Restaurant Development & Design

MAY-JUN 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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3 6 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 7 Coming Back from Disaster my mom and brother, going to pay their bills? When it's your own business and it's all you've got, you can't imagine where to go or what to do." Fortunately, per Pita Pit's franchise agreement, Kane had insurance; almost everything required to rebuild from scratch would be covered. Unfortunately, his policy dictated that rebuilding would need to take place within four months. With the dam- age so extensive, and with the affected structures designated as heritage build- ings, that was impossible. "At around the two- or three-month mark, I realized there was no way we could rebuild in time to meet the insurance re- quirements, so I started looking for a new location," Kane says. "I was really worried because my whole business model had been built on serving the after-hours bar crowd at that location. I knew if I moved, I wouldn't have that to depend on." Turns out he didn't need it. If there ever was a silver lining to a disaster story, Kane has it. With help from the development team at Pita Pit, he found a new location — a shuttered Quiznos in a big box store plaza five minutes north of his original store. Within months, he had it gutted and trans- formed into Pita Pit's newest prototype design — contemporary, operationally efficient and slightly larger than his original store, which had been un- changed for nearly 20 years. Parking is plentiful, and the area is bordered by schools and residential neighborhoods. His customer base has shifted from the after-bar crowd to school kids, Walmart employees and soccer moms. Sales at the new location, opened a year and a half ago, are now four times that of the old store, and Kane has gone from hav- ing 6 employees to 17. "I thought I had lost everything but had no idea what was in store for me. The relocation actually bumped sales through the roof," Kane says. "Before, my eyes were just focused on making money at the bar rush. Now I've opened up to doing catering, serving the high- school lunch crowd and people living and working in the area. The fire and the rebuilding process were so incredibly tough to go through, but it all turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I learned that I can hit rock bottom, come out the other side and handle establishing a suc- cessful new business." A big lesson Kane learned from the disaster was that he needed to start taking a proper salary. "There's a reason they always say to pay yourself first," he says. "Like a lot of small-business owners, I always took the minimum and put every- thing back into the business. But when something like this happens, the insurance company will only pay out what you'd been paying yourself before. That's one mistake I corrected this time around." Kane now intends to apply the knowledge and experience he's gained to further expand his business. He's looking around for new locations to develop and intends to become a multi-store Pita Pit operator. "Going through this has only opened my eyes and made me stronger," he notes. "Even though it was awful at times, it's hard to describe. It's kind of like a tattoo: It hurts like hell at the time, but the end result is really beautiful." + 11 Tips for a Quicker Comeback • Analyze potential risks for your market area, their level of probability and likely scope of impact. • Identify mission-critical functions and have backup plans for each. • Regularly update and review insurance policies. • Establish and maintain relationships with local authorities and contractors. • Know the type of generator your busi- ness would need and how you'd access and fuel one quickly. • Run what-if scenarios, and establish agreements with vendors and nearby busi- nesses for sharing space and resources. • Create an emergency plan for commu- nicating with managers and staff. Make sure everyone knows the plan. • Keep lists of important phone numbers and business-critical information off-site, and make sure managers have access. • Maintain adequate cash on hand to be able to pay employees, contractors and subs without waiting for e-commerce to resume or insurance checks to arrive. • Keep detailed FF&E and F&B inventory lists. • Sweat the small stuff: It all adds up for insurance claims. Diaster ended in triumph for Pita Pit franchisee Pat Kane (right). Photo courtesy of Pita Pit/Pat Kane

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