We launched in Los Feliz and reached profitability after a few months of trying to figure things out. And starting in January 2020, which everything was good from our tiny little store, we hit an all-time high in sales and profits. And February beat that, and then March got weird, but we were still growing sales and profits. Through the pandemic, that store wound up with a profitable year with all-time highs in multiple months, higher average order values than we'd ever seen, and all that against the backdrop of increasing third-party off-premise apps taking commissions, obviously no indoor dining, and for a great period no outside dining. And also we had civil unrest, we had a curfew, we had a horrible heat wave in the middle of that, and that little store just kept cranking out sales and profits—one or two months maybe slightly off.
At the end of September we were forced to relocate. Our sublandlord elected to increase our rent. It didn't make feasible sense for us to stay. So in the midst of the pandemic, we relocated 2 miles away to a location in Silver Lake, which is over about two miles from Los Feliz in a restaurant that had been vacant for several months and was basically Siberia.
Within 30 days we were back at it. We didn't miss any trade days, but back making money, growing sales, and being profitable. It is private information, but the performance has been beyond our expectations.
What’s your favorite cuisine aside from Honeybee Burger?
I am of course partial to cuisines that have a heavy emphasis on plant-based ingredients and dishes. In particular, restaurants that have an Asian or South Asian menu, from Thai and Vietnamese to the incredible variety of Indian cuisine. We are very fortunate in L.A. to have access to such incredible and authentic restaurants featuring plant-based food and dishes from a multitude of countries. Of course I also like eating at Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre, because not only do they have great food, I'm also an investor!
Who inspires you as a leader?
When I started diving into plant-based food, I was very much inspired by the leadership of both Ethan Brown and Pat Brown, unrelated of course, who are the founders of Beyond and Impossible. As a finance professional, I have more than a passing familiarity with corporate leaders, but I've never seen such passionate, mission-driven leaders who took their visions for a better planet and built those incredible companies around their mission. They are singular minded and unapologetic about trying to change the world for the better, and I find this incredibly inspirational.
What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?
I think many underestimate how dynamic the food and beverage industry has become, and in particular restaurants and fast food. While there will always be a primary focus on food and execution, that's just the beginning. Restaurant founders today need to have a profound understanding of everything from technology and marketing to social media, advertising and finance in order to maximize their chances for success. It's not by accident that I refer to them as founders, as opposed to chefs or food professionals, because I genuinely believe that you almost have to think of a new restaurant as a Silicon Valley startup.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
My wife and I are long-term art collectors, and we've recently gotten really into collecting nfts and digital art. I think art (and collectibles) going digital is a generational change, much like the shift to plant-based dining, and it's really exciting to see the decentralization and disruption of a centuries-old business like art happening in real time.
I also enjoy hiking in the hills above our house, boxing, and training with our 11 year old daughter on the heavy bag, and of course, food!