Restaurant Documentary – Back to Basics

Please click on the link to learn more about our community film project.
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Film Revenue and Net Profit

* All net profit from this project will be donated to Prostart who will use the proceeds for establishing an education scholarship fund for appropriate candidates. 

More Information

Please consider the following resources for more information on the film:

  1. www.backtobasicsthefilm.com
  2. http://pinterest.com/SeeBack2Basics/
  3. https://www.facebook.com/SeeBack2Basics
  4. https://twitter.com/#!/SeeBack2Basics

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23 thoughts on “Restaurant Documentary – Back to Basics

  1. Angel Lara says:

    I think I have a story that you would be very interested in.

  2. Marla Topliff says:

    I’ve actually done a bit of research on this myself so I would be very happy to help if I can. My guys and their fathers all grow up in the business and we go all the way back to 1927 in America and I have a whole history about their experiences. We can talk at the NRA.

  3. Julio says:

    can collaborate in South America

  4. Betsy Craig says:

    I would like to help with this project. Will chat at NRA but reach out if you wnat to chat sooner.

  5. Jay Sellers says:

    I am a sales manager for a major supplier of technology to the restaurant industry. I have many stories and contacts in the industry. I like where you are headed with this .

  6. Erle, Maybe this fits –

    Driving the Ownership Dream

    I was all alone. A single red wine drop on an all-white tablecloth would have felt more comfortable than I did. That I am still able to register a memory on this matter is a feat in and of itself, since my brain was as sluggish as an old V8 engine on a frigid winter morning.
    As I recall, it was about 7am. Shards of sunlight were slicing through a set of broken shutters, highlighting an impressive display of dancing dust. I had been flat out for about four hours. There I was, sprawled across the middle of a hardwood dance floor. My own snores had startled me awake, and I discovered myself to be half out of my sleeping bag. The woes of that dance floor were monumental—the greatest of which was having recently been the victim of a fury-filled, chainsaw-welding, destruction-bent, human being.
    Let’s backtrack for a moment: Since my first foray into the hospitality industry, I had picked up distinct entrepreneurial leanings. Imagine this unusual circumstance: a person sniffing around in his early twenties, faced with the question—now what? What do I do for a living?
    College had left me with virtually no marketable business skills, though I was rather confident in my skills as a waterbed salesperson at the time. For this, I blame my own eclectic class selection and poor prioritization of study time. (“Chiquitas y cervesa?” “Muy bueno!”) So as the “out-of-the-box” thinker I envisioned myself to be, I went to the Yellow Pages. My goal—to read it forward and backwards until it revealed to me a business I could start myself. (No one ever believes me when I regale this truth.) As I tackled the big yellow book, I made a ridiculously long list of all the potential possibilities I could pursue.
    Then serendipity paid me a visit. While conveying my master plan to a runnin’ buddy from way back who was working as a deejay, he mentioned that our old college hangout was for lease. Whoa! This was the old “hot spot.” This place had it all—great music, foosball, pizza, pitchers, and piytchers, annnn pichaarrssth of beer (or so they tell me).
    Dream fever set in. We could do this…and we could do that…all of it would be sooo great. “We could run our own place!” Ideas came to us in waves. Now I don’t know anything about crack or crank, but I sure can tell you about mainlining dream juice. From the instant these ideas spilled out of our brains, it felt like we were sitting at the daily card game of the universe and had just laid down four aces and raked in the whole pot. We were completely entranced with the possibility of this dream becoming our future.
    A half-baked plan began to take shape. First, haircuts, and then borrowing a nice car and suits that sorta fit. Meet with the landlord of the building and find out terms of the lease and the history of the space. Mister Landlord had a great deal of trepidation believing in two young “whippersnappers,” but our ready-to-take-on-the-world enthusiasm won him over, if only on style points alone.
    The previous tenants were troublemakers (his words) who had been late on their rent too many times. He had decided not to renew their lease. On the last night the previous tenants possessed the space, they decided to leave a message for the landlord in return for his booting them out. They exacted their measure of revenge on the facility itself. Anything they couldn’t take with them that night became a target during a farewell party gone very wild.
    Evidently things got quite out of hand. Cherry bombs went down the toilets. The walk-in cooler floor was splintered with an axe. The dance floor was mercilessly chain-sawed. The walls were covered with feces and the ceiling with remnant paint.
    One area that took us by surprise was behind the bar. The beer taps were left open, empting the kegs onto the concrete floor, creating a river of hops, yeast, and alcohol. It was winter at the time so all the suds froze. With the arrival of warmer weather that spring, however, this mess had re-animated into layer upon layer of teeming stank, a wall-to-wall fungus carpet.
    The property owner had taken one look at the awful mess and closed it up tight for over a year. Now he was trolling for tenants, and we rushed to take the bait. Other people had looked at the wanton destruction and had begged off the project we instantly dubbed “Mess-Fest.” We, on the other hand, remained smitten with the smack of dreams. All we could see was what lay on the other side of the contamination. First, a job for us of our own creation, then the pretentious “fringe bennies” that could come from being hospitality kings.
    Quickly, maybe too quickly, we negotiated a lease option; we would give the landlord 5,000 dollars for a ninety-day option for the exclusive first shot at the lease. If we could not make a deal in ninety days, he would keep the money. Fortunately—or unfortunately—we only had five grand to our names at the time. Next, we cobbled together a rudimentary business plan from family advice and library books. (Take note: It is a very poor idea to have the first business plan you’ve ever read be the one you are writing.)
    We were off, forming a sub-S corporation and selling stock to anyone who would have us. (Please, place a higher hurdle than that for potential shareholders to cross prior to joining your venture.) We funneled all cash for stock into a business account that created enough legitimacy for us to obtain the lease from the skeptical keyholder of our future.
    What actually turned the trick in our favor with the landlord was paying (with promises of future free beverages) a friendly architecture student to render fantastic sight drawings of the interior and exterior of the establishment. Like most bootstrappers, we received emotional and financial support from our families, which to this day remains a debt we still owe, and that in reality, we can never fully repay.
    We also joined forces with the most genuinely ideal combination of talent in one person one could ever hope to find on a startup team. Check this out: A competent and trustworthy attorney with carpentry skills. He had been recently divorced and had some time and money on his hands. Not only that, he saw potential in the venture and was bemused by our frenetic immaturity.
    We saw in our heads something that did not yet exist, and set about to turn that vision into reality. This was, and is, the driving force behind most business successes. Our vision became the true sustenance that we lived off during the birth of our business.
    In business, I define vision as “beyond what you can see, to what can be.”
    We stripped away everything that wasn’t essential to our goal. I moved to the space above my parent’s garage to eliminate paying rent, sold off my prized motorcycle, and ate on the fly. Sleep was an indulgent luxury. We didn’t shop, party, play sports, or go to movies. Instead, we went to auctions to obtain used equipment for a song and analyzed competitors. Six months flew by as the three of us schemed, cleaned, bartered, and built. There was nothing else that mattered but driving the dream forward.
    The force of my desire, willpower, and dedication to the task had surpassed all my previous endeavors. It was this positivity and drive that pulled my tired body over the many bumps in our road.
    Passing the background checks, we were granted a liquor license. (If you ever dream of your name in lights—that is, having your own place with a liquor license—you had better avoid felony convictions.) At twenty-one, on the verge of twenty-two, I was the youngest person in the state of Colorado to be awarded the privilege of holding a liquor license.
    Helpful ownership hints: If the plumber agrees to be paid in part with beer, consummate the arrangement after the job is finished. Never spray-paint a large indoor ceiling yourself; if you do, wear goggles and a mask. At the very least, don’t wait until the over-spray adheres to your contact lenses and fills your mouth with paint to search out the finer points of ceiling painting. Additionally, make absolutely sure that your lease obligation is contingent upon you actually being granted a liquor license.
    Early on, I had taken to sleeping in the building (see above) when I was too tired to drive home after yet another work-until-we-drop day. We were feeling the pressure to open and we were “crazy-busy.” The building, health, and fire departments were dealt with in our typical panic-and-naiveté-smothered-by-bravado style. (FYI: Seating capacity will be determined by your nimble depiction of seating/assembly areas/exit aisles and number of “johns.”)
    We had managed to hire our first employees. We seemed to lean toward those who were understanding enough to overlook our stammering and burrito-eating during their interviews. We learned that if you accept applications twenty-four/seven, you generate a lot more candidates. Many of our best players applied on their break or late at night after their shifts at other establishments.
    As it has been said a thousand times—things can and will go wrong. Weird things pop up you didn’t plan for or even think about. We were lucky, just plain lucky, that none of these things destroyed or derailed our dream. I drafted the following mantra for this period, which helped me stay focused:
    To wish a dream to life, your desire must be realized through determination, discipline, and drive. It is when you align your decisions and dedication with your actions that dreams manifest into destinations. (D-V-8)
    I found this to be a mighty addictive spiritual lozenge!

    Individuals who use their “all,” and use it correctly, have accomplished many a success in business, athletics, and warfare. This, by the way, is the foundational reasoning smart folks use for hiring people who can draw from demonstrable military, sports, or previous business success. If you get the chance in life to participate in something that fully challenges you and demands physical and/or maximum mental effort, sign up. This life “seasoning” directly adds value in a business environment. All business leaders attempt to develop a “strategy” for their business, which simply comes down to the decisions they make to maximize all available resources to gain success, as they define it. If said leaders have had limited life experience, their strategies are usually limited in scope.
    Some experienced operators strategically start with a menu and build the establishment according to the equipment requirements. Some dream up the next big thematic trend and attempt to be the first to market a new idea. We were not the lowest-cost producers or the highest-quality mavens. We just used time, energy, skills, will, a spot of money, and cheaply purchased hard assets to reopen a place for the locals that had been shut down.
    Having experienced a new business startup, I am here to tell you that if money solves a problem for you, then it is one of the easier tasks with which you will be presented. We did not have much money—all in, maybe enough to buy a small house. We coulda-shoulda invested in real estate with that money. We might have made out better, but where is the built-in job in that approach? (Is there anybody out there who would mind owning a house in Boulder, Colorado?)
    We did more than most of the work ourselves, and like most of life’s options, this was a trade-off. It came at the expense of our ability to raise our periscope beyond the task that was in front of our face. I wish we had taken the time to think about what it would be like after we opened, but we were inexperienced and truly consumed with the demands of opening.
    I implore you to carve out time to plan and produce the materials needed for operations before you open for business. Training, marketing, accounting, and more were pushed to the back burner in our harried attempt to get the place open. (Use the many trade organizations or leaders in the field as resources to refer you to workable templates if you are carrying on without a clue.)
    Over the years, I have met many proprietors who suffered the same ill-planned fate. When they should have been looking forward to a semi-smooth transition to opening, they were staring up from a dark gotta-get-caught-up hole.
    As the days fell away, we were pressed to start generating cash for our survival. Prepare yourself for this threshold most small businesses cross. There are so many stories of dreamers who blow their wads before they open the doors and then have a couple of bad weeks, sending a year (or more) of work, plus their life savings, down the drain. We could easily have become a failure statistic because of our shoestring finances but luckily enough we were able to make money from day one. Not much but enough.
    Embrace the concepts of operating capital and reserve capital. If you are building a budget now for a business plan, you must allocate money to carry on if things don’t start off well. This can truly be the difference maker between success and failure.
    Aside from talking to our neighbors, we had done minimal marketing. We picked a date three weeks out—after Christmas, at the start of the new year—to open our doors. Why open at the deadest time of the year? We did not know anything about retail cycles, it just seemed to us that the college would be back in session and the remaining work could be finished by then. We advertised our coming grand opening with flyers on all community bulletin boards and in all the Laundromats we could find. We used a “coming soon” banner and mysterious come-hither teaser ads in the college paper classifieds, and solicited our more outgoing acquaintances to act as ambassadors by handing out grand opening invitations to all the party people they could find.
    We were phone freaks (not that kind). We simply called anybody and everybody in the local phone book, told them about our new business, and invited them over. (Yes, back in the day, we were the precursors to all the telephone sales vermin and spam everybody now despises.) Those final days prior to the grand opening are now a blur of anticipation, pressure, pride…and vacuuming.
    Opening night was a blizzard—literally, a once-in-many-a-moon winter storm. You can cross your fingers, close your eyes, and just jump right into an opening. However, it is far better to have a couple of “plan B” alternatives should the “snow hit the fan.” We were not that smart. (Heckfire, we didn’t even have enough business sense to know what a “soft opening” was.)
    After spending the whole day hand-wringing and puckering unseen body parts, we resorted to praying for a change in the weather. The weather did not give us a break, but the universe did. Our talentless hype was so successful in saturating the market that people drove roundabout routes on surface roads to bypass the blizzard-closed highway to attend the opening night. They walked, cross-country skied, and four-wheeled through the snow to partake in our highly buzzed about virgin business.
    It was after that glorious night that we provided ourselves with some new “rules of engagement.” Some might call it… “Buck Wild.”

    • erledardick says:

      Chase,

      What a wonderful story! Thank you for taking the time to share it. This project is gaining a lot of momentum much faster than anticipated. It is super validating to get the response that we are getting. To that end, we are trying to “catch the train” and get all of these stories into one single bucket for organizational purposes so we don’t lose any of them. Each of them is special and we want to honour those that are willing to take the time to share.

      Until I get a better handle on a tool for handling the volume of stories, I have created a Facebook Group that I’d like to invite you to, if you are on Facebook? Here is the group:

      http://www.facebook.com/groups/131765843614443/

      Here is my profile so we can connect:

      http://www.facebook.com/erle.dardick

      Will that work for you?

  7. Kelley says:

    Hi –

    Our organization, Women’s Foodservice Forum, would be interested in contributing stories and insights. We have been helping women advance in foodservice for more than 20 years. Would love to connect with you at NRA, we are hosting a breakfast May 7 if you could make that and we could share some of the stories?

    Kelley Koehler
    WFF media relations
    kkoehler@hyc.com

    • erledardick says:

      Hi Kelly! Thank you for thinking of me. It’s so interesting that you took the time to send me this message as one of the key elements of the film is to show how women leaders in our industry have impacted future generations. I’d like to chat with you more about that. Also, we have been planning to join the forum and support your organization so I can have Lisa and Tracy (our professional services team) join us for our meeting. Someone from my team will follow up with you for a meeting. Thank you for thinking of me.

      Also, in the meantime, we are asking that people submit their stories through our Facebook group for now. We will be building a website shortly. See you at NRA.

      http://www.facebook.com/groups/131765843614443/

  8. Thierry Wauquier says:

    Hi, is your writting-project open to any country or only the U.S.?

    • erledardick says:

      Hi Thierry… This is wide open as it will be the stories we collect that drive the direction of the film in the end. The higher purpose is to bring awareness of the need for higher education in our field to this in our industry that are less fortunate and have no access to learning resources. As they are the future leaders or our industry, we must invest in their skills. Does that help? Please send you stories…. We are going through a collection process right now and all submissions are being considered.

  9. Kellie A. Bradbury says:

    So the age cap is 30 for the documentary ? Interesting, when you think of the title of the film “back to basics”, because if you are in the industry and a good leader seems like the age should not matter. Just sayin….. Otherwise, at age 30, how can you get back to anything? I don’t think my career ended at 30, as matter of fact, I guess at my age now the BACK to basics is exactly where I ended up… where i was supposed to. I went through corporate America, and now in the Catering regime of things. Do you know how many folks leave there careers as lawyers, executives to pursue their culinary dreams? A LOT! Work life balance for sure, however it also takes someone who has been in corporate america to know how to cater to the needs of that market.

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