Two chefs with backgrounds in running food trucks in South Florida want to expand to brick and mortar locations. For a chance to reach their dreams, they are pitching their restaurant ideas to Tim Love and Joe Bastianich.
Robyn Almodovar and Stefani Olshan have their roots in food trucks. With years of experience running Palate Party, a food truck that was voted Best Food Truck in 2013 in all of South Florida, Robyn and Stefani want to their next chapter to be a brick and mortar restaurant in San Diego called S&R Eatery. The S&R stands for both Stefani & Robyn, and Sustainable & Reliable. The sustainability aspect of the name is important because they only want to use locally sourced food. The sustainability has already been a key part of their food truck’s success because by recycling as much as possible their food costs are only 19%. Last year, the food truck grossed $153k.
Presenting food that they would serve at S&R Eatery, Robyn explains that they want to offer classic meals with a whimsical twist. An example of this being their caprese salad having a mozzarella balloon. This leads to the first problem with their food. Once a person pops the mozzarella balloon they should smell some garlic, however, Tim smells nothing and Joe finds the other elements of the food to have a strange texture. Upon trying their short rib grilled cheese, Tim thinks they made the dish too sweet.
Discussing the business, Joe and Tim think that S&R Eatery can make a profit. A problem, however, is that they feel the food lacks any real focus. Joe specifically worries about if they can leave the food truck behind and focus on a menu for a restaurant.
Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog and his wife Carla Clauser started gastroPod in a food truck and built the business in Miami. The success of their food truck led them to open a restaurant in a mall food court, and they have been asked to open a second. They have survived on a shoe-string budget but are tired of pinching pennies. Consistently ranked as a top ten food truck since it opened, the couple knows that they can deliver on a third location and ask the investors for $250k for 30% of the company.
Sampling their food, Joe and Tim find the meals to be outstanding. The investors also like that food costs are under 25%. Moreover, Tim and Joe are interested in the fact that Jeremiah and Carla want the investment to create a duplicate store; which means that they are starting to franchise the idea. Jeremiah also explains that he has a background in creating manuals and standardizing meals. Tim and Joe are concerned that Carla and Jeremiah have been creative with money to pay bills. They are also concerned that Jeremiah admits to once having a temper.
Both businesses are led by chefs with passionate and powerful personalities. Tim explains that while S&R Eatery has a lot of energy, its menu isn’t focused. Joe expresses concerns that while gastroPod is on the verge of being scalable, it lacks the profitable location that proves the business can make money.
Believing that gastroPod is focused and scalable, Tim and Joe pick this business to launch. Tim and Joe explain to Jeremiah that they want him to show that he can create a manual that others can easily follow.
Carla and Jeremiah first meet Roy Rede. They explain to him that the company was born in a classic Airstream Trailer and want the store to be reminiscent of that vehicle. To show Roy what they mean, they provide pictures of their mall location. They want the place to have metal and reclaimed wood, with a bright orange as part of their logo.
Speaking to Antonia Lofaso, Jeremiah and Carla are reminded that they need to prove to Joe and Tim that they can easily replicate gastroPod’s food. To show this, they will have to train the staff and have two of each menu item prepared for Antonia by the end of the day. There will need to be two of everything – one made by Jeremiah, the other made by the staff – to prove to Antonia that Jeremiah’s cooking can be easily replicated. Antonia also wants them to think of ways to increase their check average.
Max and Becky are sous chefs provided by the show for Jeremiah to train. They begin reading the standard operating procedures that Jeremiah and Carla have prepared. Wanting to create their own kimchi, Jeremiah and Carla leave the kitchen to visit Koreatown to get kimchi and other items to add to the menu. One of these items is sweetbreads, which are the thymus and pancreas glands of cows.
Antonia arrives for the taste test and despite the extra chefs to help Jeremiah, he isn’t ready on time. Antonia is impressed with the taste and look of the food, however she notices the many of meals aren’t identical like they should be.. Worse, Jeremiah doesn’t have any of the food costs prepared. Antonia explains that Jeremiah needs to show that he has enough understanding of the financials to be a good business partner to Tim and Joe. Antonia makes it clear that Jeremiah should have all of this data ready before he got there. Though Jeremiah gets heated, Antonia lets him know that she wants him to do well.
Carla and Jeremiah stay up all night to finish the business plan and improve the manual. They are tired the next morning but they are pleased to see the work that Roy did and are excited by what he accomplished. Jeremiah heads to the back to begin final preparations for the launch. When Antonia arrives, Jeremiah and Carla meet her with a completed business plan. He also lets her know that projected ticket times will be ten minutes or less and the projected check average will be $14.50 per person.
Tim and Joe arrive, and like the logo and exterior for the restaurant. Antonia shares that while she was worried at first, he did a great job of getting things together. Walking into the restaurant, Joe and Tim feel that the interior looks great and could easily fit in at a mall. Jeremiah is concerned because when testing his cooks, they stumble on the details. Jeremiah lets them know that they need to be on point because he will not be cooking. With these reservations Jeremiah and Carla begin the launch.
The restaurant quickly becomes filled with customers and the kitchen staff is able to handle all the orders. Joe is impressed by how well the staff is trained; even if one burger needs to be redone. Talking to one of the customers, Tim finds that people would visit this place in a food court and that people love the food. However, Tim and Joe want to know what will happen if Jeremiah left the kitchen.
Pulling Jeremiah out of the kitchen to drink a beer, the staff struggle at first and the line gets bigger. Realizing Jeremiah had to leave for a moment the staff steps up to the challenge and begins getting meals out. Tim and Joe explain that if Jeremiah trained his staff right they should be able to operate without the chef there.
Sitting down to try the food, Joe and Tim again enjoy Jeremiah’s food and are impressed by what he’s done. Tim and Joe finish the meal seeing the potential of this restaurant at malls and airports.
The Deal Table
Jeremiah, Carla, Tim, and Joe meet after the launch, and Tim shares that 93% of the diners liked the food and the most popular item was the burger. Joe lets them know that 99% of the diners like the service. Tim feels that Jeremiah also did a great job building the manual and training the staff.
The initial investment request was $250k for 30% and Joe would first like to understand their finances better. Jeremiah admits that the food truck’s revenues have begun to slow down when they opened the mall location. They are current on their rent, but there is a rent variable in that the mall gets 15% of their revenue. Asking about where they got the money to build the first location, Jeremiah lets them know that they have an investor named Pablo who owns 49% of the business after he put in $120k.
The financial situation worries Tim and Joe. Joe appreciates that Jeremiah is so honest, but the money concerns are a big problem. Joe offers to make an emotional investment by offering $120k to buy out the investor. Tim also wants to be part of this, and Joe and Tim agree to split the $120k. Carla and Jeremiah agree to this deal and feel optimistic about the future.
This optimism would be short lived.
After conducting due diligence, Joe and Tim decided not to invest in gastroPod because the risk was too great. In the meantime, Carla and Jeremiah have closed the mall location put the expansion plans on hold.