Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So... where was I?

Wow... it feels like things are starting to come together. I cannot stress enough how important it is to avoid the Doe in the Headlights maneuver during the whole "Making Your Dreams Happen" thing... Yesterday, those headlights stopped in me in my tracks for a brief moment. I am still not getting fully funded until maybe next week (which I've known all along). I have two tons of stuff to do that costs money AND worst of all I vaguely remembered that I might have to start paying my lease on April 1st. The thought of having to pay the lease for many months before I could get started on the remodel was a lurking monster renting space in my brain. Would I need to forgo paying some of my rea life bills to cover my business expenses until I could actually start making some money? The catering season doesn't really start for another 2-3 months. Would the Health Department require me to buy all of the equipment before approving my permit? If it was rejected, would I have to start the whole $1800 process over again? Let me tell you, these thoughts are ulcers in the making! So what did I do? I contacted a few people who have expressed interest in my project and asked if they would be willing to loan me some small amounts of money for a short period of time. I called my landlord and said, "It looks like I am supposed to start paying the lease on May 1, is this correct?" To which he said, "Yes" and then I called my primary investor to check on fund disbursement and was told it was very likely going to be next week. I also called the Heath Department for clarification on the process, wherein I found my application has been approved. It is amazing how quickly stressors can be quelled with just a few phone calls and trying to think outside the box. So please keep this in mind when YOU go for YOUR dreams. When the demons get too loud, grab your pitchfork and shut those f*ckers up! And so... Tree, look around at the forest! My forest was getting pretty thick and hard to traverse. Not only did I not see a light at the end of the tunnel, I could not even imagine the mid way point in the tunnel. Every hoop I jumped thru had ten more hoops waiting on the other side, some flaming. It's been so long since I even thought about actually making FOOD in a commercial setting, lost as I was in beaurocratic red tape. FOOD? You have to have a facility to cook in, tables to eat on, vendors who deliver your basic products, a staff to help you... actual cooking in a kitchen of my own seemed like the most rediculously far away pipe dream. Today it seems a lot closer! I am actually starting to think about FOOD again! What makes a person chase a dream? I sometimes feel a little guilty that I am so passionate (driven, insanely obsessed? Whatever!) when my friends express they wish they felt passion for a vocation. I hate to point this out, but I tend to be REALLY easily amused and find joy in all kinds of things... I am neither a cynic or pessimist, nor do I feel a jaded superiority towards the world. I secretly suspect this one personality trait is nearly a prerequisite to being a passionate dreamer. Oh and having a plan... a vision for exactly what it will feel like to live your dream. I have memories I make in my head every day that have not happened yet. The day I open. What I will serve. What Stein will be doing. I can SEE the sunshine. I can SMELL the coffee brewing. I can see the mural Ob is painting on the wall. I can visualize my customers reaction. I can see myself walk down to the B of A merchant cash drop. I can smell the wet hot pastrami being sliced for oooohhhhhing guests. I cannot imagine a world where these memories don't happen. I made them years ago. Then I went to school to learn, spent very targeted time in the professional world learning what I wanted to know. Wente for Catering... Perbacco for salumi and high end food. Selected my work partner, hard working, dependable, strong in areas I am weak. Maybe it seems extreme to have spent four years preparing for this one thing. To visualize the memory and to want it so much, then to fill in the blanks to make it happen even when it takes so much time and effort. I cannot imagine world without the passion I have for what I do. I wish I knew what to say when friends express envy... Let yourself dream? That makes it sound like some kind of personal failing... like if they just, you know TRIED... as if THEY are the obstacle to finding their dream. But I didn't look for my passion, it found me and took hold all on it's own and I feel less its master than it masters me. And it was terrifying to go back to school and start over in my late 30's. Working for peanuts or nothing to gain knowledge was not something most people my age can afford to do. What to you may seem like an enviable passion, could have also gone horribly awry (Do you ever wonder why their are not more big time female chefs? It's not sexism... it's because women are brilliant and would rather break the sex barrier in a profession like Law or Medicine where you actually make money). It could STILL go horribly awry (but we are putting lots of love out into the universe, so knock on wood!). I guess I wish I could impart to some of my friends, "Make it an every day pleasure to dream as hard as you can and keep making future memories and thinking of ways to make them real."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why this is such a big deal...

I am fantastically euphoric right this minute for several reasons

  1. The Health Deaprtment is the largest hurdle to get over. Most of the other county and city agencies will rubber stamp your project (more or less) as long as you have all of your ducks in a row with the Health Department (meaning the Health Department stamps each page of your plan so you can go submit it to the other authorities for approval)

  2. I'd given the process to the end of the month, then added two weeks on top of that to answer any questions or attend to any of the comments the Health Dept might have had on my plans... but since the plans will come to me STAMPED on Friday... I can go apply for a building and demo permit NEXT WEEK! YAY for pleasant surprises!

  3. This is one of the few things that has come in on time and for the expected cost. I am not sure why, but this gives me some hope that maybe not EVERYTHING will take twice as long and cost twice as much as expected.

  4. Please kiss your government worker. Because the person reviewing my plans was on vacation this week, the manager of the Health Department called me himself to let me know, a day early, that my plans had been approved and make sure I was ok with getting the stamped paperwork on Friday instead of tomorrow. I swear every day I am blown away by how hard these people work and how much they try to make things easier for us with almost NO budget and forced furlows.

So all I can say is Wow. This thing has made it thru yet another hoop. Every time, it feels like a miracle. I know it seems strange to be so exstatic about 2 weeks. I had planned for the HD to get back to me about any comments and needed changes by tomorrow, then a week to figure it all out and get them what they needed and then another week to process... IF there was nothing major I needed to do... which was my worst fear.

Then a week to get my building permit, plus fire and sewer approval. That would have put me around the end of April to get started tearing the place up. But now... I can go to the building Dept on MONDAY! Even if there are other delays (and there will be, knock on wood, it just is how it is right now with the budget crisis at all levels of government), I just scored two weeks! I feel like I won the lottery.

I am going to just go do more happy dance around my house...

AAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Health Department called me back (I was in a panic this morning about the process) just a few minutes ago and told me my plans WERE approved! They can't stamp my copy until Friday, but that gives me a couple of days to make the copies they need anyway. I AM SO F*CKING EXCITED! YAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!! Watch out world, I am about to lay my delicious meat on ya!

Full blown panic attack...

Just talked to the HD... they are so nice but the process is... has the potential to be... SO fucked up. So I submitted my stuff on the 3rd of March. 20 working days for the process would put me near the end of the month. They call you if they approve your plans, and fax or call you if they reject them. If they reject them, you have to resubmit the whole thing and wait another month! This is a case where I think I did my research, but I am very concerned that I did not do enough. And the worst part of it is... the guy who gave me the incorrect advice on the bathroom set up, which cost me a month of needless stress and work, is the same guy who reccomended I submit the plans "as-is" on the 3rd. I was under the impression from the collaborative plan check process that if they had questions etc, they would let me know before rejecting the packet. Now, I feel like I don't really know what is going on and I am not sure if the plans can be rejected for something small? I've heard of people taking a year to get thru the Health department. AND now I am wondering if I need to resubmit the $1800 fee if it is rejected. I am doing this on such a shoestring that having to wait another month and pay another $1800 would be just devastating. I just have to relax and hope for the best, but make a plan for the alternative just in case... I should know in the next couple of days.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Timing and what to expect...

So I was worried that my ABC paperwork might have been sent back, so I called them today to check on it. I filed the paperwork with the ABC in Oakland on March 8th. The lasy I spoke to today said she'd personally processed the paperwork and mailed it to me on Thursday the 24th. I put in the change of address on Wednesday the 23rd so I am hoping upon hope that it does get to me eventually. I filed the Health Department packet on Wed March 2nd and have not yet heard back from them. I will call them tomorrow morning and just check to make sure they have everything they need from me. I filed the LLC paperwork in person in Sacramento on March 2nd and got the return paperwork on March 24th in the mail. I mailed out the return paperwork on March 25th. I cannot submit for a building permit until the health department signs off on my plans. However, my landlord did suggest that the people who work in the building permitting office are nice and willing to work with people. So hopefully that is not too big a deal. And I did already speak to the people at County Sewer, so hopefully that will go ok when the time comes. Fire... I have no idea? I find the lack of "stuff to do" has kind of lulled me into this strange slow motion world where it is hard to imagine the wheels moving at regular speed again. This is silly because once the Health Department gets back to me, it should be pretty much crazy time until the place is open. I find I am stressing about money. I am sure this is a common enough thing. I need to pay my first month's lease on the first, apply for business insurance for the facility, get my business license for Martinez (Fire, HD etc need to sign off for this one), plus lease my POS system and coffee stuff, plus buy equipment, but I just don't have the money right now. I know when the time comes, I will... but it still just makes me so nervous. Plus I am not sure how the timing should go for setting up my payroll system (I am guessing 4-6 weeks out from opening). I will have Stein keep track of his hours and pay him once it is up and running if we need to get started on prep before it is all set up. I also need to pay for the jerseys. Whew... I will feel a lot better when I get thru some of these governmental hoops.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Staying frosty... staying alert

Soooooooo.... what can I be working on in the interim?

Once the Health Department approves my application, I need to take the signed application information and leave three copies of it with them. I only had one copy, so I need to gather up all the info and make three of the copies

I need to write out the recipes for the products covered by the HACCP plans and make copies and put them in their folders

I need to make some flyers to post in the window of the facility to give people information, like when we will be opening, our menu etc

I should check in the with Health Department about whether they need spec sheets for the equipment I have not purchased yet.

I need to meet with the payroll company to get Stein and I set up for that

I need to go to the bread companies and get my merchant account set up

I need to go visit Vebrugge Meats and Del Monte Meats and talk to them about my special needs (antibiotic free pork back fat, pig heads... stuff like that) and get merchant accounts for the facility

I could start the process to get Business insurance for the facility

I could start the process to lease my POS and figure out what I am going to do about the coffee stuff.

Coffeee Stuff: I was going to go with Caribou coffee because it was really good and they would kick in the coffee equipment. But then I found out they don't kick in the espresso maker and THAT equipment, so I have to lease equipment anyway. So Now I kind of want to just lease everything and do the Weaver's coffee like I'd orginally planned. I know it makes me a f*cking geek, but this is my place, with my name all over it and I would rather serve something that I LOVE vs. something that is pretty good. But the coffee equipment leasing place said they want perfect credit. Which after 3 years as a starving student, mine is OK, but it's not perfect. And if I can't lease it, it will be maybe $3k to $4k to buy it all. And I am opening a coffee shop and Cafe... I can't really get away with not having espresso when I open. Bleh.

You know how you leave the stuff you kind of don't really feel like doing for last... so you get all the stuff you don't mind doing done first... and now it is just the dregs! I feel the lethargy setting in, but I know it just me being stuck with the waiting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not much going on...

I realized that my landlord does not receive mail for the facility and had a panic attack. All of the stuff from ABC etc is going to 915 Main St. I hope it wasn't all sent back! ARGH!

So Today I went to the post office and put in a temporary change of address so all the mail would come here thru July. It will take two weeks for the mail to start coming here... I swear the little details will just kill ya!

The other terrifying thing... I keep getting all these weird bits of mail and tax documents and I have no idea what exactly I am supposed to do with them.

The down time is kind of terrible for someone like me. My friend Heather mentioned it is easier to get things done when you have ten things to do vs. one or two and I think that is my biggest problem right now; I have some odds and ends I could be working on, but with the facility likely not opening for another two months or so... there is this illusion of "time" and not a lot to do.

I could be making important choices like... to start salumi now or not? Where would I Store it so it is made according to all the right specs. I can't shop because I don't really have the money.

That is the other thing that is putting my in a terrible mood. The funding for the project keeps getting pushed back. It is not critical to have it now... meaning things are not dire... but it sure would be nice to be able to order the uniforms, get the equipment fo rthe fire suppression system and my range and fryer so Brion could work on the permit procedure for that. I could be shopping for small wares as well. I could be doing SOMETHING.

I worked more on filling out the HACCP plans by working out some of the recipes in the kind of detail required... but it's SO boring! Bleh. Plus it's been raining and I am having some difficulties with one of my closest and dearest friends, plus I am super poor right now, plus I just feel like too little butter spread over too much toast.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Equipment, Lunch and Rainy Days

Today I met Joycie for lunch (and also so I could pay her back for the money she loaned me to pay my lease). We met at a place called Fritz in the Mission District of San Francisco. Our lunch: Belgian Waffle with caramalized pears, almonds, whipped cream and nutella. Regular and sweet potato fries with three different dipping sauces (chipotle remulade, tamarind spice and tomato saffron truffle), a pitcher of beer (Stella Artois) and Belgian mussels with fennel and garlic beer broth.

They had this cozy sitting area with pillows and low tables and we chatted and admired the art and I realized that I feel a like I have come a long way.

I have been having dreams about elevators. Over and over dreams of elevators in impossibly tall narrow buildings. I get in at the ground floor and go up very quickly but once I am at the top I can feel the building swaying and I stop to marvel at the engineering that makes it possible for these impossibly tall buildings to sway without crumbling to dust.

On the drive to school I told my daughter about these dreams and she said, "Oh mom, that makes total sense! When Aunt Mary and I were in Egypt she told me alot about dreams and when you dream of an elevator it means you are trying to improve your life i.e. you are trying to move up in the world, Literally. The reason your building is so shaky is because you know you are trying to build your business, but you just don't know how exactly it will all work and be stable when you get there."

My baby is so smart!

So while I was visiting with Joycie today, there was an elaborate plan to get my steam table delivered to me. I wrote Mary a check for $600, she went to B of A to cash it, then John was at the house to wait for it and get the receipt when the guy dropped it off.

The guy is kind of cracking me up! When I told him I was opening a new restaurant he told me "I am your new BFF!" as he has a bunch of small wares etc. He left a dozen each spoons, knives and forks, plus some plates and... the strangest hand washing sink I've ever seen! I mean, what is that hole for? And the basin is like 6 inches by 12 inches!

Anyway, Stein and I will go over on Thursday and check out what he has and maybe get more plates and smallwares. I need things like coffeee mugs etc. Money is SO tight right now. Today Joycie extended an offer to loan me money in the future... it was SO tempting to be like... I know I just paid you back, BUT... at the same time, I don't want to abuse my friendships either. My mom has offered to help (and she already bought some of the plates), so maybe I will take her up on that for the Thursday smallwares shopping? My primary investor is hoping to give me a lump sum soon to go buy equipment. I still need to figure out a place to store everything. Out in the rain is probably not a great option and it makes me so stressed that I am on such a budget and I might be harming my precious purchases by leaving them out (covered, of course, but still) in the elements.

That said... I spoke to my contractor today and they are getting started on some things next week and doing what they can, the Health Department should get back to me by the 23 of March with whatever their list of additional requirements are. I figure it will take me one week or so to get those things, then hear back from them. After that I will submit to the building department, sewer and fire, which I am guessing will take abut a week, then a 3 week build out puts me at about April 27 (my birthday!), then give another week delay for inspections by the various departments is May 4th, then another 2-3 weeks for food and kitchen prep... means a late May, Early June opening POSSIBLY. There are still many things that can go wrong, but there are also places where I can get lucky and things will go faster than planned.

One thing I am worried about... I don't have all the specs for incoming equipment because we are buying a lot of it used and I don't really have a place to store it while we remodel that place. I am not sure if the HD will go for that?

Also I am kind of excited that I was asked to help teach the sausage making section of the Garde Manger class at Diablo Valley College!

Anyway, busy day but really nice. I am still a little depressed that Cosentino didn't pick me to stage for the Nose to Tail Dinner. I know he gets a lot of applications, but . and I read the applications he did select. What a crock of sentimental rubbish! (Not that I am bitter or anything!)

Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm so excited... and I just can't hide it!

Sometimes everyone wins. I found a guy trying to unload a bunch of restaurant equipment, who is willing to store it for a short period of time who has an electric steam table (which I have to have) with the right kind of sneeze guard (I was going to have to buy a new one for $500 or more) for $600. SCORE! Plus he has a ton of small wares. Coffe cups, knives, forks, stuff I need. I am going to go check it all out this Sunday.

Plus... I am so excited... I know it is a real luxury right now, and money is tight, but I found cheap airfare to An Tir for the Culinary Symposium. I have been trying to string together a bit of sausage taxonomy and since the time and the regions of sausages are vast, it is a spotty project at best. I've been focused very Italian...

If you read my LJ blog regularly or have attended one of my classes, you might remember my musings on the differences between modern salumi and late period Italian salumi.

Modern Salumi

  • Sea Salt
  • Acidophilus
  • Sugar
  • Nitrates or Nitrites (depending on the length of cure)
  • Meat (ground)
  • Fat (frozen, chopped with a buffalo chopper)
  • Casings (natural or otherwise)
  • Spices
  • Sometimes cold or hot smoked

Late Period Italian Salumi

  • Sea (or other) Salt
  • Meat (hand chopped)
  • Fat (hand chopped)
  • Spices
  • Casings (natural or none)
  • Sometimes cold or hot smoked

Now the process for modern salumi is the acidophilous creates an acidic (lactic acid) environment by consuming the sugar and exhaling lactic acid. This inhibits food born pathogens. It also lends a tangy flavor (acid) to salumi.

Acidophilous is not used in whole meat curing (like pancetta, bacon, capicolla, breasola), only in chopped or ground sausages.

For Period salumi, they are primarily counting on a process of denaturing and even occasionally almost completely dessicating food. The salt inhibits bacteria growth by by drawing water out of cells through osmosis. The cells want to hit equalibrium so they will continue to try to balance the amount of salt on the inside to the outside (this is why when salumi is too salty you can leech the salt out with unsalty liquid usually).

I've made several varieties of salumi without nitrates or acidophilous and found them to be very successful, yet the color is not what we are used to. But for my purposes (a salumi platter) the variety of color on the plate works for me and the flavor has been really really good.

So, I kept wondering WHY do we use these chemicals. I can trace back the nitrates in food preservation to the American Civil War where saltpeter was commonly used for both ammunition and to preserve meat. I recently (to my meat-geek heart's delight) found evidence of the use of acidophilous to the Viking era where they stored many food products in Whey (where acidophilous is naturally occuring).

But it still seems strage that a process that went on for thousands of years without issue has become so chemicalized. I guess that is just the way of things.

I find the journey that our food has made over the years facinating and I am eager to go to An Tir, take some classes and have yet more peices of the puzzle fall into place. Also the awesome thing about having the SCA as a resource... I know crazy cool information about what I do! I am also excited to get to hang out with Master Eduardo on Thursday before the event (the other half of my brain).

I know things are a bit slow right now, but I am finding things to do and my enthusiasm is very high!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Waiting and Limbo

I am grateful that I have come so far in this process and managed to overcome so many hurdles... but I hate the waiting. I feel adrift.

For a while every hoop I jumped thru had 10 more hoops waiting on the other side. Now the number of hoops is dwindling so while I wait for the HD to process my paperwork, I feel like I should be doing SOMETHING... but there is really only so much I need to do between now and when I hear back from them.

I dropped off the HVAC and hood stuff yesterday (I write everything I do each day down on a pocket calendar so when I talk to people at various agencies I know who and when I last spoke with) and the lady the HD said my packet was on someone's desk for review as of yesterday. They are SO nice down at the Health Department. Anyone who is even considering catering or a day event, it is worthwhile to go down there and pick up the various packets of free information and talk to the people.

How it works at the HD is, they have a long checklist of items you must submit to get your facility remodel approved. As you collect these items you can go in before noon and double check with a plan-checker for free that what you have is correct. Once you have the majority of items checked off, you pay a fee (there is a sliding scale depending on how big your restaurant is. Mine was about $1700) and submit your packet of stuff. Once you've submitted, they have a maximum of 20 days to respond with any needed changes. I submitted on March 2nd.

Once your plan is approved, they stamp it, and then you keep the stamped copy and then submit three copies that they keep on file. Once I have my HD stamped copy, I can make the rounds to Fire, Sewer and Building to get my building permit, signed off on my plumbing and grease trap and then my hood and fire supression system permitted (which apparently takes four weeks).

Meanwhile my contractor can tear out the old bathroom and plumb the space and put the floor back in so the rest of the work can get done. I went to Ace Hardware and made 5 copies, two for me and three for Dave and the subcontractors. I need to call Stan and warn him people will start coming to work on things soon.

I hate the waiting. I will start paying the lease pretty soon (I got a couple of months free). This is why so many restaurants go out of business in their first year. They spend their reserves before they open because getting all of your ducks in a row takes so long. So you spend all of your money on lease and insurance and everything else in the 8 - 12 months it takes to jump thru all of the hoops. And you really have no choice but to sign a lease BEFORE you pay thousands of dollars to get thru all of the various governmental departments. What if you did all that work and then someone else snapped up your space before you could acquire the lease? It is a terrible catch-22.

What I have going for me is 1. The lease is pretty cheap and 2. Because it is a heavy traffic area and I already have many catering gigs booked this year, I should be making at least some money right away. What sucks is 1. I am under funded and 2. I am trying to do this in California where the laws are super not-business-friendly.

Also I learned the other day that the Sunday Farmer's market is pretty well attended. This could be a really good thing if I want to make some extra money opening the coffee shop in the mornings on Sunday. I was thinking I would have to open for the festival Saturdays, but it may be more worthwhile if I do the Sundays. Eventually I hope to have a weekend crew that helps me with these and catering events.

I could look into a booth, and eventually I might, but it would be a whole other set of permits and licenses.

I really need to remember to go down to the Pleasant Hill City Hall next week and either renew my business license or pay the fees and things. I was going to let it lapse since I don't have anything big on the calendar until May and I will need to go get the business license in Martinez before I can open. I suppose I could also go look into business insurance just in case something were to happen during the building process. Only none of my stuff is in there yet?

I also need to meet with my payroll company to set Stein and I up. I should check with Tim and see if he is still available to be my prep-dishwasher guy?

See how the brain... it just spins and spins. And the quiet waiting spaces makes the spinning worse. But, the nice thing is, I have gotten a lot done. I still have fire, building and sewer to go, but I spoke to most of them prior to getting started to run my plans by them and got their input, and the buidling dept sounds like once you get thru the Health Department their process is pretty simple (knock on wood). And while I will need the Fire inspector to sign off before I open, we can do much of the work prior to that.

I just wish I knew WHEN. When can I get started? I miss the kitchen so much. I feel like I am sitting on my ass getting fat while my brain vegetates. I am trying to think of it as the resting time before I leap out of the gate raring to go. But OMFG it is boring.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The ABC's

Today I gathered up as much stuff as I could think I might possibly need, went and picked up my friend Krysta in Berkeley and headed into Oakland to see what was the best thing to do in "my situation"

And what situation is that you might ask? I filed about 8 weeks ago for my LLC. An LLC is a created entity Limited Liability Company that person creates to protect their personal assets. The thinking goes, if The Compass Star Cafe and Catering were to be sued for some reason they could attack the business, but not my personal assets (like my house). Clearly you really want a liquor license to be filed in the LLC's name as this can be a huge area of liability.

SO.... 8 weeks ago I mailed in the LLC paperwork to the Secratary of State of California, who oversees these. Three weeks ago I checked to see if they'd cashed my check (they hadn't). Then I tried to call... amusingly enough this was the first time when I "press 0 to talk to a person" that a recording came on to let me know to speak to a real person... I would have to come to Sacramento, go to the 3rd floor and talk to the person at the desk... budget cuts, you know? (Every recording, every web page, every person you speak to will inform you that the Secratary of State's office is pretty much not operating any more due to lack of funding)

So I trudged over to Sac last week, to the third floor and was told... well... she basically told me they are not really processing "those" right now because budget cuts have put them so understaffed they are months behind. BUT if I paid a $15 fee, I would hear back from them in 20 days AND I could check online Monday to see the status of my filing. Which I did.

Meawhile... a minimum 65 time to get a beer/wine license means... I was screwed.

So I headed back to ABC to see if I could file in my name, then when the LLC was done if I could transfer and what that process was. The VERY nice woman at the ABC said, it is taking upwards of 4 months to get a beer/wine license and I could transfer it to the LLC later, it would take one month to get the transfer done but I could continue to serve under my name during that time. WHEW! Done.

What I needed to file for the beer-wine license

  • driver's license

  • print out of the layout of the facility

  • menu

  • passport

  • about 15 pages of ABC generated paperwork (Which you cannot sign without a witness, either one of theirs, or a notary)

  • Check (they don't take cash or credit, only checks, money orders or cashier's checks) in my case the check was for $716.00

I also saw the artwork for the T-shirts which is SO cool!

This is it below

I also noticed the Health Department cashed my check, which I hope means they are getting close to doing my stuff. I need to take down the HVAC and hood stuff tomorrow. Did you know there is a 24 hour Kinko's in town? and that you can email them your blueprints and they will print them out and you can just go pick them up? Pretty cool!

David wanted me to go check out the layout of a new Asian fast food type of place in downtown Lafayette, so I stopped by there today as well. He is totally right that my new cold display case if just too tall for the allotted space and I need to try to back it up to wall like they have done. I changed that around on my layout drawing, but now I am worried it will mess up my process at the HD. I know it seems like a small thing but there is a floor drain involved. I am also thinking I am going to have to kill the two keg kegerator. It is just a huge luxury (space wise) for something that may only be nominally useful. I am not opened at night, so I am not going to get as much of a drinking crowd... so it might be more cost effective and better use of my space for me to stick to bottled beer and cyzer.

I am excited that I got my bungs today! I can case the coppa tomorrow, which I am really excited about. The last batch was SO good but not as spicy as I would like... so I added some cayenne and Italian hot pepper flakes... I think it is going to be really good. mmmmmmm coppa

Friday, March 4, 2011

Oh please balls, just stay up there!

For one tiny golden moment I thought I might actually be able to open in a reasonable time frame. I will never jinx myself like that again!


He very genrously offered to install the Ansul system on my hood (which he used to do for a living for a long time), but now... all of the sudeen I am expected to be an integral part of it's planning...

Plus, apparently my primary investor forgot he told me last week he would be cutting me a check for equipment this week. It's fine, these things can wait, but it just feels like everything has to be harder than it needs to be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ramping up to Go Time

I feel like I am juggling a million balls all contingent on the last one executing correctly.

Since this blog is partially to help to anyone out there who wants to open their own restaurant figure things out a little faster (learn from my mistakes, please!) I wanted to list the items that were needed in the Health Department submission for remodeling a kitchen (this is not the stuff they need to give you a Health Permit)

  • Plan Layout (to scale) that includes all designated areas
  • Finish Schedule: Wall and Celing finishes
  • Finish samples: This is like an actual 6 inch square of ceiling and floor that you submit
  • Equipment: Cut sheets and spec sheets for every item in the kitchen which shows NSF compliance
  • Equipment: Location on the layout
  • Elevations for the equipment
  • Sinks (2 hand washing, one prep, one three compartment and one mop sink) both their specs and placement
  • Lighting: A layout of the JUST the lighting, what types of bulbs, how they are housed, how many candle feet you will have (there is a minimum for everything)
  • Water Heater: Spec sheet
  • Hot Water Demand work sheet
    Trash Enclosure Area, if not in the facility then a diagram of where it is
  • Ventilation: hood details
  • A full room ventilation plan
  • Storage: minimum 144 sq feet of storage
  • Spec sheets for shelves and racks
  • Plumbing: full plumbing plan layout for facility
  • Indirect waste plan
  • Location of all floor drains and sinks
  • Hot and cold water pre-mixing faucet layout
  • Janitorial facilities
  • Grease trap info

I turned in everything but the hood info and the floor and ceiling samples.

NOW, I need to go buy my range/oven and fryer so Brion can do the plan for the fire suppression system so we can get that permit, which takes 4 weeks. David said we should be ready to install the fire suppression system in 4 weeks!

So the ball juggling goes like this
1. Find stove, fryer and possibly smoker so Bri can do the fire suppression planning
2. Find a place to store these items (Probably at Todd/Debbie/Kelly's place)
3. Go buy the used equipment for the Ansul system and order the parts we can't find used, find a place to store those
4. Bri does the bid
5. Bri applies for the permit
6. Wait 4 weeks for approval

And I am really wishing I had just gone in and done the LLC in person two months ago, I am hoping once the name is approved they will let me go ahead and do the ABC stuff... only... ok I went down and paid for a copy of my submission paperwork... and then left without it! and she was adamant that I really needed it! So F*)%#$ I may have to go back to Sac and get that next week. But if it's like... stamped or something, maybe they will let me go ahead and go forward with just that... otherwise, I get the feeling the Sec of State office is trying to make a bit of a point about how butchered their budget is by bringing that part of government to a standstill. If I can't get the LLC approved soon, my liquor license will definitely not be ready when the place opens... FRACK... THIS is why it takes So long to open a restaurant....

The sad thing is... this is a primary reason a lot of restaurants go out of business in their first year and I will explain why...

Let's say you are opening a fancy restaurant in Walnut Creek and you have never owned a restaurant before... you get financing, investors and clean out your savings, write a buisness plan and then get to work with your $1 million dollars. First you find a space, fall in love and sign a lease for $7000 a month. Then you find out you have to get a change of use permit ($10,000.00), this takes months to go thru, meanwhile you buy equipment and store it off site ($200,000.00), hire a fancy Exec chef ($65,000.00 per year) who designs a menu, an accountant ($5,000.00), lawyer ($5,000.00 retainer) an architect to desing your place ($20,000.00), a contractor ($300,000.00) all of which takes 4-6 months... the whole time you are paying to store your equipment, your chef's salary, your lease and for all of the various permitting etc.

As you get closer you realize you don't have a few certifications you need, like your Safeserve cert. So your Exec offers to take the class and test. 3 weeks until the next class, which is a two week class, then another 3 weeks until the test is done and another 6 weeks until you get your results.

Then it takes 6 weeks to pull together the stuff for the Health Department and another 20 days to get thru the process ($1700.00). This whole time you are paying your lease, for your chef and not making any money at all.

One year later, when you open, some of the equipment doesn't work, but the one year warranties are not good any more, so you have to pay out of pocket to fix brand new equipment.

Does that sound far fetched? That is a true story.

Am I losing sleep because any one of the balls I am juggling could fall and every time one does, it seems to set me back 20 days to 4 weeks... yes, absolutely. Thank god my lease is small enough that it won't be too difficult to pay it, but I also have employees who cannot stay out of work forever.

I just have to be on the ball and organized. But doing it on a budget means wearing a lot of hats.

so my current to-do list is something like this:

Check with Sec of State about the copy of the filing
Check with ABC to see if I can get started now
Visit bread places to pick a bread provider
Figure out the f*n coffee thing
Check with my POS leasing office to see if they can so customer loyalty program and gift certificates
Shop for smoker, fryer and range (plus whatever else I can find that I need and can store easily)
Draw out the the garbage recepticle layout for the HD
Fix my menu and reorder
Check on the t-shirts order
Meet with my merchant banker about setting up direct deposit for paychecks
.... and a million other things...

And... I have a hang over... bleh... What I really want is a nap!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Packet submitted to the Health Department! WOO HOO!

So I went down this morning to verify if my garbage plan, storage square footage list and finish schedule were what they wanted and the plan check guy suggested I submit the plan as-is. He said there was a a two week back log before they will even get a chance to look at it, and I can bring in the addendums later and add them. That was I get in line for plan review but I can still add the things he suggested. So I wrote a check for $1700 and turned it all in.

I will need to recreate it so I can make three copies. They will sign off on the one I have already submitted. I also found out that 20 days is the maximum they can take to look it over. SOOoooooooo this means, We could get started in as little as maybe three weeks, if I can take the stuff down to the buidling permit guys in 20 days, plus I need Sanitary District and Fire to sign off as well.

I also finally broke down and drove in to Sacramento to file my LLC. I'd sent in a check and stuff like 6 weeks ago and they hadn't even started to process it. The harried (but very nice) lady at the Secratary of State's office said that budget cuts have cut productivity down to an agonizingly slow crawl, but now that I turned it in in person they have only have 20 days to process it.

I can't file for my liquor license until I have proof of the LLC because I don't want to be personally liable for alcohol related lawsuits. But they have to put a written notice in the window of the cafe for 30 days before they even start to process the liquor license, then it is another 35 or so days. So I am tempted to submit now in my own name and then transfer ownership to the LLC when it goes thru, that way at least the process gets started.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Productive Girl starts moving that mountain, one rock at a time...

So yesterday I went to the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) in Oakland to start the process for my Beer/Win License. This was kind of a cool adventure! Parking is kind of a pain so I parked in a garage down the road and hiked up to the buidling (1515 Clay Street). When you go in, they have security a little bit like airport security... you have to go thru a metal detactor etc. My stop was on the 22nd floor.

I wish I had gotten a picture of the display case in the ABC office! It was full of bongs, pop pipes, things people hide drugs in... like all this crazy drug paraphanalia! It is kind of funny to be hanging out in this room with these other business owners with a 12 foot case full of drugs and drug paraphanalia right behind you!

So it was my turn and I get up to the desk and the process is pretty intimidating. A huge packet of forms to fill out and I absolutely have to go down to Sac and check on what is going on with my LLC since I've heard nothing since I filed a month ago and I am going to need proof that I have one before I can fill out the paperwork and submit it. Also they ask a lot of questions that I really am not about the answer...

Such as, they need to know if anyone is living within 100 feet and if there is a school within 600 feet. It is all retail, but like many old buildings with a second story, I am not sure if anyone lives on the top floor of any of the buildings? Also there is a vocational school for adults around the corner... but does that count? They are all adults? I think it is like a dental technician school or something like that? I also had to call the planning dept and make sure they allowed places to sell beer/wine in the area and get the name and number of someone at the planning dept who could verify this (Which I did today... she had this spectacular name too!).

Then I headed over to T-Rex in Berkeley to meet up with a potential investor for beers and good times. He was so awesome; he really sweetly conveyed how much faith he had in my abilities and talent and passion... I took down a small sampling of my meats for the guys to try and he called the Sous Chef from T-Rex over to try some as well (the bar tender snacked too). I always try to make sure I have a sampling with me when I meet up with people about the business. This has been really effective in converting people into true believers for my cause. It was fun to watch a really talented Sous like Ryan do the eyes rolling back in the head thing. You can always tell a fellow freaky meat geek right away... they know how hard it is to get texture/consistency/flavor like that and they really appreciate it. WHICH, of course, made me grin from ear to ear.

My friend Wendy met us over there and we lazed around on a gorgeous sunny Bay Area day in T-rex light bright modern space (which smells like smoked pork) and got a bit of a buzz on and chatted and talked about the world and business and investing and my business plan (which I think I actually left sitting in the restaurant... sigh).

Then Wendy and I left and went to see The King's Speech with Brion (AWESOME movie).

Today I attempted to organize the entire Health Department packet into a readable document. I put together a cover page, itemized everything, put them all into a three ring folder with my business card, the HD Plan checklist (carefully itemized and numbered with each exhibit clearly labeled and referenced on the cover page). Since I was out of ink on my printer, I had to go get more ink, which took FOREVER. But I think it is all ready to go finally! I will take it in tomorrow morning and check to see...

Then I need to go into Sacramento and see if I can't get the LLC papers processed a little quicker.

Things are starting to move along and I am grateful for it! I need to get back to the South Bay this week so I can pay Joycie back as well for the lease deposit.

I am still riding high on how much people enjoyed the meats yesterday... I miss being in a kitchen so much and having that kind of interaction.