This is surreal. Just two years ago, Chef and I were completely sleep deprived as we prepared for our life changing event (our first SF Street Food Festival). We spent weeks agonizing over every aspect of our operation. Meetings with Logistics Prime, Mover and Shaker, La Cocina and countless other folks were the norm, largely because we were so afraid of failure that we poured every ounce of energy and dead presidents we could into insuring the festival was a success. Two years later, I guess it is safe to say it was.
Year one, we amassed some of our now legendary players: Monk, Number 1, Sue, Number 2, Logistics Prime (our personal lean management consultant), Mover and Shaker (our personal connection to the stars), the Water Boy, Benjamin Button, and the Government Twins. To be fair some of these folks (the last three) were grandfathered into the operation because of the familial nature of a fledgling enterprise. Mover and Shaker…well it was all her fault that this train left the station with Chef and I chasing to get on board, so technically she owed us. In this first 12 months we had many growing pains. We joke now how it would take us an entire week to execute a 40 person gig: planning, purchasing, preparing, staffing and delivering. What a difference some time has made.
Year two, we amassed more talent and some systems for success: Marketina, the Director, Sunday’s Best, the Deacon, Keisha Burns, Hustleman, to name a few. Our menu expanded. Our customer base and customer fulfillment grew. We developed a footprint on the web which continued to funnel business our way. And we kept growing. The terrible twos showed us some ugly things about our capacity, and need for talent. We had some epic growing pains, but from those we got stronger. The stretch marks from those times remind us even today, who we were and who we need to be.
Now we enter year three…why is there no name for year three? Everybody knows about the terrible twos or sweet sixteen, but what about the other developmental years? Surely there must be something that happens in a person/entity’s life between two and sixteen that is memorable and earmarked by some adjective. But I digress. As we enter year three, we have found that we have outgrown many of our situations. And now our plans, as beautiful and Camelotish as they were in our Naiveté, do not make as much sense. This is the beauty of life…it happens. It is our responsibility to adapt to it, or it will swallow us whole. So for us, our plan was to get a fleet of mobile trucks, then a facility for our catering operation, and later a brick and mortar restaurant. Well, our operation has grown to the bursting point and we need a building like yesterday! This is before we even put one beautifully wrapped truck on the street.
We are working in the world of the “new money” – which really is silly, because whether your money is old or new, it all looks and spends the same. We had our first “old money” event just two weeks ago. And let me say, that the test drive of the Tesla was cracking! So now we are working for the old money, the new money, and the regular money. All of whom, like the same thing…our unique menu. This same menu is what is keeping us in demand, which is in turn causing the strain on the operation and the new stretch marks.
So with all of this in mind, we jumped headlong into the heretofore unknown waters (relative to us) of the Pop Up Restaurant! Crazy right? But actually it makes perfect sense. Follow me now. If the goal is to own a restaurant, and we want to be successful, we will need experience. The Pop Up gives us this opportunity without the major risk of capital. Check. If we want a restaurant we need – wait for it—funding. We can’t get funding without investors (Angel or Crowd) seeing the value of our product. The Pop Up allows us to show these investors and patrons our vision, so we can confidently show the worth of our brand. Check. If we want our restaurant to be successful it will rely on the talent providing an exceptional experience to our guests. The pop up allows us the opportunity to showcase the amazing folks we have had the pleasure of working with these past two years in our catering operations (which when you think of it, is just bringing a restaurant experience to a location—at least that’s how we do it). Check and mate.
Now at 2 in the morning on Pop Up Eve, I am once more pacing the floor in my mind as we dot is and cross ts, getting ready for the big day which at this point is a scant 31 hours away. Technically, we will be at our posts in 27 hours, but the first plate should be hitting the guests table (if the reservations are holding and everyone is on time) in 31 hours, well 30 hours and 57 minutes. I wonder if moving forward, all the major Pinx events, are going to be like this?
Life is short…eat something memorable.
Things at the Waffle Cave are bonkers right about now. We have exactly 7 days until we open our first Pop Up restaurant. It’s like we are having a baby all over again. Mind you both Chef and I are past the safe age for child bearing, well technically since I can’t bear a child I guess she is but you get my point. But this event is bringing with it all the requisite stress on the body (in this case the Catering Business). Fortunately, the village we now have is stronger than ever.
It is funny how this little enterprise was born from Peer Pressure. Friends pushed us out of our comfort zone to do something we had never done before, because they believed we could do it. I say we, but we all know the culinary talent is really Chef. I am just her Food Evangelist, spreading the news and bringing the buzz. As more and more people come to try the goods, and the more people talk (hurray internet, Yelp, and referrals), the greater the demand for our product, or the challenge to our paradigm to create and expand our offering. The greater the demand, the more capacity we need to fulfill that demand, and here is where the miracles happen. Every moment in our fledgling growth where we have been stretched to our absolute end, talent appears. I mean what we needed at the time we needed for the long haul or for a short period of time, there has always been a ram in the bush.
First there was Monk AKA Number 1 AKA Sarge. This dynamo of organizational efficiency – and good friend of Chef – has been with us from the beginning. She has almost as much sweat equity in this thing as Chef and I. Sue…well she was Chef’s first true Sous Chef. She learned many a trick at the feet of our Savant. She left us to move on to Biotech pastures. Marketina was hands down the best EA Chef ever had. But she has moved on to some tech company in the city. Sad face. The Director has become more and more integrated into the operations. Right when we needed more kitchen talent with operations, she came on board and kept Chef from quitting at least a dozen times. Of late we have added the Graduate: not like Dustin Hoffman but Culinary School, professionally trained. And in her short two months with us she has put in almost as much time as Sarge. Mr. Positivity and the Artist have joined Tweeta in coming to regularly contribute in the kitchen, the bakery, the back office, and in front of customers. Sunday’s Best AKA Keisha Burns has been both dependable and loyal…even though she enjoys everything well done. Hustle Man and the Waterboy have been stalwarts on the line. Just this week we found our dishwasher, Blue collar man! His work has been VALUABLE! This group has become the backbone of the land of misfit toys (if you worked with us for just 3 hours you would understand), taking the burden from Chef and I allowing us to focus on growing the brand.
The brand…it sounds funny when I hear it. But it is real. In the past 2 months, the brand has brought us to multimillionaires, titans of industry, and professional athletes. I saw Bugatti, a Lexus IFA, and I drove a Tesla (the car show is coming next week and now I only have 4 cars left to drive on my bucket list). We found out from a Phone Mogul that the next big thing in mobile phones is the Google Nexus 7. I’ve been looking for it but it looks like it isn’t even out yet! As Garret Morris would say, “[Pinx] has been beddy beddy good to me”.
So with a mere 7 days to go till the pop up, we are in logistic meetings, purchasing meetings, staffing meetings, as well as the daily operations. We step back and think all this came from waffles? I mean Waffles. Not a restaurant, not a restaurant. Waffles. I can’t believe it. So I now simultaneously thank and curse you Mover and Shaker. And to everyone else that was at the house on that fateful Saturday morning when we had that big brunch and you all said we should have a restaurant…your foretelling is coming true in one week. I can’t hardly believe it.
Life is short…eat something memorable.