It all started with a photo.
A photo that now adorns the gallery in one of the dining rooms of Dino’s Backstage in Glenside, PA.
“This picture of Dino’s mother and all her girlfriends was our inspiration. They were at Palumbo’s in south Philly; it was the place to go in 1965. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was dressed up. They had gone out for the evening, not just to grab a bite to eat. That picture has always captivated me that way because we don’t really do that now. But now that we have Dino’s, you can,” explained Michael Kelly-Cataldi, co-owner and entertainment director.
When is the last time you went to a restaurant to actually dine, not just eat? This concept is what inspired Michael and business partner Dino Kelly-Cataldi to open Dino’s Backstage. This “supper club” has a ‘40s and ‘50s cabaret vibe, lush with a classic-American seasonal menu, unique, exquisite décor and live music on the weekends.
Dino had successful experience in the restaurant business in the past, but swore he’d never get into the industry again. Now, after just celebrating its year anniversary, Dino’s Backstage already has a number of awards under its belt including the “Diners’ Choice” from OpenTable, Philadelphia Style Magazine’s “Best of Style 2017 – Global Cuisine” and Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly 2017 – Supper Club.”
Though Dino’s Backstage exudes glitz and glamour, the secret to running a successful restaurant isn’t all it’s jazzed up to be. Here are some tips that you can implement whether you just opened your restaurant, or you’re looking to expand your current establishment.
Dino has an accounting background. Michael has a public relations and entertainment background. Together, they hold the recipe for a successful restaurant.
Just because you’ve never run a business before doesn’t mean you can’t. If you have entrepreneurial dreams, your general studies degree and seemingly unimportant part-time job history shouldn’t hold you back. You just have to be smart about it and realize that opening a restaurant isn’t just all fun and games.
“You have to treat it as a business, not as a hobby. People generally think running a restaurant is all chef-based. They like cooking so they’ll open a restaurant. But they don’t realize all the other parameters you need to cover,” said Michael.
That’s where all your previous experience comes in. For the co-owners of Dino’s, their background is an integral part of getting customers through the door.
Using Michael’s network, knack for publicity, and entertainment expertise (he’s also a performer himself), and Dino’s ownership and accounting background, they’re able to tackle all those parameters of the business.
Combine all your skillsets, whether they feel relevant or not to help you achieve that next level of success.
“There's three components to this business that make it successful. Food (obviously), service has to be top-notch, and décor. If you have the three of those and you do them well, then you'll be a success,” said Dino.
Every single detail of the décor in Dino’s Backstage was chosen with purpose. While things like, carpet color might not seem like a big deal to you, it all matters in the bigger picture. The goal for Dino’s Backstage is to make it more of a destination. Wouldn’t it be great for out-of-town folks to travel to your city just to try out your restaurant? You’ll only achieve that goal if you focus on the experience.
Of course, the food is part of that experience. Identify a need in your community and execute it better than anyone has before. It’s OK to splurge a bit to bring in a chef that you know will make your restaurant a cut above.
In terms of staff, customer service can make or break your company’s success. It doesn’t matter how many Michelin stars your chef has, if the service is awful, no one will want to return. It’s a great idea to really invest in continual training to ensure your service is on par with the rest of your establishment.
So you’ve set the stage for a great restaurant, but here’s the nitty gritty details for success. Dino offers some great insight into why it’s so important to constantly manage your numbers, your staff and your menu.
“There are two other components to this business that make it successful. Your labor cost should never exceed 30 percent, and your food cost should never exceed 30 percent. If you can meet those benchmarks and control your fixed costs, then you will make money,” said Dino.
How do you meet that benchmark? By continuously staying on top of your chef and making sure every menu item is measured, tasted and costed properly.
“The menu mix has to be right because some things are 40 percent and some things are 20 percent. You have to figure out what you are selling more of. It’s called a P-mix that you do at the end of the day. You count how many entrees you sold and determine what they were. If more people are buying filet that costs 40 percent, but they're not buying pasta that's 20 percent, then there's something wrong with the menu. You need to figure out, is it not interesting enough? Do we have to put another pasta dish? It's always a fine tuning thing,” explained Dino.
In order to control the labor costs as Dino mentioned above, you need to make some strategic decisions. For example, Dino’s minimized their schedule from being open seven days a week down to five. They’re also able to keep overtime hours in check by how busy they are at a given time, yet still ensuring their staff never feels cheated.
There’s also the technology factor. From state-of-the-art POS systems, to digital control of lighting, Dino’s uses technology to their advantage. And you can too.
“We actually have a camera above our bartender. The camera is above the register and if the bartender rings in three no-sales, it alerts our cellphone,” said Michael.
There’s no way that you can physically be everywhere in your restaurant, monitoring it at all times. But with smart uses of technology and weekly reviews of your menu, you’ll be able to bring in the most business.
What advice would you give up and coming entrepreneurs looking to open a restaurant?
To learn more about Dino’s Backstage and its upcoming shows, click here.
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