Restaurant Development & Design

July-August 2015

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

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J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 5 • 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 • 2 1 probably 20 other casual-dining restau- rants right nearby. At Crenshaw, there's a bigger spotlight on us and we can make a bigger difference as an employer and member of the community. rd+d: But you were also realistic about the challenges. What was key to addressing some of the toughest of those challenges? KW: One of the biggest considerations was whether we felt comfortable that the unit could be secured. When we decided to go into that location we immediately began looking for a very "community-connected" security company that had relationships with police, community leaders and even with some of the gang elements in the area. We didn't want a run-of-the-mill mall security frm; we needed someone with expertise in dealing with inner- city security issues in as positive a way as possible, someone who would treat people with respect. We also wanted large people, literally – very physically imposing security people. It was part of our con- ditional use permit agreement with the police and the city that we would employ security at the restaurant the majority of time it's open. I think that's a big part of why we've been so successful there. We're also very involved in the com- munity. Before we opened, we went out and talked to community groups to let them know who we are, what we're about and why it makes sense for us to be their neighbor. And we've stayed involved. Ed and I both teach entrepreneurship class- es at local high schools; Ed is on several boards of nonprofts that do great work in and around South L.A. I do the same and serve as board chair of a prominent community college here. rd+d: Is securing fnancing tougher for inner-city locations than elsewhere? EB: Not really. It just takes a bit more work, depending on who you're deal- ing with and what their guidelines are. The bigger issue for us was simply the Crenshaw Boulevard address. We really needed to paint a clear picture of what's actually there, what the challenges are and how we planned to address them. We had to make them understand why we wanted to do business in the inner city and that we could execute. Once you accomplish that, it's all about the numbers just like anyplace else. rd+d: Your numbers, including at Cren- shaw, show some of the strongest growth in the BWW system. Are your three units fairly equal in terms of proftability? KW: No. At the Crenshaw location the high cost of security defnitely impacts proftability. Plus, in neighborhoods like that, where you're dealing with a popula- tion that has less disposable income, you get a little more pressure on costs. There tend to be more comps given away and there's more demand for discounted items, so the average checks are a bit lower. Those are all things that impact your proftability. rd+d: You've proven that developing in the inner city can be a win-win. Any advice you'd share with other restaurant chains that might be considering following your lead? KW: First off, I'd advise against trying to develop only in the inner city, because the reality is that you're likely to be fnancially less competitive. The pressure on margins is greater than in other mar- kets. But, if you have the capacity to do it and are comfortable there, it needs to be done and there's money to be made. EB: Making the effort to have a strong connection with the community is criti- cal. Sometimes businesses try to just im- port themselves into the inner city; they don't hire people from the community, don't help the community, they just have a take, take, take attitude. Obviously, you have certain business objectives but you have to balance the community's interests with your own. When you do that, people will support you and you can have a positive impact. rd+d: What's next for PCF? Will you continue to develop more restaurants? KW: From a business standpoint we're always looking to grow. We're fnalizing a multi-store commitment with Buffalo Wild Wings for the North Los Angeles market. Hopefully, in either Q4 of this year or Q1 of next we'll be opening our next unit. We're also looking at various other concepts and considering what we might be able to add to the boat to continue to grow and develop the PCF restaurant brand. +

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