from, things they’ve tried that work, things that didn’t work, but everyone can say this really made a difference in my career.

And I followed this formula with every restaurant I’ve started. What jumps out for you? Hard work and location, but also your team is very important. I’m very fortunate that I’ve had some team members actually that moved to Vegas with me from LA and, are basically just a fabric of the brand and just Part of, my family, my work family, my life, they’ve seen my kids grow up, I’ve seen their kids grow up, and I think that’s really important.

Just if you don’t have family that’s going to be operating with you, if you have really great team members that can grow, because that’s how you can really grow your brand and, have some confidence in it. So I think that’s one of the Key points of success for me, I believe, and really just anybody else that comes a part of your team, really taking care of them and caring for them because they’ll in turn care for you.

I see the opportunity, but was it a challenge for you to move your successful formula from Los Angeles? You obviously built a brand identity, you had Guess that obviously knew who you were, really appreciated what you were doing. You said that you bought and you sold restaurants and all that, but you clearly established yourself in Los Angeles, which is a culinary capital unto itself, and then suddenly, wow, I’m going to just pack all this up and move to Vegas and start again.

Like what made you do that? And what was that like, that transition?

It was really a life decision. So my daughter at the time, when we started thinking about it, I was pregnant with my daughter and her name is Rachel and that’s who the Rachel’s Kitchen, concept is named after. So my husband had an opportunity to look out in Vegas for his business.

And, we came out here and it was just booming. And at first I thought, I’m not going to live there, this is just, it’s great and, but it’s Las Vegas after all. I don’t want to live in Vegas. And we started spending more time with people that were living in the suburbs of Vegas and we both really enjoyed it and started to like it.

And as I was pregnant, I saw people were just, they were much nicer than I, I brought her out when she was like an infant, newborn and people were just really nice. And we thought, we could actually start a life out here. And. There’s a lot of people that were moving from Southern California and other towns and it just felt like The community was growing and there were a lot of young families and obviously, we could get a lot more for our money here than we could in Southern California.

So we could, have a nice house where she could ride a bike, outside of her home versus being in, small congested Southern California living. So that’s when we decided, we really wanted to do this, but. We, it took us years because I wanted to sell the locations that I had and also find a location to start Rachel’s Kitchen, so that was really the, at the point when we decided okay, we’re going to do this.

My husband Started working out here and started his business out here, but we’re going back and forth. And once I found the location for the first Rachel’s Kitchen, we said, okay, now we got to set a date where we’re actually going to, fully move to Vegas. And I named, the concept Rachel’s after my daughter.

And at the time she was two and we started our life out here. And at that point, I went to my team and said, I’m moving, and if you guys want to stay out here, I’m gonna miss you, and I’ll, definitely try to find you, work with, either the people that are buying some of the restaurants that I have, or other friends that I have in the community, but if you’re at all interested in going to Las Vegas, come on out, take a look, see it, I’ll take you out there, you can see what it’s like, it’s not all the strip, and so I had a few of them that came out, a couple declined, they came out and they said, Looks great, but not for us.

We want to stay where we are. And I had a few that said, yeah, this looks exciting. And we want to, we want to help you grow and we want to be part of your team still. And, we want this new opportunity. And they came out here and they were able to buy homes and, just start a life out here as well.

Yeah. Terrific. So all it was, you had a core, call it family. Obviously you developed a company culture that translated to this new Rachel’s Kitchen concept, which is awesome. So there must be a leadership style that you can describe. What is it about you that draws people to stay with you, see the opportunity, enjoy working for you, and build their lives in a whole new place, like to turn their lives around?

360 degrees, go to a new place and say, I’m going to take that risk too. I believe in this person. I believe in their concept. I enjoy working with her. What would you say your leadership style is?

That’s a tough one. I think, my team, for the most part, they describe me as being humble, when I hear them talking about it, they’re like, she’s very humble, she’s approachable, you can always call her, you can talk to her, and I think that’s what it is, when I interview people or I meet people, even at the restaurants, and I see that they are immediately, they’re just like intimidated, I’m like, You don’t have to be intimidated by me.

Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Debbie. How are you? And some are afraid and and they’re young And I, so I’ll tell the manager like hey, they don’t have to be scared of me But I’ll talk to them next time, I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable But I think that’s really what it is.

I’m just I’m approachable I’m a real person and if I ask you how you are, I actually truly care how you are It’s not just you know Asking a question and moving on. So I think that’s what, translates to my team and they know that I’m also very passionate about the brand, I’m here all the time.

I’m working side to side. I’m not working in the restaurants, I’m still involved in a lot of different aspects and. The brand is important to me. Guest standards are important to me. I love when I run into people in the streets and they’re like, Oh, I went to, Oh, you’re, founder of Rachel’s Kitchen.

I love that concept. It’s wonderful. This is my favorite thing or whatnot. And if it’s negative, I want to hear too, I’ve got people that’ll say, Hey, I went to this location and I was just off today. Or it was, it took a really long time. I’m like, I’m so sorry. We’re going to look into it, make sure nothing’s going on.

And I think people. Can feel that I truly do care.

How long have you been in Las Vegas now?

17 years, it’ll be, yeah, it’ll be 18 years in September that we started the concept, so yeah, about 17 and a half years. A long time. Seen a lot of growth in Las Vegas, for

sure. It is still one of the fastest growing cities and communities in the country, for sure.

It’s just a, That’s a booming place to be. Does Rachel have a place in your business? Does she work with you, for you? Will she ultimately take over have her own franchise? Where’s that going?

 I don’t know. So Rachel’s in college right now. So she just turned 20. a little young. She has worked in the restaurants.

She’s worked, just basically behind the counter and whatnot. She’s worked in the office doing paperwork and things. She has some interests, but I definitely want her to get her education and hopefully work with me, part time. She’ll probably come and do some stuff over the summer and same with my son.

He’s 17 and he will soon be behind the counter as well and doing what he needs to do and we’ll see where it takes them,

 Let’s talk about your location, or locations. Your very first one, you mentioned, obviously, you had to secure the best location. Give us sort of an overview of where that location might be, say, in relation to the Strip.

Is it in Las, Las Vegas proper? Is it close to the Strip, off the Strip? Does it have anything to do with the booming, bustling casino world that we know as Las Vegas? Not in the casino world, no. We’re about 20 minutes away in a suburb called Summerland, so that’s where the first location opened up, so it’s a it’s a suburb, it was developed by Howard Hughes, so it has, just it’s a beautiful area and it’s changed and grown and developed so much since we’ve been out here, but so we now have two locations in the Summerlin area, one on the south side, one on the north side, and then we have multiple locations just throughout Vegas in outdoor shopping centers.

We have one that’s on Las Vegas Boulevard in an outdoor shopping center, so it’s considered the Strip, but it’s not the hotels that you would, Envision when you come to Vegas and go into hotel. But we do have one in the airport, so it’s a small kind of grab and go location that’s in the airport.

Cover all of Vegas, the Northwest Valley, which is called Centennial Hills. We have location there. We have one in downtown. We have one in the Henderson area, which. Are all the Rachel’s kitchens uniquely different per the neighborhood? Is the decor and the vibe similar? Do the menus change?

Tell us about that. So the decor has been about the same, but now we’re getting into some of them are older, they’ve been around for 17, 15, 12 years. So we’re starting to do some upgrading and, some decor changes, nothing drastic and huge because obviously we don’t want to have to close the location for weeks on end to do construction, but, updating the colors of the paint, updating some of the furniture and fixtures, because just times and trends have changed and then the newer locations, they still have the same feel, but they’re a little bit different, and you can definitely walk into one of the older locations, walk into one of the newer locations and see.

See the difference but our traditional locations all have the same menu with just a few different options, a few different changes in some of them for example, a couple of locations don’t offer full espresso bar menus because in our lease, we’re not allowed to, we’re next to a Starbucks and we just can’t.

There’s those types of things, but the menu on the others are the same except for, like I mentioned, our location in McCarran is a grab and go location. So it has our smoothies and juices that are made to order, but everything else is it’s made fresh on site, but it’s just packaged.

So it’s grab and go because it’s the airport. We don’t really have time for people to sit and wait, eight, 10 minutes for a meal. And then we recently in December opened up a new concept called Rachel’s Kitchen Express. So it’s. It’s has a drive through, and it’s born out of, everything that happened during the pandemic, but, faster, smaller, quicker, that type of thing.

So it’s made more like a assembly line, where you walk down a line and you order, if you want a grain bowl, if you want a salad, and, they make it for you as you walk down the line, or you can order things that are you Menu items that are pre made and stuff.

That’s been exciting and that’s been fun because it’s, the same but different, and I’ve been learning a lot about AI technology and drive thru technology and all these, cool, great things that we’re doing,

that’s very fascinating and exciting at the same time. Are there any inspired people in this business?

Like you came from Los Angeles and obviously that name Wolfgang Puck jumps out and he started with, Spago and then he expanded and he got into airports and then there was Wolfgang Puck’s Gourmet Express and all this other kind of stuff. And I’m following a similar pattern here where you started with bistros and now you’ve got grab and go concepts and you’re doing quick serve concepts and it’s all wrapped around that same vibe as Rachel’s.

Did any of these, celebrities inspire you in any way or are you just totally an original and you’re just sticking to your vision and seeing brand extensions and just going with it?

 It’s not really celebrity driven or. I think for me, moving from the bistros to the fast casual was more of a personal thing because it was a matter of, the lifestyle, with a bistro or full service restaurant.

It’s more evenings, weekends, that type of thing. And I was more interested in kind of building something that was more during the day and like light evenings and you know you still be able to have a family and have a home and you know also like for our franchise partners yes it’s a lot of work i’m not saying that it’s not by any means in some weeks you have to be there seven days a week from the moment you open the moment you close however you do know that the restaurant will close at seven or eight PM

 Versus some of these late night places where you’re there till 11 or 12 and you’re serving alcohol. And it just, it’s just a different format altogether. So the fast casual concepts just really resonated better with me. So you would say that you’re moving, you’ve moved away from sort of full service and you’re simply focusing on nighttime.

You’re not doing multiple day parts. You’re moving away from a liquor license. Have you had liquor licenses in some of them, beer, wine, only hard alcohol?

Yeah, so in LA, I did have, the full service. Rachel’s Kitchen has been always, it’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner but the dinner is, the menu doesn’t really change throughout the day, so everything’s pretty much available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Vegas is a 24 7 town, so people do order Breakfast for dinner. And some of our locations have beer and wine and that’s really just location based depending on what’s going on, in the neighborhoods and whatnot. So the ones that have the beer and wine are the ones that are more in kind of outdoor shopping centers where people are wanting to sit down and relax.

But for the most part, we’re a quicker service where we call ourselves fresh casual instead of fast casual, but it’s the same. Same thing, but we’re fresh. Everything’s, made to order and we really focus on our quality.

Nice. Quality, fresh, at reasonable prices also, I understand.

With that said, have you had challenges with inflation and with high labor costs and all these things, and how do you maintain your margins?

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Yes, we have. Our margins have definitely been impacted. Things are stabilizing, I definitely see it getting better, but it was very challenging.

From sourcing, at some point it was just, we weren’t even looking at how much does it cost. It was just more can we even get it, and fighting for the same products as every other restaurant. And as we do, we we’re in Vegas, and we are competing with huge restaurants that are on the strip, so that was very challenging as well, and labor is still very tough.

It’s hard, it’s hard to find good quality people it’s hard to keep them motivated, and the younger workforce, they’re definitely A little bit different than I may be, so their work ethic may be a little bit different, they want to work how they want to work when they want to work, it’s that instant gratification.

So it’s been very challenging. So we’ve definitely spent a lot of energy. on technology and, upgrading our app and upgrading our online ordering options. We have a server robot that runs around one of our locations and she helps with having extra hands. She was born out of the pandemic, but got her because we were having, tough time finding help and keeping the ones that we have.

And I’m like, okay let’s try this server robot. Maybe she could deliver some food. So the four people that are actually here, running behind the counter don’t have to run every single item. We’re not replacing anyone. We’re not trying to, put this robot in place of a team member.

We’re just trying to help the team members that are here and help our guests get their food on time. And that’s been great. Trying to. Pivot and do what we can do to make it work.

 Do your guests find the robot sort of a novelty or do they find it interesting? Do the kids like it?

Is there any kind of a hook to that? Having the robot besides perhaps, saving an extra hand here and there?

It’s been great. Every time I’m at that location, somebody is taking a picture or video of that robot. And I hear people jokingly say if a, if a team member will walk up with the food, they’re like, Oh, put it back on the robot, there was initially like a couple, and I would say older demographic of cliental that looked at this robot and said, What are you doing? I don’t want you to take, blah, blah, blah’s job and replace it with a robot, so the team and I have, been very, consistent with what we’re telling our guests, but it’s not replacing anyone.

It’s really just here to help. And People love it. People, I had somebody email me and say, you should put a skirt on her, give her an apron, yeah, a

little character, a personality, create a brand onto the robot that represents your brand,

exactly. That’s awesome.

Yeah. That was super fun. Let’s let’s talk a little bit about you’re onboarding, you’re training, you’re staffing challenges, because a lot of people out there have struggled with the same things that you mentioned, the younger generation. It’s like they have their own ideas of what they want to do and when they want to do it and all that kind of stuff.

How do you set expectations and maintain accountability and get the best performance out of people? But it all has to start with how you onboard them, new employees that are coming into, your Rachel’s locations and your different concepts.

Honestly it’s tough, but we’re trying to do as much as we can now with technology so that everybody could be on the same page.

We’re, we have videos of our recipes, so it’s you come in and Watch this video of how to make, XYZ. Then you take a little quiz on how to make, XYZ. Then you shadow a team member that’s making it. Then you make it. So we try to do that. So as much as possible, if somebody says you never, I was never trained how to do, this or that.

Yes, you were, because Here’s, you signed off on it here. You took your little quiz here. That’s why you were promoted to the next station. But, it’s really just a matter of enforcing that process gets done and sometimes sometimes it doesn’t because sometimes we’re short staffed, so sometimes it’s oh gosh, the general manager was like, I didn’t get a chance to do that part.

I had to throw her in the, Clean tables and run food, and then she did so great doing that we just trained her in here, and I’m like, you can’t do that. You gotta go by the process. You’ve got to do the process. So we’re trying on a corporate level as much as possible to, make that mandatory and have a platform that everybody needs to log into on their first day and figure out, these are all the things that you need to do, then you go to the next step.

Next phase, but at the end of the day, it’s hospitality, you’re working with guests, so you got to do whatever it takes to please the guests, so if you’re sitting there behind the computer and there’s a line out the door, yes, you probably do need to get up and clean the table.

You must have a lot of repeat business.

Originally, before I got to know you and your concepts, I’m thinking, okay, Las Vegas, it’s a tourist town, people come and go, it’s like, it’s not a lot of repeat business, it’s a lot of new people in the door every single day. And in some cases that has led people to believe, I don’t really need to focus so much on the service because people are going to come in and they’re going to go and I’m never going to see them again, which is obviously a mistake.

But I’m getting the sense that your neighborhoods are very family oriented, I think you said so, and that you’re not really serving the tourists so much, other than at the airport location, is that correct?

 Yeah, we do get tourists at some of our locations. Like one of them is connected to a shopping center that has like a hotel attached to it in Green Valley.

So we get some tourists. And then we get, tourists that come in that they know the locals that will bring them in or whatnot. But yes, for the most part, we’re local based. We have guests that have been coming to us They were young. If anything, like we had, like I mentioned, the opening of our new location, the Rachel’s Kitchen Express, and I happened to be there behind the counter, just trying to make sure everything was, like, looking proper and stuff, and I have this sweet lady who came in with her baby, and I’m like, oh, your baby is so cute, how old is she and stuff, and then she says, you don’t remember me, and I’m, and I don’t expect you to, but I’ve been coming to your concepts since I was in middle school, and I went to this location and then I grew up in one here and then I went to college and I came back and now I’m living here.

I’m now here with my baby and I couldn’t wait to come and see this new location. So I was like, wow that’s amazing. Thank you so much. And that’s so cool. And thanks for coming back and I hope you enjoyed this new one. But back to that, like my team has people that they have known for years and guests, they really like that as well because they get to know the team member and a lot of times they’ll bring them, Things like personal things, like they’ll bring them, cookies that they made from home or they’ll bring a t shirt for their kid.

Cause they know their kid is at, fifth grade and into some color or design or whatever it may be. I’ve seen every time I’m in the stores, I see something cute like that, which is really nice. Something that makes me feel good that they’re connecting with our guests and our guests are, connecting back to them.

Let’s talk about marketing. What have you done and what do you continue to do that, that works for you? And is there a loyalty program? Do you cross promote the restaurants to encourage people to try the different locations? Are you somehow, creating brand ambassadors through your raving fans?

What really works?

So we do have a loyalty program. It is, we call it our Rachel’s Kitchen Preferred Guest Program. So there are preferred guests and we, we’re still a small brand, but we have about 85, 000 members on it now. So for a smaller brand, I think,

im proud of that it’s great. And yes, so we do cross promote and we also do location specific. So it just really depends on what’s going on. If. We have a lot of LTOs that we run, so we’ll use that to promote our LTOs, and we also do them on social media, we do a lot with Instagram we found that’s the best platform for us, we have done Facebook in the past, and that’s changed, and, the algorithm of Facebook has changed through the years we try doing TikTok, and We just weren’t really successful with it.

I don’t know if it’s our brand, our food, maybe the group that was doing it for us, maybe a combination of everything, but Instagram does great for us and, our preferred guest program does great for us. And then we also do a lot with the community. We I love to give back to the community, whether it’s for, you know, if it’s gift cards, if it’s donations, if it’s, holding things at the restaurant, and I really feel like that’s how you become a fabric of your community and you really start to embrace it.

And I think we are known for that. Schools will reach out to us for, hey, the PTA is having, whatever this may be. Can you donate to our raffle? Can you supply food for this? We’re having a teacher’s function. Can you help with this? Whether it’s discounted or complimentary or gift cards or whatever it may be.

And, we always try to, help. be involved as much as possible

Do you do any catering?

We do. We don’t do full service catering as far as, coming to your location and making it there and setting it up. Because sometimes people think of catering like that, but we do a ton of catering. Catering that we drop off and set up, with the paper plates and things like that.

And we do a lot for pharmaceutical reps, like at doctor’s offices and stuff, where there’s, like lunch and learns. We do a lot of corporate events. We do box lunch events where it’s like specific box lunches that we do for, corporations or open houses or, whatever it may be, but we do a lot.

Baby showers, bridal showers We’ve done as, as few as 20 and as much as several thousand.

Nice. Food trucks have obviously swept the country, and they’re everywhere. And they’ve also been brand builders for bricks and mortar businesses that, you can take the show on the road and take it to big events and just promote the brand and keep the food in front of the public.

Any, any thoughts on doing that? Is that at all part of your plan in the future?

No, it’s very interesting to me. And every time I see a food truck, I’m like, oh gosh, we got to, we really got to do this. But no, we haven’t done it. I would love to have one.

I could just see it now, like how you would brand that truck to just make your concept, jump out at people when you’re going down the street.

That’s a big part of. The marketing of these businesses, I’ve seen it work successfully with restaurants that have started out with a concept and then they get a truck and then suddenly everybody’s talking about it. I think it works really well with, Mexican concepts do that quite a bit and, certain different places in the country, but okay.

Just thought I’d ask.

Yeah. I think if we were still back in LA. It probably would have become a reality already because they’ve got that whole little strip of, Wilshire Boulevard where all these trucks a lot. Vegas doesn’t quite have that. They do, we are seeing more and more food trucks, but it’s just not as prevalent.

You mentioned earlier in this conversation that you you work a lot, obviously, and you’re visible to your people, but you’re not working in the business, you’re working on it. Is there a typical day for you?

Lots of emails, lots of text messages. You start your day with emails and texts, yeah. Yeah, we have internally we use Slack as a communication tool. So a lot of Slack messages as whatnot. And, I do visit the locations. I just am not, opening and closing. So I make an effort to be in the locations at least once a week.

And then it’s meeting with teams, it’s doing marketing calls, it’s working on different, um, offers that we’re doing, I, I go to a lot of trade show type things and conventions and, coming up with new items for LTO. Like I said, we’re updating some of our locations, so spiking up the furniture, doing that type of stuff interviewing management positions, and then also working on the franchise sales portion as well.

We are opening in Texas this year. So we have our first out of state location. So working on that we’ve just signed a second deal in Texas as well in the Dallas market. So we’ll have two opening in 2024. So really just working on finding the best, we found one location and we started construction there, but finding the best location for the second one that we’re opening.

So in order to be able to franchise. And if you’re looking for a place to start your restaurant or any business, really, you need to have your systems dialed and you need to lay it all out for new franchisees to make it as simple as possible to maintain consistency and to follow and stay on brand, right?

Without deviating from that, was that a huge process for you when you first started a franchise? You have a lot of experience starting a concept and then growing that concept to multiple locations, but then the franchising thing is a whole nother job. It’s a whole different business, exactly like you said.

So yes, we have our recipes dialed in, recipe cards, every picture, every little item that you could possibly think of. And we’ve had to redo them and redo them because, we think that they’re bulletproof and then the team will go into the restaurant and they’re like, somebody interpreted, this like that.

How in the world could they possibly do that? But okay, now we gotta rewrite it. We gotta, retrain them. So I’d say for the, with the first couple of franchises and it’s by design that I kept them in Vegas so that they would literally be in our backyard and we could be at them on a regular basis, but we had to make a lot of internal changes, and really work on our training.

And that’s why I said, we’re really, now we’ve got them down to, video. So if somebody You know, things that, for example, you know, the They didn’t read the steps on the recipe correctly that you have to first put the cream in before you put the chicken in or whatever it may be the video will show you.

So even if you can’t read it properly, you should be able to see it. We’ve timed every video so that they should be less than like a minute and a half so they’re not taking too long for people to read them and view them and look at them and then go back and re educate themselves.

But That’s the biggest challenge, is really just the consistency, and throughout COVID it was even more challenging because a lot of the products, were very particular about the items that are spec’d out, so it has to be a certain, type of cheddar cheese used a certain brand and certain SKU, and we do not deviate from it, but with COVID we had to because that, particular manufacturer was just, Sorry we’re out, we won’t be back for six months, so figure it out.

So that was very hard for me because we had to try to maintain the band and try to maintain the flavor profiles while still, being open for business.

 So you must have a list, obviously a supplier. Do you have an exclusive supplier or do you use multiple suppliers? You do, you’ve got an exclusive.

So then every franchisee needs to stick to that order list in order to continue to gain that preferential pricing that comes from the economies of scale, the buying power thing, right? Correct. And they don’t really deviate from that. And that’s very important, obviously. And then you’ve got your portions and your recipes and the videos and the training and all that.

How do you develop new menu items? Do you have a corporate chef that’s in charge of all of this, that does focus groups and he comes up with ideas and he shares that with you. It’s like how does that process work? And what are some of these LTOs that really work for you?

 So we are not chefs, nobody in the organization is chef, but we’re all just very experienced restaurant people.

My background is in, I have a business degree and then I have a master’s in hospitality. So it’s really just, having some education in the business, but really just living this business and same with my team. So none of us have that culinary, full culinary training, but we’ve just been developing restaurant recipes for the brand for so many years.

So the LTOs come out of, certain trends that are happening sometimes, and then also just seasonal, so we have like We created a summer peach salad. It’s a pretty simple salad, but it’s absolutely delicious, and we put it out two years ago in the summer, and it was just a hit, and our guests were just, please don’t take it off the menu, please don’t take it off the menu, and we’re like peaches just don’t.

Do well the rest of the year, so that’s why of, it’s a summer peach salad, yes. Now we’ve got people like, exactly, and I’m like, if I feed you this peach in January, you’re gonna come back and say, that tastes terrible. I don’t want it, and I’m never coming back to Rachel’s again.

But now they ask for it, our regulars, come May, they’re like, is the summer pea salad coming back? So we’ve brought it back. So some of those items we will bring back and then others will make its way to our menu. We start, we started doing some grain bowls and we started that about three years ago.

And it was just really more of okay, these are the trends that are happening. Let’s see if we can create something great and we did and our guests really loved it. So we brought in A second grain bowl and a third grain bowl. And now, we’ve built this Rachel’s Kitchen Express concept based on that.

So we’ve expanded on the grain bowls and we’ve got multiple ones. A lot of it is just reading what’s going on in the trade. Like I mentioned, I go to a lot of conventions, I read a lot of things and some trends don’t work for us and others do, and we really try not to be, we’re really more of a timeless concept.

So things that are on our menu or. You know, things that are a little bit more stable, but we do have a little bit of gluten free, we’ll have vegan items, a little bit of everything for people to come in and that’s what makes guests come to us multiple times a week versus, certain trendy concepts where it’s really hot for a minute and then, six months down the line, Oh, that’s so passe and nobody wants to do it anymore.

That’s a very interesting point that you’re making, because gluten free is everywhere now, and you absolutely have to have gluten free items on your menu. What about some of the other trends, perhaps, that haven’t really stuck? A lot of people were to keto for a while, and paleo, and all these other things.

Did you have to go down that road at all? Do you have any of those menu items? Is that over now? What do you see those things happening?

 There are some people that ask for it, and we do have items in our stores that you can craft towards that. There’ll be certain people that’ll ask us for keto, so we’ve created an internal menu.

If somebody’s looking for keto, they can do this salad, add this to it, or take this off of it. Same for vegan, okay. Here are the items that are vegan, so you could take the, this salad, take the cheese off of it. The nuts are vegan. We’ve tried that, our beasts are dressing star, but we’re not really to the point where we’re going to create a, keto menu or, for example, Atkins was big for a while, that type of thing.

Okay. Thanks for answering that. What’s your growth plan? I think you’re trying to get, ultimately going to go national with this.

Hopefully national right now, more regional, so Texas is the next market that we’re looking to grow this year we’ll open two in Texas, maybe three, we’ll see how that goes, and then hopefully explain that a little bit more, but my goal is do in the Dallas market what we did in Vegas, have multiple locations and a few different formats, maybe some grab and go ones, maybe the express with the drive thru, and then a couple of the traditionals.

How did you come to that decision? Why did you believe that Dallas was at a similar sort of market to Los Angeles in terms of climate, the people, the neighborhoods what do you see there? And why was that sort of a decision that you made? And what second part of that question is, if you’re well known, obviously, in the Las Vegas area, and you’re opening up a brand new market, how do you get people aware that this is a concept that’s super successful in Las Vegas, and now here it is in Texas, if people haven’t heard of it before?

So I think Dallas, is just another city. First of all, it’s huge, so there’s so much opportunity in so many different spots, but just, it’s growing so fast. We’re, the first one we’re opening up is in Frisco, which is in North Dallas and it’s just, it’s booming and growing and there’s just so many offices and buildings that are growing there and so many companies that are relocating their headquarters, in or around, so I just found it to be.

Just a good opportunity for us, and it’s a good state to do business in. So that makes it, a little bit more favorable. Oh, it’s business friendly, is it? A little bit, yeah. Good to know. That’s certainly important. So those are, some of the reasons that we look at it. And I just, I like it.

I like the city. It has a great feel to me. People are friendly. So I see a lot of what I saw in being able to resonate over there. And then as far as branding goes, it’s just, now that we’ve started construction, it’s starting to, connect with the local community a little bit, and it’s as simple as having, some banners right now outside of our store, and we’re getting people that are emailing us on our website, can’t wait for you to open, here’s my resume, we’re getting churches that are asking for, hey, will you be part of this Easter raffle, will you do this, and that’s just how we’re going to start, and then we’ll do, more local area marketing and build up a guest program and that’s how we’re going to do it.

That’s tremendous, Debbie. Thank you so much. I certainly celebrate the successes that you’ve had and I wish you continued success as you continue to grow Rachel’s Kitchen and your different brands. That’s amazing. Thanks so much for being on the podcast. Thank you so much for having me.

I appreciate it. It’s been our pleasure. That was the Restaurant Rockstars podcast. Thanks so much to our audience for tuning in. Thank you to our sponsors. We can’t wait to see you in the next episode. So stay well and stay tuned.

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