When my family started Ninong’s in 2008 things were a lot different. The state of our economy, our customer base, and our sales numbers have changed in the 10 years we’ve been open. I noticed a shift when I started working for the restaurant. We were growing and I could tell mostly because of how much we were spending in food costs.
I had a 2013 Subaru Impreza hatchback at the time and I started noticing that slowly but surely my car was filling up with groceries more and more every week. It got to the point where I couldn’t fit the groceries anymore so I’d have to make the trips to the grocery store 3x a week instead of my normal 2x.
Imagine that. An extra trip just because I couldn’t fit everything in my car. I knew something needed to change.
Then a salesman from Sysco walked into our door. Bless him! He had no idea who we were. In fact, he was just walking by because he wanted to try to recruit a restaurant down the street from us. He stopped in and offered to look through our grocery list and see if we would be a good fit.
Working with Sysco has been integral in our growth as a restaurant. Aside from groceries they offer so many free services that help businesses in the restaurant industry succeed. I can’t say enough about how much I value the relationship Ninong’s has with Sysco.
A couple weeks ago we had a Business Review at their headquarters in Oxnard. One of the things that I truly believe has kept us in business for almost 10 years is that we don’t want to stay stagnant. We always want to keep pushing the envelope, trying to evolve, and challenging ourselves to make even better dishes. Sysco has really helped us to do that.
The new chef showed us some really great dishes and has our minds turning with ideas on our next release. I can’t tell you exactly what we have planned yet but rest assured that we’re working on some really yummy stuff. Stay tuned!
Ninong’s has given me and my family so many opportunities. One of them being featured in different publications, blogs, and even on TV every once in a while.
Prior to officially opening at our new location, we invited some of the friends we’ve made in the media industry to come and eat some food! We wanted to showcase some of the new menu offerings we were going to have as well as let them see the new location for themselves.
Most recently, the Filipino Channel (aka TFC) showed a segment about us on their show Balitang America from the tasting. What an honor! It was perfect timing too, we were just about to announce that we were going to start serving our Chicken and Waffle that same week. They beat us to it!
Thank you to Steve and everyone at TFC for the feature!
When I was brainstorming my angle for this post I was originally thinking about people that have never opened a restaurant before. But as a person that has been working full time in the restaurant business for almost 5 years and seeing my family run the restaurant for an additional 5 years there’s still SO much that I didn’t know about. Because of this I decided that I needed to dedicate one post in this series to what to expect when opening a restaurant and/or moving an existing one.
- First thing’s first. Nothing is going to go to plan. You’re going to run into road blocks, things won’t go as planned, and things are going to take longer than you thought.
- You need to hire professionals. I can’t stress this enough. My contractor, Matt of Hunt Construction, and my architect, Robert of E2 Design, were a God send! I can’t sing their praises enough. Hire people that you trust and understand your expectations. Because I hired people I trust and understood very well what I was hoping to accomplish it was easy to lean on them when I had questions. When it comes to restaurant build outs or remodels you want someone that does it right the first time and is familiar with what the City requires. That leads me to my next point.
- Know the City requirements. This is why hiring experienced professionals is so key. You’re not going to know what the City requires if you’ve never done this before. Even the professionals that have experience run into new requirements all the time. Our restaurant didn’t open when we hoped because we ran into unexpected requirements and small road blocks. The building and health code books for LA County is so overwhelming so the best thing to do is rely on your trusted professionals to help guide your way.
- Permits are not cheap. Building permits, health permits…and stupid me, I forgot to budget for those. For the City of LA I believe overall building permits are a percentage of the overall cost of your build out (I know, sucky right?!) and then there are the plumbing permits, mechanical permits, electrical permits, etc. The health permit for the City of LA was over $1000 for our restaurant.
- Whatever you think it’s going to cost, multiply that by at least 3. We had a budget in mind, but we went over. It was unavoidable though. We needed to pump grease traps, hydro-jet the lines, put in a new fire system, clean the hood…it was an endless list. I felt like all I was doing was writing checks.
- You’re going to live in your restaurant for a while. People think that restaurants could be an easy way to make money and that it would be low maintenance if they just hired a manager to manage it for them. NOPE. Get that out of your mind right now. No matter what, for your restaurant to have success you need to invest time. At least in the beginning. You need to establish the expectation, train, teach, iron out operations.
- You won’t know what you’re doing for a little while. No matter how long you’ve been cooking your food or serving your customers a new space will throw anyone off. It’s going to take a little while to get acquainted to where everything is, where you put everything, and how you’ll set everything up. Once you “nest” a little bit it’ll get better.
- It’s going to come down to the wire. That day before you officially open you’re going to have a laundry list of things to do. Even if you didn’t procrastinate, you’re going to remember things at the last second. Before we opened we were working from 6 am until almost 3 am and there still wasn’t enough hours in the day.
- Expect the unexpected. You’ll definitely learn a great deal, get really stressed, have a few mental break downs, and lose sleep. But honestly, this experience has been so rewarding to see people walking into our place and enjoying themselves. All we can do is approach these unexpected hurdles with grace, trust in the process, and know it’ll all work out.