Starry Kitchen - #SaveOurBalls ..and our Restaurant!
Starry Kitchen - #SaveOurBalls ..and our Restaurant!
We own a pop-up, that was a REAL restaurant that started out of our apartment. It's time for us to grow a pair and Go BIG, or Go HOME!
We own a pop-up, that was a REAL restaurant that started out of our apartment. It's time for us to grow a pair and Go BIG, or Go HOME! Read more
- KPCC (local Public Radio)
- LA Times
- Los Angeles Magazine
- Eater LA
- LA Weekly
- TimeOut LA
- The LA Beat
- First We Feast (part of Complex)
- Food+Wine's FWx (which they then tweeted to 1.1 MILLION PPL..CRAZY!)
- Foodbeast (where you can see a nice stencil of the ACTUAL unicorn tattoo sketch!)
SO MANY WORDS, where do I FIND what I want?!?
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Starry Kitchen Recap
- The Go Big, or Go HOME Moment
- Where? (quick answer: staying in CHINATOOOWN)
- Budget Breakdown (aka "Why so much?!")
- Plan B? (quick answer: there is NO Plan B ^_^)
- Are we real? (aka other press we've been in over the years)
- FOOD P0RN (the most important section in ALL the interwebs)
I'll keep the beginning of this simple. We've accomplished a lot, made a LOT of mistakes in 5.5 years and moved three times (you can find us HERE right now) to get us to where we are today as a still existing+relevant Asian Fusion restaurant in the super competitive market of Los Angeles. We've also proven our staying power statistically BEATING the most common restaurant closing statistic three times over, namely:
Most restaurants close within the first year...
(first move = 2.5 years; second move = 1 year; third move = 1.5 years ^_^)
We've found a new passion in life; made a TON of new friends and found that we have a talent for giving a crazy experience serving incredible Asian food that many people haven't had before OR haven't had in a long time... and that last reason alone is ENOUGH for us to strive to make this thing (Starry Kitchen) happen.
BUT I think a brief history of Starry Kitchen is in order so that YOU, our potential new fan/customer/donor and most importantly FRIEND (more friends are NEVER a bad thing) can understand WHY this is so important to us and WHY we're doing it (it's a pretty good story at the very least ^_^).
STARRY KITCHEN RECAP:
After the financial collapse of ’08 everyone was scrambling and we were no different. My wife had been laid off from her job in the Advertising industry, I was working as an independent producer/film sales agent in Hollywood scrambling to make a buck and both of us looking for a new way to survive. That’s when my (super talented) wife started cooking and posting her exotic creations onto to Facebook. All of our friends were super impressed by her talent and were begging for us to open a restaurant, and that is what we did... with a non-so-traditional beginning.
May of 2009 my wife/partner/best friend/executive chef/Kitchen Ninja and I started an Illegal+Underground restaurant out of the back of our apartment that we called... STARRY KITCHEN! And it took off WAY faster than we had anticipated eventually making our apartment the #1 Asian Fusion restaurant listing in ALL of Los Angeles (our apartment!?!)
We got too BIG: people, Yelpers and eventually the press finding out about our story leading to us being found and shut down by the health department. But I didn't care and ran it for another 3 months "black ops"-style while we were coincidentally already in the process of finally moving into a real+permitted "brick+mortar" spot.
February of 2010 marked the LEGITIMATE launch of Starry Kitchen in a legit brick+mortar space that we took over from friends, and that eventually went viral for us to crowds and busines we could only dreamt of. Only problem, we didn't know how to really run a restaurant correctly, and neither did the people we took over the space from which led to just as many mistakes as our successes. We had to learn on our own at a VERY fast rate.
The Go BIG, or GO HOME MOMENT!
After 5.5 years, those personal mistakes eventually led to having to sell our space, becoming a pop-up, moving two more times, fending for ourselves to keeping our employees and customers with us, finally landing in Chinatown as part of this amazing revitalization that's happening as we speak AND keeping Starry Kitchen ALIVE!
What success we HAVE had has all come from us NOT playing by the rules. Whenever we play by "the rules" we've always failed, but every time we break them and make our own rules: us, our staff and ultimately our customers ALL win. Not everyone will understand that, and that's OK because we're happy to help lead EVERYONE to greener and tastier (Asian) pastures on this journey for all that support us and not alike.
So it's time to get back to having a REAL brick-and-mortar again, BUT do it right, go BIG and have a place that truly feels like STARRY KITCHEN the moment you walk in... or GO HOME. No half-assing it. We don't like it, customers don't like it, the staff doesn't like it.. no one likes it, so we're not going to do it UNLESS we can do it right.
We want to stay in Chinatown and continue to be part of the community of #theNewKidsofChinatown, apply all the success we've been lucky to experience and MOST importantly the lessons of failure as well as we forge on to be crazier and tastier than we can ever imagine possible.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING+DO YOU HAVE A PLACE?
CUT TO THE CHASE: "THIS STORY IS GREAT, BUT YOU SOUND CRAZY AND HOW IS IT REALLY $500K?!?":
The simple answer: I may sound crazy, but there is no room to "break the rules" when it comes to the COST of opening a full fledged restaurant.
Short anecdote: our friend that opens Chipotle-style "counter-service"/fast-casual restaurants (no bar or anything special) spends an average of $600,000+ building out his restaurants.
In our 4.5 years of experience being "legit" we found this to be true too often: saving money (in the wrong places) can easily cost MUCH more money in the long run.
Expensive mistakes affects not only the bank account, but also the staff and customer experience. And when the customer experience suffers, the business can't make the money to pay for those mistakes anymore.
This # below is THE cost of building and operating in an existing restaurant (and can get much higher) with the look+feel we're aiming for. These estimates were built together with a small and very experienced team (all three of us combined equal ~35+ years of experience) that includes:
- our designer, Kellie Patry, who's been the lead designer on projects big and small including hotels, bars, restaurants and even coffee shops
- Chris McIntosh, former Director of Operations for the the LA burger chain, Umami Burger. Specifically oversaw the budgets, build outs and full opening+execution of many of their locations, and also built and successfully sold his own restaurant recently as well
This estimate is based on getting a ~2000 square foot (sq ft) space (80+ seats with a small bar).
Rather than debate about why an industrial workhorse food processor (Robot Coupe) is $900 vs a $50 home one, let's jump into the major line items that sets this in reality:
- $25k - Kickstarter's cost (5%)
- $25k - Amazon payments (5%, Kickstarter's credit card processing partner to process your pledges)
- $175,000 - Current Market Rate Construction on a 2000 sq ft space (full kitchen, dining room, bar remodel)
- $50k - Furniture (mid-level quality: chairs, tables, bar tables, stools including extras for larger parties and general replenishment)
- $25k - Food Service Equipment (plates, glassware, stemware and silverware to start with)
- $20k - Beer and Wine License (license and price of consultant to jump through city hoops)
- $15k - Floor Repair (city approved repairs and fixes before opening)
- $15k - Plumbing Repair (city approved repairs and fixes before opening)
- $10k - Opening food inventory (gotta get the food to make and sell ^_^)
- $7k - Restroom repair (city approved repairs and fixes before opening)
These are the major items that budget is made up of. Some #'s are more flexible than others, but we have to be responsible and account for delays, going over-budget, and the unexpected.
This also doesn't include:
- $50k - ~1+ month Operating Budget (staff payroll not including management for a 6 day a week lunch and dinner restaurant when NOT overstaffed)
- Security deposit on a lease, maintenance contracts, daily wear-and-tear repairs, daily linens and uniforms, accounting, advertising/marketing
- whatever is left: to pay back those that helped us from the beginning
CONCLUSION: MAYBE we're not so crazy after all and it DOES add up! :)
"IS THERE A PLAN B?"
NOPE, this IS the plan and our LAST STAND. This is not the "Go Big or Go to Plan B Moment!" We're going to give it our ALL and we're putting all our eggs in THIS basket. We hope you'll support (and enjoy the eggs while you're at it too) :)
"OK, NO PLAN B.. SO WHAT IS THE TIMELINE?"
IF these crazy shenanigans ACTUALLY goes through (it COULD happen!!):
- Feb 1st - close of Kickstarter campaign
- Feb 10th - 13th - secure funds through Amazon Payments
- Feb 13th - 18th - evaluate what can be cleaned up for a Chinese New Year soft launch/opening announcement
- Feb 18th - test run
- Feb 19th - Feb 22nd - Chinese New Year soft opening to take advantage of HUGE influx of walking traffic
- Feb 23rd - March 16th - close down for full 21 days construction/renovation of space
- Mid-March - Kickstarter Backers party, Friends+Family Test and.. hopefully OPEN if construction stays
"YOU GUYS SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE ON CRACK, ARE YOU REALLY... REAL?!"
- The New York Times (twice!)
- LA Times (TOO many articles that we're SO honored to receive.. holy MOLY)
- The New Yorker (twice TOO, holy mackerel!)
- Food+Wine Magazine
- Food Network / Cooking Channel
- Travel Channel
- Bravo (yeah, it was a trashy reality show starring a lot of my friends, but I was on it!)
- LA Weekly
- Los Angeles Magazine
- Local NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC and everything in between
"TOO MUCH JIBBA JABBA, I WANT MORE FOOD P0RN"
Risks and challenges
I've personally worked in two of the HARDEST industries to crack (I'm what some call a "glutton for punishment", but I kind of love these industries): film/tv and restaurants. Both are equally challenging, but somehow I've survived in both.
The main issue with owning a restaurant is, we're at the whims of diners, their appetites and even proximity. People cannot be forced to try us, our food or any restaurant in Los Angeles until they're ready AND is convenient to them because the reputation about Los Angeles traffic: it's true! What could normally take 30 minutes without traffic can become 1 hour and 30 minutes. Bottom line, they must want to, whether it be from previous experience, word of mouth, Yelp or literally just being on our front door step with the option of being hungry or not.
"We're in the business of being CONSISTENT": consistent timing, consistent taste, consistent attitude, consistent feel, consistent response and consistent communication amongst the staff"
The primary issue for Starry Kitchen IS being fully capitalized, including to be able to pay our staff consistently and on time who have been loyal to Starry Kitchen since day one! Another issue for us is to be able to weather storms that come with launching a unique, kicka$$ Asian restaurant in Los Angeles. In addition to ensuring CONSISTENCY whether the restaurant only has one table w/ people, or is completely packed. As a restaurant, we only have one chance to make a first impression, and once a customer decides to walk in through our doors- as brazen as I may come off, we recognize it is OUR business to lose (or win) and when we can't service people consistently, or consistently impress them giving them a reason to come back because we're trying to save a buck or two, or because we I can't financially justify employing people during a slow period; THAT'S how we LOSE business, which at this point is something my wife and I are unwilling to sacrifice. We want to do it right, make the right decisions for us and our customers, and grow the business so people will want to come back, bring their friends, families, loved ones and grow with us.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)