Wise chefs and entrepreneurs continuously look for new restaurant revenue streams. The cost of goods continue to climb, and wage increases are happening or are on the horizon, so getting creative with how you bring in revenue is the next logical step in supporting your vision and establishment.
Chef Brooke Williamson, Top Chef alum, and her husband chef Nick Roberts have been extremely successful within the Los Angeles restaurant industry. However, the duo has also experienced the all-too-common trials and tribulations of restaurant ownership. "I continue to learn not only from my mistakes but from other people's mistakes," says Williamson. Brooke and Nick's experience in the industry is constantly evolving, and having set up shop in a busy, competitive city in California, they continue to grow and evolve their streams of revenue. Here's what they had to say about getting creative to bring in more income.
Thinking Outside the Kitchen
Brooke and Nick had a large office space immediately behind their craft-beer-centric establishment The Tripel in Los Angeles. However, it wasn't rated for alcohol service. While it was luxurious to have a large office space, these chefs found new revenue streams by converting the office space to a boutique called Tripli-Kit. According to Williamson, guests would ask, "Where can I get these plates or this glassware?" Being a true hospitality industry professional, she listened. The store offers a curated collection of kitchen gadgets and essentials, ingredients, cookbooks, and items that represent the chef couple and neighborhood well. Williamson touched on the challenge of finding the right concept or merchandise, and explained that, "What people really want changes over time, from town to town, or even in different neighborhoods."
Increasing the Revenue Stream
Chefs, owners, and restaurateurs have to-do lists that never end, and the notion of creating a space in an existing restaurant or looking elsewhere to set up a retail shop may sound ludicrous. However, a retail store isn't as removed from the restaurant industry as you think. Chefs and managers are well-rehearsed in maintaining and tracking inventory, and running a store requires a similar skill set.
According to Williamson, she and Nick experienced a big learning curve, but she admits that the addition of Tripli-Kit behind The Tripel was a great decision. Brooke explains that as a chef, she "puts herself out there 100 percent," and that may be polarizing at times, but in a market where the core demographic craves authenticity, she is onto something. "I refuse to compromise on my integrity as a chef," and clearly that mentality extends into their multiple establishments and the boutique, which are all well-known destinations.
Having the Right Mindset to Diversify
Believing in the merchandise and taking some calculated risks can pay off. Williamson says that offering cookbooks at Tripli-Kit was important for her. "There's no cookbook store in Los Angeles anymore," she explains. "There's something quaint about being able to walk into a store and look through a book before you buy it." In a time when books are often downloaded or ordered online, this seems like a questionable decision, but Brooke explains that they offer beautiful cookbooks, books that she uses and likes, and books written by colleagues. By doing so, they create a charming and unique shopping experience. "We felt like there was a perfect niche for people who appreciate eclectic stuff, and we can sell all the things you want in your house that you can't get anywhere else."
Your menu doesn't have to please everyone, and finding other restaurant revenue streams should mirror this sentiment. You already have a finger on the pulse of the neighborhood where your business is located, so think about what else you could offer to attract customers. When planned and executed well, you'll not only see additional revenue, but your customer base and audience will continue to expand.