Patent Series 1/10 - Initial Phases
We're going to start a new blog series on our experience with Patent Coffee and Patent Pending. Simmer Group's cafe and cocktail bar, respectively. This project has been a great experience for everyone here, and it's time to share all the knowledge we picked up along the way.
Simmer has been in the trenches for years now - but never on this side of things. It's easy to tell clients what to do - it's difficult to trust those instincts when your capital is on the line. This 10 part blog series will start from the beginning and progress through launch - hope you enjoy!
Part 1: The Initial Phase
This first phase involves selecting a location, gathering a group of preliminary investors, coming up with a concept, doing diligence on the neighborhood, and deciding if you want to proceed. We'll call this the 'feeling-out' phase.
The first part of this for all restaurateurs and entrepreneurs is taking a leap of faith - seeing an opportunity and deciding to go for it - like we did back in April 2017.
We knew the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan was the place to be because we moved here in June of 2016, and in that short amount of time we've seen things progress. Ideally, we wanted to be between Broadway and 6th Avenue on 28th (where Simmer's office is located, and a subway stop). Second choice was 27th street and then 29th. We wanted this specific part of NoMad. Knowing your budget and concept is crucial when selecting a location. We knew our budget wouldn't afford us a storefront on Broadway, but being on a smaller street still gave us enough foot-traffic to succeed.
We booked a tour with a broker we had a previous relationship with and took off on foot. We looked at about 6 places that morning, and the second we walked into the basement space of the Radio Wave Building, we were smitten. It had the perfect qualities we needed: it was unique, strange (Nobody wanted it as it had been on the market for nearly 11 months. This was primarily due to the floor layout and lack of store frontage. Being a landmarked building we could not put a sign outside, and the place only has two glass doors - no other windows or openings to the street), large enough for two small concepts (1475 sqft) and to top it off, it had historical significance; it was the Radio Wave Building where Nikola Tesla lived and conducted his experiments on radio waves in 1896.
We did things a little differently here. Many restaurateurs know their concept and look for a location to put it in...simple as that. We knew the neighborhood we wanted, and we had found our location. Now it was time to come up with a concept. We're not saying one way is better than the other - we have clients that have done both, but 90% of the time you know the concept then look for a fitting space, so we were in the minority.
In this 10-part series we'll be telling a lot of truths and this first one is a doozy: we had no clue what concept we were going to do. At first we planned on having a cafe in the front and a high-end barber shop in the back. One of the partners had a relationship with his barber and one Sunday the successful, entrepreneurial barber came up for a tour. He walked through and 10 minutes later gave a hard no - he said we were crazy. He echoed what the real-estate market had been saying for the previous 11 months: 'There's no store frontage or windows - it's a dark dingy space and I don't want anything to do with that place!' There are many times in the process when you will feel defeated - this was our first. We needed another concept back there to split the rent with us...we didn't want to take the entire space, what would we do with it?! We couldn't proceed without him.
We thought about pursuing other successful barber shops in the area to work out a deal, but one of the partners had another idea, an idea that if done correctly, could yield a much higher return than a barber shop... The partners at that time, which weren't many, figured out the best move would be putting a cocktail bar in the back. We had secretly had wanted this all along, and we were deep-down thrilled when the barber backed out, now we had to convince everyone else it was a good idea. Naturally, there were a lot of initial no's and questions from all involved: a) would the building let us? Probably not. b) would the neighborhood allow it? Probably not. c) could we get a liquor license? Probably not. We'd have to just do beer and wine - which isn't as profitable. d) could we find the additional capital needed to make this happen? Probably not. A lot of probably not's - things were not looking positive for the cafe and cocktail bar.
Obstacles aside and location selected, we trudged on and begrudgingly began lease negotiations. Looking back, we knew we were doing this prematurely - but we wanted the space and knew we would figure out our concept sooner and how to deal with the all the 'not's' soon enough.
Lesson we learned through this part of the process: if you want something and believe in it enough, you'll find a way to make it work. See you next time for part 2/10.