Lessons 123-149: The Final Crunch

These past few weeks, I feel like I have been everywhere, but here on DICED!

I have been running around and there is very little time to sit down. My feet are thanking me right now! There’s only four weeks left in our culinary management program and I can feel that what we’re learning is getting more substantial. We are getting down to the nitty-gritty and learning about some of the things that can make or break our business. The most interesting and also most intimidating part of the program so far has been financial statements. We have been looking at numbers for businesses that have been successful and businesses that have failed.

In class, we tried to build our own financial statements based on an Italian place in midtown. We talked about who’s coming in at different parts of the day and whether they will sit at the bar or the dining room. We decided on the number of covers we’ll be doing for lunch and dinner, what the average check would be and how much would be spent on food and how much on beverage. Then we talked about the type of staffing we would need, what hours they would be working, and how much they will be paid.

Once we put everything together, we had an idea of what our profit margin would be and our numbers came out a little too optimistic. Steve Zagor said that in our first year, our food and beverage costs won’t be very good because we are figuring out what works for us, so we went back and readjusted. Then we spoke about what type of numbers will look appealing to investors.

Out of everything we have learned, the financial statement is probably the most valuable for me. I feel like it’s so easy to say, “Yes, I want to open a food business.” I have seen quite a few people jump into the industry without thinking about numbers. I was one of them. Simon and I were lucky when we opened Macaron Parlour because we had very little overhead, we rented space in a commercial kitchen that had all the equipment we needed, we got a great price our stand at the Hester Street Fair, no labor costs (it was just us!) and a menu that only required purchasing a handful of ingredients. We called on friends for our photos, our website, and I turned to the instructors at ICE for advice.

We made back most of our initial investment in our first day of sales, which was on a rainy day. This is a very special scenario, because this isn’t the case for most people. Opening a space is a real commitment with a lot of investment. It’s important to really sit down and think about those numbers and make sure that what you’re doing makes financial sense.

While passion goes a long way, you also need to have business sense. I’ve seen smart business people, who have no real passion for food, who have been really successful and a lot of really passionate people who are struggling with their business. It doesn’t always seem fair, but it’s the reality and doing financial statements is a reality check to help you see whether your dream will be a success or how you can make it into a success. That being said, Macaron Parlour has a booth at Madison Square Eats for the next two and a half weeks.

Simon and I met with Instructor Julia Heyer the week before opening to talk about things we need to think about. What Julia helped us do for our business, is an expansion of what we were doing in class. We spoke about our goals for participating in this event, design, who would be coming, who would be buying, average transaction price and the number of transactions we expect per day. Julia advised us on lighting our booth and told us to think about what people will be looking at while approaching our booth. We put up track lighting and got pictures of our products blown up to rest on our shelves, and put all of our products in a display case so people could order with their eyes.

We’re doing inventory daily to figure out what is selling well, what we need to produce more of, what people are requesting and what isn’t doing so well. I have never felt so well prepared for something and this is the biggest commitment we have taken on so far. I know we’re still fairly far from opening a storefront, but this will help us think about how to get there and what we want once we are there. We have also been talking about design and what the design aesthetic says about our concept in class. We had a field trip to Turrett Collaborative Architechts to meet with Wayne Turett and talk about the role of an architect. He went around the classroom and asked us about our concepts and chatted with us the way an architect would when first meeting with a client. We looked at floor plans and the different drawings needed to execute the final product.

Truthfully, I had no idea how extensive the drawings were and visiting was somewhat intimidating! However, it was a good experience to see the more technical side and to get an idea of what lies ahead. In the past few weeks, we have covered beverages in class. There is nothing quite like tasting 12 wines at 10 am in the morning. We covered wine history, service, storage, production, and costing/pricing and tasted our way around the world with Richard Vayda. Then we had Anthony Caporale give us the gist on alcohol, bars, developing a bar and things to consider when we develop our alcohol program. John Henry from Pipeline then came in to get into cocktails with us. We passed around bottles, sniffed and tasted (and spit out!) many different alcohols. We ended with a cocktail competition where we made our own cocktails.

Since I’m not much of a drinker, I was mostly useless in this area, but it was nice to see my classmates in creative action! While I’m not sure how much of a role a bar will play with my bakery/café concept, it’s still important to learn about beverages in the food industry. So, it’s now crunch time. In just three and a half short weeks, we will be presenting our final business plans and graduating. In the meantime, come and visit our stand down at Madison Square Eats. Macaron Parlour is on the corner of 25th St. and 5th Ave. and we will be there every day through October 21st from 11 am to 9 pm.

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