Much More Than Seven Reasons
Today, the one who is listening is me. Ezequiel Vázquez Ger writes an admirable letter as a small entrepreneur and businessman hit hard by the crisis. He founded the top rated restaurant in our region, Seven Reasons. Read it. You will have many more than seven reasons to order his food and then, when all clears, visit his restaurant.
A couple of years ago I made one of the most difficult but certainly gratifying decisions in my life. I decided to leave the comfort of my political consulting business to venture in a completely different direction. I decided to open a restaurant.
For over a year I didn't perceive a penny. I invested all my money in the business and spent all the rest to stay afloat. I could do it thanks, and because of the unconditional support of my family, particularly my wife.
I always knew and understood the risk: the restaurant industry is tough. Work hours are long, margins are small, the economy can hit you hard.
I did my homework to minimize risks. I partnered with whom I considered to be the Best Chef in the World (at least for me), @enriquelimardo. We designed a concept based on an experience we wanted to provide, being the food just one part of that experience.
We raised enough money to build something beautiful ($1M+), but not luxurious and overreaching. This would allow us to pay back our investors faster, building trust, and opening the door for new ventures in the future.
We created a business model adapted to reality: we didn't need to be super full every night to break even. We could actually break even at reasonably low levels of safe, mitigating the risk of burning too much cash too quickly.
It paid off. We offer the best service and the most creative food I ever tried. And many people thought that way too.
In less than a year, we were recognized as the best restaurant in Washington DC by the @washingtonpost @tomsietsema and the best new restaurant in the Americas by @esquire @jefffordinier.
In less than a year we made a 14.8% profit and we paid back our investors a 22% return on their investment. But the number I love the most is the following: In 10 months being open, only 3 of our employees who worked with us for more than 6 months, left the company voluntarily.
Why? Because my main goal when I started this business was not only to build a company, but a family. We created a fun, though professional environment where almost everyone almost everyday came to work with a smile on their faces.
I always knew that life isn't easy and that success is not always tight to hard work. Sometimes, the world just screwed us up. Coronavirus came, and we had to close down. I don't have the financial resources to continue to pay my staff, nor I believe in giving money away for free.
So what are we doing? We are being creative. We remain open for take out and delivery, and give those of our employees who want the opportunity to be drivers. The more we sell, the more employees we will be able to bring back.
We started doing "cocktails to go", and people seemed to love them. We are exploring new technologies that can improve our business now and in the future. We are now partnering with @tock, from @nickkokonas, because I think they are trying to make a difference in the market too.
I really don't know how long we are going to be able to do this, but whatever it happens, I know a few things:
I'm not gonna ask the Government to save us, nor I'm gonna accept free Government money. I'm not gonna mortgage my company's future by putting debt on my balance sheet. My role as an entrepreneur is not to ask to be saved, but to be better than I was before, learn from these challenges and be creative. What does that look like? I'm still trying to find out.
I have always been, and will continue to be available to talk to my employees. Although I don't have money to offer them, I have a lot of time to listen to them and try to guide them. Money is important, but having someone to talk to and get guidance is very important too. For those who are really in need, I will work my ass to find ways to help them.
And when all of this is over, and we are ready to come back, we will come back as solid as ever. We will be stronger and we will be better. A better restaurant, and also better human beings.
We will open Seven Reasons and hopefully many other restaurants too, to continue to employ people and make them part of this family. To continue to give this City what we are here to give: The best food experience possible.
If I need money, I will recapitalize the company and ask my investors to double their trust in me. In the meantime, I will be a good steward of their money and their trust. I will ask the Government to stop struggling us with taxes, but I won't ask the Government for free money.
I look forward to seeing you all soon. In the meantime, stay safe and use this time to reinvent yourself and come out of this as better persons.