Sunday, September 11, 2011

In A Perfect World…

In a perfect world, we’d have no crime, we’d have no poverty, we’d always have enough for our needs, and we’d always enjoy what we do.  The weather would be perfect (I know, I shouldn’t use the same word to describe the word I’m talking about…), we wouldn’t have to worry about the cost of things like gas, housing, utilities, and such…computers would always work, cell phone calls would never drop, and…well, we would all be able to live a comfortable life.  However, while that does sound enticing and I’m sure we’ll get to that point sometime, I’m not sure that a perfect world would help us grow strong and give us the fortitude to carry on – a perfect world could make us a bit complacent.  Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to live in a perfect world because if we did, I’d have my Diner open by now.

No, I’m not open yet, and I do find that a bit discouraging.  My ‘first’ thoughts on when I wanted to be open was by Thanksgiving…of 2010.  Well, notice today’s date – we are in September of 2011 (actually, Sep. 11, 2011 so a side note of a moment of silence to all those that lost their lives on that day…………………………………………………………..and a heart-felt thank-you to all those that tried to do what they could to help those in need that day and to those who continue to do so today).

Anyway, my open dates that I wanted were, as noted earlier, by Thanksgiving of 2010, then by early March, then by April 21 (BYU Graduation), then May, then by July 4, then August, September…. Why haven’t I opened yet? – I could say because we don’t live in a perfect world but that may be taking the easy way out.  There is some truth to that though – we ‘don’t’ live in a perfect world and because of that, there are some struggles, maybe some missed opportunities, maybe some bad luck or bad timing…I know one thing…I don’t have all the answers.  That reminds me of a line from a movie when ‘Rudy’ was trying to seek for answers “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him” – by the way, that’s a great movie.

So, I’ve missed all the dates so far that I’ve wanted to be open…I could conclude then that we in-fact do not live in a perfect world.  There have been some setbacks along the way as I’m still fighting through one of the last major hurdles.  I will finish the race though…I’m too far along to not finish.  How far along?  Well, we won’t talk about the money aspect of it as I’m already very well committed to a number of loans and such.  As for the Diner itself, the construction is just about complete.  I’ll be laying the VCT (Vinyl Tile) and the Epoxy floor this week – I hope to be done with that by this time next week, my booths should be completed and in place by the end of this week or next, my cabinets will be in place…just about everything will be in  place to be able to open…except for the equipment – that is the major hurdle in trying to secure an equipment lease (mind you, it is an $80,000 equipment package).  I had one lender tell me that my lease deal would have been completed in a hear-beat two years ago – I guess I should have decided to do this project two years ago then. 

Well, we really don’t live in a perfect world – however, I kind of like the world that we live in.  Yes, there are changes that would be good, yes, it would be great if some things were done differently, but aren’t all these things for our experience?  We experience opposition every day and that can be a very good thing – it can make us stronger and can give us the determination to keep going.  I know people can be defeated by opposition as well – we see and hear about that every day in the news or in lives of those that we know.

A perfect world…no, I’m not open yet and am working hard at getting things in place so I can open as soon as I can (maybe early October??), yes, I’ve hit some roadblocks and setbacks during construction – BUT, I have my health, I’ve been blessed with abilities that have allowed me to do a lot of work that has literally saved me thousands of dollars, I have a roof over my head, and I have friends and family that continue to support me in all that I do.  No, it may not be a ‘perfect’ world, but I don’t think I would trade my life or experiences for anything.  I’ll get the Diner open – I know I will…which brings me to another great quote from a movie…well, I forget the actual quote, but the context is: “As they often sailed to get to their destinations in the Tongan islands, he would pray for a good tail wind.  But someone else taught him that such a prayer, if granted, would actually be detrimental to someone else sailing the opposite direction.  Instead, he should pray for a good wind.”  So, I will get the Diner open…all in due time…though I wouldn’t mind sooner rather than later.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Where has the time gone...

Well, today is Aug. 5, 2011...that means it's been 3 months, 11 days, 12 hours, 32 minutes, and 14 seconds since I last updated my blog here...well, ok, I really don't know the hours and minutes - I just got on a roll there.  It has been over 3 months though as my last update was back in April - wow...where has the time gone.

A lot has happened since April - the biggest change is that my build-out is well on the way to being completed.  What a pain of a journey to get to where I am right now.  Now, I will say in advance that not all the people I have worked with have been a pain...some of them, a lot of them, have been very good to work with - it's just the entire process that has been a pain.  First, because my lease space is larger than 3,000/SF, the city (Provo City) requires architectual drawings - bummer.  If I had only the 3,000/SF, my drawings would have been sufficient - instead, I had to pay big bucks (really) to get a full set of plans drawn that involved a draftsman, architect, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and plumbing engineer.  Yeah - whenever you see those two words - 'architect' and 'engineer', the money I thought was mine is no longer mine.  I'll have to give some additional stories about the 'plans' later...for now, I just want to give a quick and decent update.

So, plans were done and submitted - the city was very quick to approve and after more big bucks, I had the building permit inhand!!  However, as the bids came in, everything came to be...well, not just 'over' budget but INSANELY over budget - for me anyway.  It was really to the point if we couldn't get the bids down, the project would have died...and I would have been on the hook for a 7-year lease.  Fortunately, after meetings and a re-design by me (since the entire design is my own), we got everything down to where it was acceptable - whew!

We finally pulled the trigger on the build-out on Jun. 27 with the framing of the interior walls and then the other subs came in 3 days later (electrical, plumbing, HVAC).  Actually, the electrical subs didn't come in...another story there as we had to go with a different electrical sub.

Fast forward to today.......we completed (mostly) the painting mid-week this week, the suspended ceiling has been started, the fire sprinkler system is being adjusted, new front doors are going in according to my floor plan - I'll be starting the bathroom tile next week, lights will be going in next week and things are moving along.

In short, sorry for the passage of time without any updates.  That time frame was...not stressful but just disappointing because I'm a hands-on type of guy and I wanted to get things going (to the point that I just wanted to do everything on my own).  However, since this is a commercial building...  In any case, I'm shooting for a Sept. 8 opening - pending equipment arrival.  I know I need to start interviewing and hiring soon...along with many other things that I need to get done.  These past few weeks since the actual start of the build-out have been busy ones for me - up at around 5/6:00 am, to bed around 12/1/2 am - nothing like a good hard day's work (well, as hard as one can work while on a computer for my current job).

I'll try to keep this blog more current though I do have a lot on my plate...doing the painting, installing tile, installing all the flooring, making my own cabinets and maybe my own tables...a lot to do to keep me busy.  Pictures? - yes, I have them...I need to sort through them and post them - should be coming soon!  Until then, I'm still alive and kicking and moving towards an open date!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Road Less Traveled...

The Road Less Traveled

It’s at times like these that I’m remembering a poem written by Robert Frost – “The Road Not Taken”.  Here is a portion of that poem…basically, the last stanza:

The Road Not Taken
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

...Robert Frost

Why do I feel this way at times? – well, let me tell you…

As you know, I’m in the process of starting up my own restaurant and when I say ‘starting’, it’s from the ground up…including concept.  Well, ok, not ‘literally’ the ground up, but close enough.  I’m located in the brand new Zion’s Bank Financial Center building, so the actual building itself is there and in place.  The space that I’m occupying is, for the most part, just a shell.  I’ve got four walls, a floor and ceiling – what more could a guy ask for.  I also have HVAC, Power, Gas, Water, and Sewage connections.  Now when you think about it, that’s actually quite a bit and helps out tremendously cost wise (vs. brand new construction from the dirt up).

However…and this is where the ‘road less traveled’ comes in to play.  What I have listed above on what my space currently is, it means that I must build EVERYTHING…as in booths, kitchen, interior walls, bathrooms, dishroom…everything, everything, everything.  So as I got to thinking about it, and then thinking about restaurants in general and the perceived “high” failure rate of restaurants, my belief is that most ‘independent’ restaurant owners tend to go into some type of ‘existing’ space.

Now, let me back up just a bit…’perceived high failure rate of restaurants’.  I kind of say that sarcastically but then again, there is a bit of truth to that statement.  Here is ‘more’ of the truth of the matter…yes, many restaurants do fail – no doubt about it.  However, it isn’t quite as high as the ‘90%’ rate that many would have you believe.  In truth, it’s more like 65%-75%.  Is that still high? – unfortunately, yes.  Why is it so high though – here’s my theory…who wants to open a hardware store, or a retail store, or a used car lot (or brand new dealership), or a grocery store, or a……well, we could state a lot of other types of stores.  There are more people that open a restaurant than almost any other type of store.  Many of those people don’t have any experience in the industry at all – they just want to open and own a restaurant.  Being a good cook at home or enjoying going to restaurants does not translate into being a successful restaurant owner.  Now, when people go into existing locations…locations where other restaurants have been before and didn’t make it…well, because another restaurant had been in that location and failed, the incoming restaurant already has everything in place that they need.  So other than some remodeling and such, costs for them are not as nearly expensive as a new construction startup.

So, back to ‘my’ topic – the road less traveled.  I don’t think that there are too many ‘independent’ restaurants that are going into ‘brand new spaces’ such as mine.  Most independent restaurants are going into existing structures, where they have more than just the four walls, a floor, a ceiling, HVAC, Water, and everything else I mentioned.  What they have that I don’t have are hoods, some equipment, lights, bathrooms…basically, with very little effort (well, ok, more than just a ‘little’) they can open their doors for business.  Me? – did I mention already that I need to build ‘everything’?  Also, not only do I need to build ‘everything’, but ‘everything’ needs to be built according to code…codes that are in place ‘today’ and not codes of 2 years, 5 years, 10 years ago.

The road less traveled…I find myself wondering at times if I should have looked for an existing location.  It may have made my life a bit easier (maybe) and it certainly would have been a little better on my pocketbook.  Still, as Robert Frost put it in his poem, “…And that has made all the difference.” – Taking the road less traveled can be a great thing…difficult yes, but a great thing.  I’ve got great support, I have what I believe is a great concept, I have the skills and experience to take on this project…it’s just a lot of work to get where I want to be.  Will it be worth it?  I agree with Robert Frost – “…And that has made all the difference.”.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

How did I get here...really.

I do wonder that did I get here.  No, not 'that' "How did I get here...Where did I come from...", but really - how did I get to where I'm this point in time.  Sometimes I look at this project of mine and begin to realize that hey, this is a pretty big project...a pretty big undertaking here (you do know that I'm talking about my restaurant...right?).

You know, when I first thought about running my own restaurant, I can't remember if I really had any set plans on how big/small it would be...I just knew that I wanted to create and run my own place and that I would be successful at it.  I also seriously didn't think that I would be doing this right now, I mean, I didn't lay plans down years ago saying that I'll have my own place in the year 2011.  Don't get me wrong...this isn't something that I'm just trying to throw together hoping that it'll work - I've been working on plans and details for over a year now, but did I get here.

When I was young and growing up, I can tell you that my dreams were not to grow up and be a cook.  I didn't want to be a Dr. or Lawyer either, maybe a cowboy...  Actually, what I really wanted to be was a baseball player.  I loved baseball...and was pretty good at it too.  Well, the baseball route obviously didn't work out...but good things happened along the way.

One of those good things was meeting my wife LuAnn!  Had I made the baseball team at Ricks (now BYU-Idaho), or had I decided to go to BYU (Provo) in the first place, I don't think I would have ever met LuAnn...that would have been a mistake.  I can't imagine my life without her...she's my friend, my biggest supporter, my everything!  No, we haven't had the 'perfect' lives as we've had our share of ups and downs with layoffs, moving around a lot, different jobs and such, but through it all, it has been a GREAT life!!

Still, how does that get me to where I'm at today?? - simple - it's with the Love and Support that I receive from LuAnn and the rest of my family!!  Early last year, 2010, LuAnn really did not want me to get to serious about starting up my own, she's asking me how come it's taking so long to get open (I know..others of you are asking the same question).  So again, the answer is simple.  With the Love and Support that I have from LuAnn and the kids, and with the knowledge set that we have through our life's experiences, we're not looking at this venture as a 'challenge', instead, this is really just another day for us.  Yes, going through all the construction and building process is new to us, but the closer we get to opening our doors, that's when we are in our comfort zone...that's when we can role up our sleeves and dig into the work!

So with Faith, Knowledge, Love, and Support, I continue to move forward.  Everyday is a new experience in this do I want my floor to look, what kind of lights should I have, what color booths do I want, what kind of kitchen equipment should I have, what kind of bacon do I want to serve...and the list goes on and on and on.  How did I get here? - actually, I'm still getting there but I'm enjoying not only the ride, but the company too!! - 143 Honey!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

As Time Goes On...and on...and on...

Well, it's been a bit since I've updated you on anything.  Not that I haven't had anything to say or show, but I've just been soooo busy.  I try to be at work early and am at work all day long.  Then, since March starts up High School Softball, I've been umping games in the afternoon/evening.  Once I get home, I'm working out various details for my restaurant...changes in floor plans, changes in my bathrooms to meet occupancy and ADA requirements, looking at various bids for my equipment, working on funding and financing...time has just marched right on by without my permission.

So, I signed my lease at the end of Feb (Feb 28) - THAT WAS A GREAT DAY!!!  I mean, I was really going to do this - no backing out now.  I wasn't thinking about backing out at all - I wanted to keep moving forward!!  I ordered a 'coming soon' sign - it took me a week or so to do that...I was initially thinking that I would go through my Coca Cola rep to get a banner (I could have gotten one for free through them) but decided that I wanted to use the banner just for me and not to take part of it up with a Coke logo.

So banner ordered...we were so excited and couldn't wait to put it up!!!  Well, it still isn't up...I know I know.  Actually, we do have a fairly good reason, and a strange one at that.  In order to put the banner up, we'll need to actually attach it to the building...screw it into the stucco on the front of the building.  Well, with the Zion's Bank Building being a Brand New multi-million dollar building, I don't want to be the one that just screwed up their building so I started the process of getting bids for my logo.  So here's the strange part of the issue - I put out three different bids and not one of them responded in over 1 1/2 weeks.  I would have thought that with the economy, any potential lead for a sale would be welcomed! - I had no responses.  Anyway, I finally contacted someone else and they had a bid back to me the next day - way to go!!  So now, I know where I will be putting my outdoor signage so I can finally put my banner up...pending all this crazy weather we are having.

I've also had to go through my plans again and again...and I think we finally have it nailed down:

Pretty exciting stuff - huh?...well, I think it is.  However, we still don't have everything needed to submit all the plans to the city.  We still need Mechanical (Heating and Air) plans, Electrical plans, Plumbing plans, and Hood plans.  So really, the phase that I've been in during this last month has been one of 'hurry up and wait'. 

So, not much has 'visibly' gone on over this past month, but plenty 'behind-the-scenes' work has been taking place.  To me, all of this stuff is new - I'm not a builder or planner.  My specialty is running the restaurant and cooking and meeting my customers and such.  That's the part I can really sink my teeth into.  I understand all this other stuff (to a point) and realize why it needs to be done - in fact, I had fun doing the actual floor plan as the plan above really is my design (with varying input and mandates like ADA requirements).  But in the end, let's just get my doors open so I can do what I wanted to for some time...let me get into that kitchen and start cooking!

The good news? - I think we'll see some good movement on a lot of things this month of April.  In fact, I'll go as far to say that by the end of this month, things will be looking good and I'll be well on my way to opening my doors...and I'm still hopeful for the end of May.  I have more pictures to post so I'll try and keep this more current from this point on.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Empty Space...needs filling!!

Well, it's been some time since I've written - my bad.  It seems that for the moment, I'm working three different jobs...and I thought working two was bad enough.  I'm still working my normal full-time job - I work for a software company and do, well, a little bit of everything and it keeps my busy throughout the day...and then some.  My second job - umping High School Fastpitch Softball.  It's fun and I enjoy it but it does take up some time.  My third job? - that's getting my restaurant going.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, there's a lot to do - more than what I had initially thought.  It's not anything too overwhelming, but there is a lot to be done.  In fact, I just met today with an interior designer about color scheme and such.  Floor plan, colors, decor, equipment, menu...the list goes on and on and on.  Right now, the most pressing item is finalizing the floor plans and getting them to the city for approval. 

Now, it would seem that finalizing plans wouldn't be too big of a problem...only it's more than 'just' a floor plan.  If that's all it was, I'd have had that turned into the city for approval and we'd have started building already.  However, since my square footage is over 3,000 SF, I have to have the floor plans done up by an architect along with mechanical plans, plumbing, electrical, and hoods.  I'm hoping that we'll get that completed sometime this week and turned into the city.

As for the space? - that's all it is at the moment - just empty space.

I'm hoping that we'll start filling this space as soon as possible - I'll take pictures along the way so you can see the progression.

This is the front of my location.  If you take the first set of windows directly in front of the parked van on the right, my space is from that set of windows and over four more sets (to the left) for a total of five sets of windows.  Though the doors are shown in the 2nd and 3rd set (going from right to left), we're moving the doors to the 4th and 5th set (with the 4th being the main entrance to the restaurant itself and the 5th being the entrance to the bakery).

Anyway, it's taking a bit to get all the plans ready to submit to the city, but as I've always told my kids..."patience is a virtue".

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Learning to Juggle...again

I learned to juggle as a teenager, and got to be pretty good, well, with three balls anyway.  I always found it difficult to add in that fourth ball - it always through me off.  However, with the three balls, I could do more than just the 'standard' juggling.  I even took a dare and juggled three eggs - whew, even with an audience looking on, I didn't drop any of the eggs.

Now, even though I thought I was pretty good at being able to juggle decently with three balls, I look at some of the more 'professionals' that can juggle more than three balls (four, five, six...), or varying items including an apple or two and taking a bite out of apples - now that's some good juggling...something that I have not tried to attempt.

Well, what does juggling have to do with opening a restaurant?  It's me trying to learn how to juggle multiple items at the same time!

I just recently signed my lease for my space....that in itself was a GREAT DAY!! - something to which I'll post on later.  Since signing, my first 'juggling' list went as follows:

1) Call Coke to get that ball rolling - they require at least a 3 week lead time.  Also, I can get a banner through them to put up...saying something like "Nellie's Diner - Comming Soon".
2) POS system - call my contact that I have and keep evaluating systems - will need to determine what type of system I'll need.
3) Logo - nail down my logo as a 'Vector' file - having my logo in this type of format means that I can take my logo to my sign guy, to my screen-printing needs, to my menu, to...whatever else I want my logo on.  The vector files keeps the proportion the same regardless of how big/small it gets, and the logo gets treated as a single object instead of the individual components that make up the logo.
4) Work out my various loans I am seeking after.
5) Get additional bids on my equipment lease.
6) Find out additional pricing on my grease hoods.
7) Talk with Provo City
8) ...

As you can see, I think I'm already past the three balls.  The good news is, I'm learning to juggle again.  Today's task list has 6 items on far.  Tomorrow's list? - well, I'm sure there will be a number of things for me to do as well.  Oops - as I'm writing this, I just thought of another item I need to take care of today...let's see, that's 7 now?

While I may drop a few balls here and there, as long as I keep most of everything going and never drop ALL of them, I should be fine.  Besides, I've got a GREAT support staff, from my realtor, to my contractor, to my friends, and most importantly, my family and wife!!  So my thanks to all of you who support me in my efforts, as I continue to learn how to juggle more than just those three simple balls.

Nellie's Diner

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Try, Try, Try Again...

Ok...I'm a short-order cook that's opening a Diner style restaurant.  Cooking eggs on the grill, bacon, great hashbrowns, pancakes, french toast, hamburgers, club san, blt's and so on and so on, that's like second nature to me.  Bakery items...that's a weak point for me, which is why I've been working on a number of different recipes for breads and cinnamon rolls.  Actually, I do have a set of recipes that I like and am working it's just trying to refine them to work with 1) elevation, 2) refrigeration, and 3) oven temp.

Now...I'm currently working with residential equipment.  That means a smaller mixer, working with whatever bowls and containers we might have, and a regular household oven along with a store bought pizza stone (you gotta cook artisan breads on a stone).  Given that, my breads and cinnamon rolls aren't turning out too bad.  Ok, they still need some work...I'll explain.
First - cinnamon rolls.  The dough was a bit stiff, not as wet as it should have been (I know, you're thinking that 'wet' is the wrong word...actually, the process and recipe that I'm using results in a 'wet' dough).  Regardless, I was able to roll out the dough (with some effort) and spread the butter/cinnamon mixture.  Rolling the dough kind of went ok too though again, I could tell that the dough was stiffer than what it should have been.  However, cutting the rolls went great - nice and rounded rolls.  As you can see in the picture though, the dough was a bit thick...I didn't get it rolled out thin enough (but I don't want it too thin).

The cinnamon rolls cooked up great - they grew as I expected them to...a good sized cinnamon roll!

The frosting is a cream-cheese frosting - I may be a little thin with the frosting...try, try, try again. 

This recipe is a great buttery dough with honey.  There actually isn't any sugar in the dough but the rolls still have a really great taste allowing for a great tasting cinnamon roll.  However, with the dough being too stiff (not wet enough), the completed cinnamon rolls were a bit dry.  Don't get me wrong - they still tasted great...and they have all been eaten, but still, there were a bit dry.  Also, I didn't have enough of the filling in them so that's another thing that I'll work on.  Looks like more testing and tasting and then testing again.

For the breads, I cooked a French Boule, Deli Rye, and Chocolate Bread.

I can't ever remember having 'Chocolate Bread', but I'll certainly cook it again!!  As with the cinnamon rolls, all of the doughs were a bit stiff.  I think it may have to do with, well, obviously too much flour, but also, it looks like the refrigeration does play a role in how the dough sets up.  The last time I made the boule and rye breads, I used our garage as our second refrigerator (we often do that during the winter time).  This time though, because the outside daytime temps were in the 40's, I used our refrigerator.  The doughs really set up...more so than what I had expected.

While the completed products weren't dry at all, the breads really didn't 'spring' like they should have in the oven.  The results were a bit odd shaped loaves but what the heck - they tasted GREAT!!

So, still more work to do but I can only do so much while working with residential equipment.  The ovens I'll have at the Diner are professional baking ovens with 1" stones for the deck.  The temps will be more consistent, the heat more even, and with all the other professional equipment, well, it'll be easier to make my doughs and bake my breads.  Still, it doesn't stop us from enjoying whatever it is that I cook here as you can tell by our family dinner:

Again, my strengths are as a short-order cook - I admit I'm weak on the bakery end of things, but I'm relentless in wanting to get things right.  So as I keep working out my recipes and menu items, I'll try, try, and try again till I get it right.  And when I do...I can smell the bread cooking now!!!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Clean Air...really?

Considering our location...Utah, along the Wasatch Front...basically in mountain country...we ought to be able to just breath in all that fresh air - right?  Well, maybe up at the ski resorts but probably not down here in the valley.  It's interesting as I get further along in the process of opening my own restaurant, I'm getting to learn a lot more about all the 'behind-the-scenes' decisions that have to be made.  One of those decisions is how to handle all of my exhaust needs.

As per my name of "Nellie's Diner", I'm a down-home diner style restaurant.  That means hash browns, bacon, eggs (cooked on the grill...not in egg pans), pancakes, chicken fried steak and much much more for breakfast.  For lunch, burgers, fries, onion rings...I could go on and on, but since this post isn't about my menu...

The type of food I decided on directly affects the type of cooking equipment that I need to have.  Grills, Char Broiler, and Fryers make up the bulk of my kitchen.  Along with my equipment choice, I now have to deal with grease...grease on the grills, grease on the walls, grease on the floors, and grease in the air (while limiting the amount of grease on your plate).  I can take care of keeping my grills clean along with my walls and floors.  However, the grease in the air is something that I can't very easily clean.  So what do I do?  That's where my exhaust system comes of the many 'behind-the-scenes' decisions that need to be made early on in the process.

If you look around at various eating establishments, especially up on the roofs, you may notice that restaurants and fast food outlets typically have more equipment up there than other businesses.  That equipment includes an exhaust fan and 'make-up' air (since the exhaust fan is removing air from the building, you need a way to bring fresh air back into the building...that's the 'make-up' air).  Anyway, you've walked around outside and all of a sudden you get that whiff of burgers cooking or the smell of french fries...those smells are coming from the various exhaust systems of the surrounding restaurants.  In reality, what you are smelling are particles got it - grease.  So now where is your fresh air.

As I'm in the process of choosing my exhaust system, I seem to be in a bit of a unique situation...the space that I'm planning on going into is in a multi-story building.  What that means is I'm a bit limited on what type of exhaust system that I can install.  If I install a conventional system...the same system where you can smell the burgers and fries being cooked (the same system that is basically loading the surrounding air with tiny bits of grease particles), I'd have to run the system through eight (count them...8) stories to get to the roof.  In reality, that's not too practical and can get very expensive - especially the installation.

My alternative?  Well, just another expensive system, but an interesting one.  Nothing is final yet, but it looks like I'll need to go with a system that will actually clean my exhaust air by about 98-99% of grease particulates before exhausting it to the outside.  What does that mean?  No smell, no grease particles, just clean fresh air - like it should be.  The expense? - well, only about $70K - ouch.  However, it's all in the cost of doing business, and in the name of...clean air.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Logo Design...

One of the many things that I've been working on is a logo design.  I've been looking at a lot of different logos and have been creating a variety on my own.  Some of the considerations I've been taking into account is the simplicity of the design (I don't want it so complicated that the logo just seems to be a blob of...stuff), the ease of being able to display it on a building or on a window or something like that, and the ability to use it on T-shirts, caps, jackets, and hoodies through either a screenprint or embroidery.  I've also been thinking a lot about the type of font I want to use and how to display everything.

Well, here's one design that I rather like.  It's simple yet I think effective in getting across that 1- the name of the place is 'Nellie's', and 2- it's a Diner.
For me, I like the color (red), I like the font, I like the simplicity of it...basically, I rather like it.  I'd be interested in knowing what you think about it...let me know.

Thanks - Nilsen

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Restaurants from A to Z

Well, I've been pretty busy with varying aspects of getting my restaurant ready...there are so many things to do.  I mean, I know the restaurant industry pretty good and I know how to run a restaurant - a 'profitable' restaurant...but still, there are so many things to consider.

First, you've got to be crazy enough to come up with the idea to start up a restaurant...most people I know would agree that I'm a bit crazy so I've got that one covered.  Then you've got to really think about what kind of restaurant you want to have, and then once you've decided that, you think about it again and again and again.  Hmmm, seems to be a pattern here about "again and again and again" - you'll see as this goes on.

Once you decide on the kind of restaurant you want (and after thinking about it again and again and again), what's the menu like, what's the layout like, full-service?, quick-service?, what kind of atmosphere do you want to present...things like that you think about...again and again and again.  Then what about the menu...again and again and again.  I went through all of that, but for me, I knew right away that I wanted to do a 'Diner' style restaurant, Breakfast/Lunch only.  I am a short-order cook.  Now, I have nothing against Chefs and the more accomplished gourmet type cooks - I know several and they are good friends.  For me, I'm just a plain and simple kind of guy - just give me a desert without all the chocolate drizzle or dusting of...whatever it is that they use.  I'm serving down-home comfort food, and lot's of it!

Anyway, at some point, you've got to think about the location, your market, your design...again (because of location and market), the type of building you want, and then what are you going to have to do to get the building ready (the build-out).  At the same time, you're back to the menu and layout...again, as you start thinking about what your kitchen is going to look like...what equipment are you going to need, what smallwares you need, what kind of dishes, flatware, glasses, and such...and then you're back to design, layout, and menu...again and again and again.

Right now, I'm looking...again and again and again, at equipment.  More so, 'where' am I going to get my equipment from.  Since I already know what equipment I need, I'm now trying to decide where to get it from. The internet is a huge help, and a huge pain at the same time.  If I wanted to, I could spend the next few weeks doing research on where to get what equipment - there is that much information out there - which is a good thing.  However, at some point, you've got to say this is it...and I think I'm at that point...which is a good thing.

There are many many steps in getting a restaurant going - I've only named just a few.  Ahead of me? - well, I've got to finalize my menu, figure out my pricing, get my liability insurance, setup my bank account (for business), do this, do that, and then do more of this and that.

Another huge step is financing...something I am working hard on getting.  I'll post something later specifically on this topic.

All in all, I can say that this has been an exciting experience for me.  There is more to it than what I had even thought, but I can see the end of the tunnel, and the end involves turning on an OPEN sign and unlocking my doors!!!  Filling the air with smells of fresh baked bread and fresh ground coffee, hearing the sizzle of eggs and bacon on the grill, but mostly, seeing the smiles and satisfied looks on the faces of all those that come to eat at...Nellie's Diner!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Community Wall...

As I've been planning and figuring how to come up with the funds that I need to get my place open, I've come across some interesting ideas...ideas that would be almost impossible without the internet.  Now, don't get me wrong...if I could do this all on my own, I would...I really don't have the personallity to go asking for money.  However, I know that I can't do this all on my own...even when I'm open.  I mean, when I'm open, I'll have to rely on my staff to help me make Nellie's Diner the best thing that Provo ever had (and to do that, I'll be working right along side 'all' of my staff...from washing dishes to cooking to...everything - I'm a 'hands-on' type of person).

Anyway, I'm thinking of running a fundraising program that would allow you to 'donate' a few bucks...$5, $10, $25..., $100..., $1,000 - whatever you wanted to.  In return, 'some' of the ideas I've had is to have a "Community Wall" in my Diner with names of those individuals that were willing to contribute to the Diner to get it open and running.  I'd put the name and city/state of the donor on the wall - I'd like to fill the wall with names from all over - I think that would be kind of cool.  I'd also probably send a T-shirt with the 'Nellie's Diner' logo on it and such.  But my main thought was...what do you think about a 'Community Wall'.

Let me take this thought a little further.  The reason why I'm choosing to name my restaurant a "Diner", is because what a Diner represents...or what it is supposed to represent.  The Diner first came about to serve the working class...particularly those that worked late into the evening and night because everything else was usually closed.  The Diner was actually a horse-drawn cart which eventually evolved to a permanent location.  Diner's have always been there for the working class...for the community.  Diners ended up being a place where it didn't matter who you could be the town Mayor, the Chief of Police, or the laborer who has been digging holes all day long.  The Diner was for everyone - where everyone seemed to have the same status when they walked in.

That is what I'm bringing to Provo.  I want that same community feel that Diners of old had brought to the town.  I know, we have the big chain restaurants that I used to be a part of.  There is nothing wrong with them - I go to them to eat too.  But there's just something special about a "Diner", and it's that "special feel" that I'm bringing to Provo.

So, a Diner is for the community, local community, local high school community, and so forth - which brings me back to my 'Community Wall'.  If I'm going to make a go of this, it will be a community effort - I can't get it done on my own.  What do you think then.  You can comment here or on my Facebook page "Nellie's Diner" (sorry, I haven't made a link yet from my blog to my Facebook Page - I'm learning...I'll get it).


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baking Bread...

Part of my concept includes baking my own breads for my sandwiches as well as making my own cinnamon rolls (and biscuits too).  The breads that I'll be baking are Artisan type breads.  Well, in order to 'perfect' my recipes and procedures and such, I've got to try things out...over and over and over again and again and again.  Don't get me wrong, I don't mind doing the baking and experimenting and such - it's fun for me (and I guess it ought to be since I'm about to open my own place).

So, over this weekend, I've been baking bread and cinnamon rolls...that was kind of a mistake - because everything was sooooo good!!  Baking 'Artisan' type bread at home in our own oven?  Yes - with a baking stone and adding steam to the baking process (it's the steam that helps get that nice good crust).

I baked two loaves of regular (white...well, kind of...) bread and then a loaf of rye bread - oh...the rye bread was soooo good!!!  I'm kind of a rye fanatic as two of my favorite sandwiches are a Rueben and a Patty Melt - yes, both of those are on rye bread.

I also made some cinnamon rolls...well, ok, they really weren't "rolls" as more as they were, well...a blob.  The dough was way too wet (I'm using a different process in preparing my dough) and, well, the dough was simply too soft to 'roll' it up and cut the cinnamon rolls.  So instead, we just plopped (literally) the 'somewhat rolled dough' into 9x13 cake pans and baked it.  I think I came up with a new product - cinnamon roll cake - hah.  I'll have to say that the cinnamon roll project was a failure as far as getting them to 'look' like cinnamon rolls, but the dough - sooooo good!!!  That's on my list to do again to get the dough right this time.  I've been trying a lot of different cinnamon roll recipes (as my family can attest to - and no, they are not complaining) and I think I've found my recipe...well, as long as I get the dough right.

Anyway, I've done a lot of testing with a number of different things here at the house - it's been fun.  I'll continue to do more testing to get the recipes down that I'll be using once I'm open.  That's the update for now.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nellie's Diner Coming Soon

The site selected for my new restaurant, Nellie's Diner, is located in Downtown Provo in the brand new Zion's Bank Financial Center building.  We are currently going through lease negotiations, but the LOI has been accepted by both parties so things are looking good.  I'm currently working to complete my funding as the goal is to open by April 18, 2011.  I'll keep you posted!!