Business had slowed for the night at The Carving Board. It was just quiet enough for David Adir to grab the business card and run into the back, where he could type a name into Google and see what popped. “The first thing I said was, ‘Holy crap. This guy is real,’” Adir says.
Moments before, a mysterious guest tried the fast casual restaurant’s Pot Roast sandwich and turned to Adir’s brother, Yoav, and said, dead-pan, “This is the best [expletive] sandwich I’ve had in my entire life. How would you like to be on TV?”
The brothers, who started in the restaurant industry washing dishes at 13, laughed it off. Their Los Angeles concept was open just three months and they weren’t far removed from those survival-mode shifts. Adir was still learning how to input payroll and the brothers were arriving at 7 a.m. and staying until 10, 10:30 each night.
After searching online, though, Adir emerged and quickly agreed to shoot a segment on Travel Channel’s “Sandwich Paradise.” A crew showed up the next day.
From the moment The Carving Board opened in 2012, Adir and his brother were pleased with the reception. Located in an office building, traffic began internally and eventually spread by sight, as it does so often in L.A. “As soon as anybody sees a line in L.A., they want to see what it is,” Adir says.
Originally, they tried to get by with just the two of them plus a dishwasher, but quickly realized that arrangement was a faulty one. They saved everywhere they could, helping with the build-out and piecing together the restaurant from auctions, Craigslist, and every discount outlet they could find. That reclaimed wood? Finished by the hands of the owners.
Yet as soon as the TV crew left, Adir had an inkling his life and business would never be the same. He called around to restaurants that were featured on the show, but nobody was overly helpful. And even if they had offered some advice, it likely wouldn’t have made a difference.
The TV show aired January 2, right after New Year’s, and the snowball effect was on.
“It was the scariest week I’ve had in my entire life in this business,” Adir says.
Adir tried to prepare by hiring a couple of cooks. Unfortunately, training didn’t happen until the same day the flood rushed in. “I cooked from the time we opened until an hour after we closed. It was insane,” he says.
When the pace ebbed somewhat, Adir says, he took a step back and recognized the moment for what it was. “We said, ‘Holy crap, we really have something on our hands.’”
The Adirs are restaurant lifers. Each worked through the many facets of the business, from management to line cook to front-of-the-house employees and more. In 2007, Adir was working at The Cheesecake Factory when he decided he needed a break from restaurants. Three years later, he was itching to return but didn’t want to work for anybody else. The heart of the recession influenced the brothers to create a concept designed around a $10 price point.
Adir sat down and started jotting a menu comprised of their personal favorites. The first thing on the menu was what would become known as the Turkey Dinner. It’s what you would expect: Thanksgiving in a sandwich. Turkey, stuffing, grilled onions, turkey gravy, and dried cranberries packed into sourdough with a side of gravy.
“We really started taking a look at comfort food that we love to eat and just kind of writing a list of let’s turn this into this and writing this false menu of ideas. From there, once we had a concept idea, we started looking for locations, hopped in the car, and started driving up and down the areas that we knew,” he says.
The sandwiches have only evolved. Food Network gave the brother’s Spaghetti Meatballwhich airtime on its “Guilty Pleasures” during a segment on January 18, 2016. This concoction is sliced all-beef meatballs topped with homemade marinara and melted Mozzarella, served between Parmesan spaghetti bread with extra marinara on the side.
Fast forward to 2016 and The Carving Board had three locations open, with an additional unit in development. Average unit volume exceeded $1 million, and the company was enjoying a 12.05 percent year-over-year increase in sales.
Even with concrete success to lean on, Adir had a pretty similar reaction to the restaurant’s next critical moment. Someone came into the restaurant one afternoon and then called Adir shortly after. He hailed from Dubai.
“He said, ‘I’d love to bring you out there.’ Then it was me going, ‘OK, sure.’ It was an odd conversation,” Adir says. “I think I got off the phone and ran to my brother’s room and said some dude from Dubai wants to buy in. He was like, ‘OK. Sounds good.’ He thought it was a complete joke.”
Like the TV show, it wasn’t. Soon after, the brothers were putting an LOI together and working with a franchise lawyer. Four locations are scheduled to open in Dubai in the near future, with the first coming in June. The experience led Adir to pursue franchising stateside as well.
How many units will spring up in the U.S. is a fluid detail, Adir says, although the company expects to hit 10 units in relatively quick fashion. They will also continue to build corporately, he adds.
The good news is that ever since those early days, when Adir recognized The Carving Board’s potential, the company has run like a company with hundreds of units in sight.
“When I built the concept with my brother, we really put it together not to be a mom-and-pop-sandwich spot. We built all of our recipes to follow the exact same way we were trained in the industry,” he says. “We had the exact recipes for everything. We were doing inventory every week. Everything was mise en place. There wasn’t anything that wasn’t run the way a corporate store was run. My idea had always been to grow to 500, 800 units, and that was what we were shooting for, to grow exponentially from this point.
“In that five-year mark, I would love to have to 400 or 500 stores if it’s possible,” he says.