Replacing Tim Love in this episode, Elizabeth Blau joins Joe Bastianich on Restaurant Startup.
The Copper Hen Rooftop Restaurant & Bar
Owned by Danielle and Chris Bjorling, The Copper Hen is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was created when demand for Danielle’s cakes increased so much that they realized they could build a business around this product. The business started off as a dessert shop with beer and wine but soon expanded to a full service restaurant. To run the kitchen, the Bjorlings hired Stephanie Miller to be their executive chef. Currently, the only person with nearly no restaurant experience is Chris, who is a CPA. Now focusing on farm to table comfort food with amazing desserts, the restaurant has become so busy that they want to expand by adding a rooftop restaurant and bar to their location.
This new expansion is tentatively named The Copper Hen Rooftop Restaurant & Bar, and would be the only rooftop bar and restaurant in their area of Minneapolis. Chris projects that with this new rooftop they could double their revenue, which justifies asking for $200k for 15% equity.
Elizabeth and Joe enjoy the food, but Joe believes that their pitch is a stark departure from their current restaurant. Elizabeth and Joe are impressed that their food costs are under 20% and that their annual revenue is $1.2 million. Explaining that he and Danielle are the owners, and that Stephanie has no equity, Joe tells Chris that any cook as good as Stephanie should have some equity. Elizabeth feels that while the food is good, they would have to reinvent the menu for the rooftop, and Joe doesn’t feel that they are hip or trendy enough for what they are pitching.
Peter and Yianni Karapanagiotis are brothers who own three seasonal restaurants located on Cape May, New Jersey. Their pitch for Joe and Elizabeth is Shamone, a 15 course restaurant with a menu that changes every day. Instead of focusing on the seasonal customers, Peter and Yianni want to locate Shamone in the area of town with year round residents.
The Karapanagiotis explain to the investors that they will have a master recipe list of a 100 dishes and only 15 will be chosen daily. At $40 a guest they plan on making a profit by focusing on small plates and having a wide variety of dishes with low food costs. Yianni also explains that the name Shamone comes from an interaction he had with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
After asking for $350k for 50% equity in Shamone, Yianni is told by Joe that it is the worst name he’s ever heard for a restaurant. Despite the name, Elizabeth and Joe enjoy the food. However, Elizabeth and Joe are concerned that the brothers are targeting a residential neighborhood for this restaurant. People on vacation are more willing to take a chance on a high concept restaurant while neighborhood restaurants are dependent on regulars who want consistency. Joe isn’t impressed with their revenue across three restaurants, but the brothers explain that is because they are seasonal. The pitch ends with them being willing to fold their other restaurants into this deal and the investors respecting their business savvy.
The investors are concerned that Copper Hen is too rooted in its Americana style of food to shift to a trendy establishment. As for Shamone, Elizabeth and Joe fear that the pitch is to high-concept for a neighborhood restaurant. Believing that they have the potential to make the most money off of The Copper Hen, they decided to go with Chris, Danielle, and Stephanie.
Joe and Elizabeth make it clear that they need to show that they can evolve from the old Copper Hen into a trendier establishment. This requires that the menu reflect this shift. As Elizabeth illustrated, she doesn’t want to be in a hip place eating chicken pot pie. Joe specifically explains to Chris that he needs to show that he can run the front of the restaurant.
First meeting with Roy Rede to discuss their vision of the restaurant, they explained to Roy that they want to bring the outside in doors with dark woods, big windows, and Edison light bulbs. Mentioning that the investors what the place to have a cool feel to it they joke with Roy about it needing to be sexy and rustic. Roy leaves pleased that they are all on the same page.
Despite Stephanie being the chef, Chris and Danielle begin the preparations by deciding the menu without her input. Stephanie isn’t an owner but as a chef she is at times frustrated by Danielle’s and Chris’s decisions. Meeting with Antonia Lofaso, Stephanie’s concerns about the menu are immediately confirmed by Antonia explaining that the menu doesn’t fit with a hip rooftop setting.
With Chris and Danielle out of the kitchen, Antonia confronts Stephanie and encourages her to take more control over the menu. In addition to having the knowledge and the skills of a great chef, Stephanie needs to know that if the menu fails because she didn’t speak up it will be her fault. Inspired by Antonia’s comments, Stephanie tells Danielle and Chris that the menu shouldn’t have entrees and it shouldn’t have any of the staples of The Copper Hen. Focusing on small plates, Stephanie wipes away the menu the Bjorlings made. The Bjorlings are resistant at first but quickly come to accept Stephanie’s leadership in the kitchen.
Preparing the food for Antonia’s approval reveals Chris’s inexperience in the kitchen. In addition to just coming off as out of place, he can’t even open up a jar of stuffed olives; a task that Stephanie does for him. When Antonia arrives, she is immediately pleased by the small decisions. Enjoying the food and Danielle’s desserts, Antonia is also impressed by their food costs being in the low 20% range. Chris then shares that they project a revenue of $2,520 and average check of $42 per person.
Returning for the next day to prepare for the launch, Danielle, Chris, and Stephanie are blown away by the work Roy did. Danielle then gets to work making the desserts, while Chris prepares the front of the house staff to the best of his ability. Just before the start of the launch Danielle realizes that someone damaged the cupcakes she made. After handling the stress this caused somewhat poorly, Danielle gets to work fixing the damage. While the team is getting everything ready, Joe and Elizabeth arrive and also enjoy the atmosphere of Copper Hen.
Under Stephanie’s leadership, the kitchen is on point and handling the orders as they come in. Sadly, the front of the house suffers under Chris’s inexperience. Danielle quickly finds herself shouting for the staff to get the plates to the customers. Instead of making sure the staff are getting the food to the tables, Chris spends much of his time talking to the guests.
Compounding the problem of the slow service is that Chris also neglected to make sure that the customers got share plates and silverware. It is an oversight that Joe sees as deeply unprofessional. The food backs up so much that Elizabeth and Joe help run food. Despite Joe’s words, Chris fails to make sure everyone gets share plates. Frustrated by Chris’s poor performance Danielle directly tells him that he needs to get his act together.
Despite the poor service, Joe finds that the guests are enjoying the restaurant. The service becomes an issue again when Joe and Elizabeth sit down to eat. Chris brings them the food but neglects to bring the share plates first. Discussing the food, Joe and Elizabeth grow to appreciate Stephanie’s work more and more. They are also blown away by the quality of Danielle’s desserts. Overall, they realize that Danielle and Stephanie are incredible at their jobs but they are being held back by Chris’s inexperience.
The Deal Table
Meeting after the launch, Elizabeth shares that 92% of the guests liked the food and drinks, 100% liked the desserts, and 85% thought the atmosphere was hip, young, and cool. Though Stephanie and Danielle receive a lot of praise from the investors, Chris is told that 66% of the customers didn’t like the food service. Chris accepts the blame and Joe tells him to keep his day job.
Going over the financial results of the launch, Joe shares that the check average was $44 per person and the revenue was $2,950. Discussing the projected numbers for The Copper Hen, Chris explains that they aiming to earn $1.5 million and with the rooftop deck they believe they can more than double that number by increasing the check average and number of seats available.
Knowing that this is a company she wants to be a part of, Elizabeth offers $100k for 40% of The Copper Hen. Joe instead offers $100k for 25%, but they will have to pay him 7% preference until he gets his money back. Once he gets paid back, Joe will allow Stephanie to purchase half of his share. Chris doesn’t like the 7% preference aspect of Joe’s deal. As such, Joe agrees to drop it from his offer. Asking Danielle what she thinks, Danielle begins tearing up and accepts Joe’s deal without the 7% preference.
As of the airing of this episode, The Copper Hen has already used a portion of Joe’s investment to launch a cocktail program.