The State of the Restaurant Industry in the Wake of COVID-19 With Sean Feeney | The JJ Redick Podcast


Hey Kelly and welcome to the ring podcast network. We hope the ringer can provide you entertainment and companionship. During this time so as always feel free to check out the ring your dot com where we're still covering the latest in sports pop culture tech and media and the ringers. Youtube channel can provide endless amounts of entertainment. You can find that at youtube dot com slash the ringer welcome to this week's episode of Jj Redick podcast with Tommy. Alter this week we are joined by our good friend. Former HEAD SEAN. Guy. Current restaurant. Over Sean Feeney Sean. Thanks for boys. We finally did it out there months of planning. We get it. We were actually supposed to record this podcast. Two Thursdays AGO IN UTAH. You guys. Preemptively bailed on the trip. Which in hindsight was a great choice and my team courts never never made it to Utah. It was not the right week to Fleiss. Let's just put it that way before we did the PODCAST. I was GonNa go to the jazz practice. I talked to Quin Snyder. I was going in the ninety. Four was when it all went down with Gobert. If you're watching you can obviously see if you're listening. Shawn's wearing a white kit hoodie. And I've seen you now a couple of times on social media also wearing that Hoodie and this is a question for both of you because I feel guilty as well but over the past like nine or ten days. How many times have you actually changed clothes though boy like yourself? I have an arsenal of the same shirt. I I changed a t shirt every day. Which is the same t shirt? I wear two pairs of pants basically rotate them and then the sweatshirt and the Brooklyn dodger hat. That's all I got. I have not worn real pants. I have two pairs of pants that I watch. Okay okay wait a minute. 'cause I've gone wearing right now I have to I. I have two pairs of pants that wash and I just cycle in and out of them and I probably have learned for five. Jj Sean James. Making fun of me yesterday. 'cause I was wearing a vest t-shirt but like I've tried to like SL- I've tried to switch up my tops a little bit. But it's been it's been GRIMM'S. Grimm's we recorded this podcast with sue and Meghan. Yesterday I'm also wearing this gray shirt like Sean. I have a stable of the same shirt. This is a different shirt. Is the same shirt but it is a different Scher. What makes t-shirt do preference reigning champs white black and gray and just rotate them through? How do you say that? La Company Pierce Percy James. Perse Jay's Moore's that's all I got that's my Go-to Sean so you're in Williamsburg right now. Yes how how many times have you left the house in the last week? Not Much I would say since last Friday. I've tried really hard to stay own And maybe go out once once a day to go get a coffee or just to walk around the block with the kids but for the most part. Marie and I have really tried hard to stay. Stay locked in as as hard as it's been. WanNa provide the listeners with a little background. Sean. Sean is the CO owner of two restaurants in Williamsburg in Brooklyn New York. Lilia which opened I and missy his partner business partner is chef missy. Robbins both of these restaurants. Tommy you would agree with me. Here are two of the best definitely in New York City but in the country as well is outstanding places. I know you're also involved in a few other restaurants just as a way of background. I think it would be helpful. To provide the listener with your sort of condense story of how you got to know missy Robbins and how you guys started lily together So in two thousand eight my wife and Eye Maria got married and we've moved into an apartment building in the West village and a couple of months before we moved into this new apartment on Grove and bleaker missy had moved from Chicago where she was the executive chef at a and She just got a new job in Manhattan as the executive chef at called vote voce. I'm sorry explosion in Chicago and then at Bocce in New York and when we moved into the apartment There was only three apartments in this building and I was a massive foodie and when I found out that she actually my neighbor I just kind of circled her apartment until I get some eater and over the course of the next five years. It really became a natural progression of a really awesome relationship. Where in the beginning? I was just a fan boy I would go to the restaurant a lot With with business people my family and friends and Kinda feel pretty cool. That my my neighbor was this awesome. Big Time Chefs and than Hurricane Sandy in two thousand twelve. Hit New York City. And she shut her restaurants down and I had just come home from work and I invited her up to our apartment one night that night to have dinner and I cooked inner and we kinda stayed up all night while the While Hurricane Sandy was crushing the city and we told each other our life stories the entire night and that was the night where we became friends like legitimate friends and she told us that she was going to be leaving the restaurant industry in following year. She was forty two years old at the time she had been in the restaurant industry as Cook and chef for about twenty years before that and and chooses really broken physically mentally just just needed a reset and in two thousand thirteen. She she did it. She did what she said she was going to do. And I get to come home every single night. In most of the night she was in my apartment cooking on weight watchers and my wife to support her joint. I also obviously was excited to taste the this new type of food. She was cooking and yes so we. We invested heavily into this relationship and friendship that essentially became like a family in this apartment building and in that year we got to talk about kind of a future What looked like for her and eventually led to a conversation early in two thousand fourteen of I thought the best idea for her in opening up her own restaurant was to do it with a self and it took about four months to kind of just continuously maker say yesterday but she kept on saying no finally in the spring of two thousand fourteen she did say s and from that moment on we just we went on this journey together to open up Lilia and missy into eighteen and then and then a pasta company a couple of months a couple of months ago and and it changed our lives for for for the better. Talk a little bit about this this Pasta Company that you guys recently released. So there's basically Pasta will prior to cove in nineteen but there was basically weekly pasta drops that missy where you can take busy pasta and basically take it home and cook for your family. Yes so so. Essentially when we were having all these conversations back in two thousand fourteen to be partners. She told me a lot of what she had hoped to do. Going forward in her career and one of those things was to hopefully one day have her own. Pasta company so I never forgot that and I said you know obviously. We're not going to do that in the beginning which he agreed to. But there will be a time where we could start attacking. And in the fall of two thousand eighteen we had opened up missy our second restaurant in Williamsburg and fully focused on pasta and vegetables and towards the end of the year. We have a recap every year of how it went and what we're going to look forward to in the new year and I kind of brought it up of just you know what do you think about. Potentially this Pasta Company and going after it a little bit and I was also point to in my life where I was going to leave my job of of finance so I I wanted a new challenge too and this is going to be a new type of business for us so we looked at ways to do it and There was a couple of ways you could essentially license your name out and they put your face in name on box. Oeste and sauce in and you get a yearly fee or you could do a an old school way own it one hundred percent obviously for us we were more excited to own it. One hundred percent And we were trying to educate ourselves on how to do that for the of the summer in two thousand nineteen. We really started coming up with our plan and missy was really excited about branding and designing and what it was going to look like. And she was all on that and and then I was trying to think of ways to do it a little differently in like this sweatshirt that I have on from. I thought we had the ability to create A demand and a little bit of a hype around the Pasta so the thought was when we were going to release these these The brand do it in drops at the restaurant and so in February I two hundred twenty. We started doing these weekly drops where it was in a kit in a in a bag you would get a pasta and a sauce and then an instruction part on how to do it in your home and essentially the mission was the same as our restaurants it was to create inspiring dining experiences to help make your day better and this kit did it. Even though is different than a restaurant we wanted you to create these experiences that you've had Lillian missy because the same sauces that you were having that same asta sheets. You're having you now have in your home and cook it with yourself and the people that you love and we were excited by it so I really had Mris ten years older than me in and as cool as she is it was really a hard task to get This idea approved by her Such as the use of the word dropped She still refuses to you use it. Which at times is a little frustrating. But I'll never forget on February first. We did the first drop and we did this all on instagram. We did that. We still have yet to talk to any of the press and we won't. We're just building this company through instagram and on February first we announced the night before on instagram. That we were going to do to pasta. Drop outside a restaurant missy and at two o'clock There was a line that started forming. And I'll never forget missy coming up to me like a little kid like Oh my God. Uc was happening outside. There is a a line forming and I was like. Yeah we have. Of course I do. This is what was supposed to happen. And she ran outside. Started taking pictures and video of it all and I just started bawling because for twelve months. I was trying to be so confident. That is GonNa work because I did. And then we drop every week and sometimes we had to and we've had nine so far until this virus has hit and we've essentially shut it down until it's safe again Sean. To that point you mentioned now you guys sort of resisted the urge to just do this sort of easier thing which would be to license after neighbor to put it on boxes. We've talked about this a bunch but you've also resist that urge with the restaurant itself. A lot of restaurants will do like just try to spread the name around as much as possible. You guys are such a sort of cosmic brand name in New York at this point. How did you make that decision in terms of like the restaurants in south in terms of going small rather go big? I think it was it again. It started with those conversations. We had in two thousand fourteen when she kept on saying no to me for four months we really. We really talk through everything as partners. The good stuff in a bad stopped a lot of these conversations had to with would if we fail what does that look like or also would if it would kill it would if we kill it in a way that our expectations are high. But what if we match them or beat those expectations? What does it look like our company and we were dead set on taking it slow and we believe that we were building extremely profitable businesses which is normally not the case in in Austin. We also believe that we were going to create these these really special experiences and if we could do maybe six of those maybe once every other year we would start planning our next one so every two years we would open a restaurant. That doesn't look like an empire and it looks a lot different than a lot of these other groups that do it that have had success early on but for us it worked. It was what we both agreed to. And we thought that if we could do it the way we wanted to do it. And everybody's definition of scale is different but if we scale the way we want it to. These restaurants would always be special. You'd always know that our fingerprints were all over them and they would also be really you know profitable healthy businesses and that was kind of our way of of growing and we also thought it was. It didn't just have to be about the physical for Wall. Locations as our company was defined by. We could essentially take advantage of of that brand that we're creating inside the four walls in in other ways through this Pasta Company Through the ability to potentially do other things if it was investments or some sorts of media but for us it was about building a company. Not just restaurants like you were sort of made to be in hospitality. Yeah for sure was your. It was your destiny. Yeah but I never. I never planned on it. I didn't even when I said to when I said the MRI that I wanted to be her partner. I didn't even believe I was going to leave my finance job until probably after the first month. Lilia was opened. I always thought that I would just stay in finance. And have this thing on the side to help missy and now you look back on it. It was basically a month after we open Lilia and because of missing my wife Maria. They both kind of made me look myself in the mirror for the first time. It's like something really good happening professionally and reflecting on it and realizing that I was doing the best job for me and it was. It was utilizing my ability to connect with people in a real genuine way to build. Trust not just with yes but people that worked with us and I loved it and it changed my life and I think looking back on how I've always tried to put myself in a position to succeed whether it was in sports or school or finance. I was always using our ability to build relationships in a network and seeing how I could help push things along and hospitality. I just fell into it. I always love food. I love the theater of out if it's said everything in in in terms of Mike Site for life but I never thought it was going to be my profession. But luckily it is. You brought up the word networking and I would say. The two of you are the best network I've ever met in my life and you both do it in such an authentic way. I mean it's really as it's I mean. This sincerely like it is a special talent. Perhaps new better sort of expression of this networking has been these dinners that we've been doing MRI. We obviously in the off season when I'm when I'm in Brooklyn. Tommy is in New York all the time for work We try to have a monthly dinner at MRI. I'm not even sure how this sort of came about. Whose IDEA. This was Sean. Our unit take credit. No no I N- I never take credit. It's this is. I think it's a week collective thing where every time Tommy is in town. We try meet up at Lugar for Burger and obviously on. I think when we started getting really close we were all sending each other emails all the time with like. Hey I want you to meet so and so you guys do. You're saying and Tommy at one of these lunches at Luger's is like you know what man we got. We got once. Jj's done with the season. We gotta get everybody in a room like I'll invite people you invite people. Jj invites people will just have a dinner. And I was like. Oh yeah that's like a networking connectors wet dream to do. And what they give to knowledge if anyone listening to this has been the MRI they know this. There is a a room at MRI. A lot of restaurants have private rooms but this is a little bit unique. John You could explain it better than I can. Yes so this room is the pasta room. We make our pasta every single day. Starting at six. Am until three PM. And it's the coolest room it's it's temperature controlled humidity controlled and at nighttime. It can turn into this unbelievable private dining room where you get it for the entire night you get to listen to your own music shades. Were going to be putting in these fake glass that smokes up because let's good. There's been a few celebrities that have Adler summer Yet so we've been through a of situations where we finally need to break out smoke glass but it's an amazing room and we could fit as many as twenty four people in there and it was just a great environment to have this type of a dinner so I think we had about three of them starting in the summertime in two thousand nineteen and it was you know sometimes it was ten people sometimes it was fourteen and then finally in July we had We had the big one and it was one of the coolest collections and oddest collections of people in our lives With no agenda. No name tags. I was just awesome to see people who have absolutely killed it in. So many different professions and industries come together non knowing each other and of all types of backgrounds and colors. I mean just a rainbow of people and and just put them in a fishbowl. Basically for the night and it was just. It was really cool. Yeah what one of exotic about it in and the one. We didn't September if the French. Dinner the infamous. French dinner was another example of this town. We could say it's not the cuisine The actual rapper French French Montana showed up to the dinner a little a little a little cow. Halfway through and and asks missie asks the chefs What did he ask you something about like? We had all the food out there. We this amazing cuisine serve food. French French is halfway actually there that night yet but but I think he but data sort of snob is for is you sorted ever GonNa show up but also it doesn't really matter you know the point of the thing is not to be like. Oh Hey come to this dinner because so and so is coming or hey come because it is that to your point about there being no agenda sick you just show up and you have a good time and honestly like if you don't have a good time great and again or or not gonNa vote it again. I would love to find one person that has not had a good time at except for French Montana. I live in a great time. He had a great time. Fresh foam seat Tana's bodyguards. Who were sitting on the floor at Not Have a good time the bank. You're right there johnny. There really is no agenda. I had one of my former teammates. Who who now plays in New York like he came to dinner one night and I was trying to explain to him like what it was and I was like now you just you just come in. Hang. I can't tell you who's going to be there who's not going to be there. Just a random group of people or whatever and he had an unbelievable time. I know you guys both love him. Now he's like he is. He's the man and Talking about deandre Jordan. But he's he's he's the greatest so I do. We do have to say one thing about this. So the one we had in July which basically had every seat filled in that it was the most eclectic mix of people ever You know people from real estate people from finance People from the Food World Athletes Media and this is pre smoked glass. I guess Jimmy Fallon was just dining in the restaurant. Yes yes so. So whenever I'm I don't like to eat at the restaurant because I'm it's really hard to do. It's like the biggest curse of owning a restaurant. Especially when you're huge foodie like myself you rarely get to enjoy it because you're always making sure everything's Okay and about eight fifteen that night. I realized that Earlier in the day I got this email from somebody at NBC. Saying that Jimmy was gonNA come to Lilia and I was like. Oh No don't Code Lilia come to missy tonight. I'm not going to be I'm going to be at MRI. So he came to miss the instead of Lilia and at Eight Fifteen. I was like I was having such a great time talking to everybody was like. Oh Man I gotTa make sure I see him before he leaves so I went outside to introduce myself to him because I had never met Jimmy before and I went and he was full on like doing a comedy skit in the middle of the restaurant. Everybody was laughing. Us having a great time and I introduced myself to him and Missy always make fun of me for doing this because I'm just like I'm no I'm a no but when I go up to as people and introduce myself to them they look like who is guy so I just introduced myself Jimmy and I'm like hey man I'm shawn. He looked like okay. Who like who are you and I was like? Thanks for being here. It's a restaurant and I pointed to misuse at the past. And I everything's going well and he's like us. I love this place. This is great and I was like well. Listen I'm actually dining here myself tonight. And although you don't know me you probably know a lot of the guys dining with. I'd love for you to join in at some point And he's like okay. Yeah sure and I left and I didn't think he was gonNA come in in about twenty minutes later. We're all sitting there and sure enough. Jimmy Fallon comes in with a With the grass of wine that cantor and our decanters at MRI look like Bonk's and he essentially made a joke upon entering he asked for a light. So does anybody have our light and everybody kind of like turn towards him and just belly last and then he went on a rant for about twelve minutes of just roasting me who he is and I don't know him he doesn't know that it was roasting and then he just left like he just he lashed and everybody looked at me and they're like. How much did you pay for that to happen? It was free it was free. It was amazing. It's also it's data's debt story is buried New York because that is the kind of thing that happens in New York. It's a it's a it's a because people top of each other. There's a level of randomness that happens. That doesn't happen. I don't even think it happens in a in a city like L. A. Which has all kinds of crazy things in the industry and everything like that because people are segmented every everyone's in a private room in La. You're never gonNA run into people I think in New York. It's a it's a and I think I think you guys have done a really good job with the restaurants being where they are in Williamsburg of cultivating that in the community overall. It's been it's been great. I mean Miss Missy and I we we don't. We didn't open restaurants for you know people like that to come and We we just wanted places that people felt comfortable and safe and protected and For people like that to feel normal and for normal people you know the average me to feel like they were special and It really is the case it's happened. It's been nice and very rarely has been an event where I've had to kind of step in and take care of a situation of our. Let's let's let them dined but most of the time when these guys are eating. Nobody bothers me. Nobody on our staff father some ever and it's just a friendly atmosphere where people we want you to feel safe the moment you walk into our doors and when you're in our presence to feel extremely comfortable and just not worry about anything other than the reason why you're there so that by the time you leave you feel fulfilled and happier. I'm GonNa Swing to Tommy Tommy. I don't want to call it a talent in the sense that something like you're lying pursuing necessarily but it seems like it's just a very natural thing for you to do to just reach out to people network connect people it just seems like it's just a byproduct of your life. It's an interesting question. I think that so I met Sean through you originally. I actually forgot that originally. It was funny because I think we both do within ten minutes or so that we were at a copy shop and so I think we both knew within ten minutes or so sitting down that we were going to be friends. It's because we had a lot of similar personality traits and just sort of trades in general even though we did totally different things like I know nothing about food. I like food obviously based off the show but I know nothing about whatsoever but we were very similar in a lot of ways. I think that what what Sean and I both sort of enjoy doing and other people a lot of people listening to this show or like this too is figuring out the The sort of crossovers in different industries rather than just being like. Okay I work in media and I just want to have friends that Media Sean. I work in hospitality or specifically in the restaurant industry and I just want to dominate that industry and be kind of a player there which you could do easily You'd be well within your rights of doing I think it to us. It's more interesting to find the similarities in different worlds. Because you start to realize that like everybody is sort of similar in their own unique way. And it's it's it's seeking those things being active about seeking those things out. I would say so I think look I think we all have something very unique and special about us every single person. Does I think you know for me? I get out of bed and I know every day that I'm gonNA. I'm just going to try to connect with people and I know that I am good at it and I'm going to try and lean on that ability of because it's natural for me and I'm I spent probably thirteen years of my life in finance Leaning on it in the in the wrong job and at times I was successful in times. It wasn't but I think you know you look at Jj. Whether whether it's your compulsive nece or your your curiosity like things that you do when you wake up in the morning they're just really just puts you in a better position to be stilled and that. I think all three of us have that I know when. Jj and I first met. We started introducing each other to friends of ours that we thought were get along. And that's how I got introduced me and then we all started doing it. The three of us and I think it's it's just that thing that that is it comes very easy to you and you should. Everybody has that and you should. You should embrace it. You should try and find it. It's not easy to find but once you find it you should just lean on it so much a question for you about business about you building your business because one of the things that I've noticed and I think that anybody who goes to any of your restaurants besides missing Milia Sean also involved in Red Hook Tavern which is a great new place in Red Hook Brooklyn an end hotel barbecue which is in also in red hook. The people that work at the restaurant you know part of Austin is the service. It's not just the food itself but it's we walk in the second you walk in the second you leave and services sort of impeccable but you also have a very close relationship with everybody that works there and I know we're going to talk a little bit later about some of this stuff that's been going on over the last couple of weeks but when you're looking to hire somebody what are you looking for. It's a fit really. I mean we from again like our conversations with missy and I in those four months. We really talked about the type of family and team. We were going to form and for us. We set that mission statement in the very beginning. We also set our values on how we were going to. We're going to go about it and I think you know that's important for us and the we weren't putting these words up on a on a bulletin board in the kitchen or making people memorize them We were just going to walk the walk. We're GONNA WE'RE GONNA live that end if anybody in our restaurants on our teams we're GONNA we're GonNa see these whether it was the mission statement or the values. They would see them. They'd be like Oh yeah. Of course this is exactly who they are. This is what this is what they're trying to accomplish. And I think that you know we've had success of finding people who who have aligned with our values and in a in a really nice genuine way and we don't have one hundred percent retention rate but I do think we have eighty percents retention rate and we have a lot of people that work with US since we've opened. Lilia for years ago and that was a challenge that missy and I set for ourselves because in these conversations she told me straight up. She's like listen. A militia know that in restaurants that the people that work in restaurants in they come and go. We're going to have to really work hard to change that. And we I think have found the most joy her and I are working together on that where I do handle the business stuff. I handle the finances and she trust me. Never asked any questions about it and she she lets me go in my lane where. I let her go in her late. She has full creative control of everything that we do in our restaurants and and I respect her so much and I think she's amazing and I let her do it but where we come together is how we treat everybody and I think that's that's really been our secret sauce where I do believe people they buy why you do it. They don't buy what you're doing and I think people when they come in they. They see that they feel that. The reason why we're doing values and we've been fortunate to have people that have been able to buy it even especially now that that's that's even more That's even more amazing. I always wondered this harassed you this. You have sort of like gay underrated saying that diners at restaurants do that. They don't even necessarily they know is enjoying but as annoying to people at the restaurant. That's a good one. I mean the first one the easy one is missy when she sees the The INSTAGRAM IRS the influencers spending about five minutes before they actually eat pasta. Taking every single shot I mean she literally will come out of the past and you know curse them up and down essentially and you eat that effing pasta now where you leave. So that's probably that's the easy one of you. Wait five minutes. The poss not as good. I mean that's just that's just science. You can't argue with science. I WANNA video missing during that. That's been a really. He's made like she's made people cry. Basically because essentially she standing there and she is celebrity so like when people come in to eat and they see missy robbins they freak out and then you're taking instagram's of the Mafia Dini and pepper corn with Parmigiano and after ninety seconds. She literally will look at her watch and knows astor. Ninety seconds that Pasta is going to die and she runs that your table like full full sprint. And these millennials that are like Oh my God that's missy Robbins owed. She's coming towards me and then she starts yelling at you. They're like they're lost. It's absolutely they should finishes them. I would say that that would probably be the number one thing of of just the like like okay. We get it. Just eat your food. What makes what makes a good diner. What does the checklist or a good diner? Dude Tommy and I do exist. That list diners. Of course I think it's like I. I think about all the time because I am that person. Unna diner and I've always tried so hard to respect every single person. I think I think a great diner is is different. There's going to be a diner. That's like so excited to be at a restaurant in wants to know absolutely everything that that you're presenting in your offering and once really all the information that the reasons behind each dish but then there's this diners that come and they're there for reason of of business or friendship and they don't. WanNa be bothered. They just want to be there to just catch up in order to take care of something that they need to take care of and you have to. You have to recognize these. You have to basically feel the table to sort of let people experience the way they want to experience these these restaurants and I think the great universal diner is one that comes in with a lot of respect. One that wants to be friendly to people that are serving and and just thankful for the experience that that we're trying to put out there and have them enjoy. Have you ever had to like after the factor even mid meal tell a diner? Hey you're not you're not welcome restaurant anymore has ever happened. It's something that I you know. I don't have really a job at the restaurant. It's actually the easiest job in the world. At this point I tend to just get in the way of everybody. That's doing an amazing job for us. But I've always said if you need me detonate. That means that we we really go. Deep on communicating in our restaurant and differs having a really tough time with a with a guest they. They're supposed to communicate that to our managers and if the managers are still having a really tough time with the guests they come and get me and you know I have had to go in a lot to two tables and it's my only challenge really when I'm at the restaurant of of dealing with and I've loved doing it. I think it's an amazing challenge to to go up to somebody that is essentially not happy and I know how hard we try to make everybody happy and once it gets to me. I'm like okay here. We go and ninety nine point nine percent of the time as soon as I walk up to a table and sit down or just say on the owner and I don't want you leaving here in the state that you're currently at what. What can we possibly do to make you happier and Because I don't want you leaving here in the way you are most of the time ninety nine point nine percent of the time it works really quickly in fact usually when you say you're the owner that's all you need to set but there was one time it was probably a little less than a year when we opened. Lilia and the manager came up and just said you know there's a gentleman here that's that's not happy and I did the thing I just went up and I said listen can i. Can I help the situation? And he said You know he said a few words he was. He was definitely inebriated and fortunately his his meal was about Trinidad. And I just said I'd like to buy you an after dinner. Drink at the end of your meal. And he said thanks and after his meal he went back and in our back cafe. It was a little crowded so he came back out and essentially acted like he didn't know why it was and I said it is everything. Okay and he cursed me. Missy was right there next to me and I lost it. I just six. Would you say to me. And he cursed at me again and called me a name and I. I grabbed him by the arm and I walked out of the restaurant. And I said you're not welcome back here ever again and then I went to get his three friends in a cafe and I said your your friend has latched and that was it but that was that was the one time. Luckily there is no yelp review. After that what do you think of YOU SEAN? How y'all so? Here's here's the deal. I radio I'd still do to this day even though I probably don't need to. I read every single room. Do that's written about us on every single lash and that's the beautiful thing about all of these platforms existing. Now you really do get a great snapshot of how you're doing and Yelp there is flaws with yelp the fact that people drove me crazy when we first opened. Lilia and I was so new to the business I would get a bad yelp review because we had a three hour. Wait and somebody didn't have a reservation. And they were pissed that they couldn't eat and they would write a bad review about that and I would freak out because it like screw our numbers and I would you know there was also another time when when we first opened that somebody wrote this really nasty review about the people that worked with us and how they were treated by them and I. I couldn't believe it because I was there every night and I knew the person that was serving them and was just not possible. That person would say the things that they were saying so. I started writing. Handwritten letters and this person in this bad reviews told us where they lived across the street and they actually put the their name in it too. So I had the person's name and I knew where they lived so I wrote a handwritten letter essentially like it was two pages long of apologizing for for how they were made to be fell in and I never wanted that to be the case and I welcome them back in it dinner on me and the whole time I was writing this letter. Missy was like you're such an idiot. I can't believe you're an idiot. I should be doing this and sure enough. I go across the street. The building that this person who wrote the review about said they lived in and the Doorman said none. There's nobody in that with that name so finally I wrote them on. Yelp my handwritten letter and they responded back and said they were so embarrassed because they they made it up. They made the review up and and they felt so bad with their letter that I wrote. They had to come clean because it I basically said I couldn't sleep because it may be so bad and so so after that I said okay well. I'm not going to go so crazy anymore about this yellow thing but what I will say. Is this whether you're Pete Wells? Some person on instagram. Some percents YELP. We actually review people every single night to resume our reservation platform where we get to review. We say Hey. These are the questions we want you to use on. Please do it. We look at them. We look at every single review out there and I think that's the beautiful thing about all of these platforms. Is that if you really embrace it and invest in them? You get a good sense of how you doing yes. Of course they're going to be ones that you dislike. That is the dumbest thing ever. Don't even pay attention to that. But you do get to see themes and you get to act on those and I would say yoke and ready and Google instagram. Like those reviews are way better than any of these other like critics now where they come to your restaurant three times. And that's it for the record have said this before but I've never once made a restaurant decision based on yelp. I refused to use YELP. I refuse to look at. Yep knocking happen. I also believe in the in the Gladwin saying we're glad glad we'll kind of talk about this. You know people that are generally going to go write. Something are upset. You either like have like it's amazing if you've okay experienced in a restaurant it's like the Vino APP when I drink an okay wine. I generally don't go put a star next to that a great line five shitty wine to right so it. Kinda skews things one way or another i. I used to trust the professionals. I e the infatuation and then they went so wrong on large. Suzy review that I had to scale back. Might Trust them. But you you still have sort of like of stand boy Thing going with attach relation. I've a fan boy thing with a lot of stuff you know that can i? Can I make my yelp defense for a second? I've told you before the show before we're going to get the the benefit of Yelp to me is not with a restaurant like yours where it's gotten all the reviews. Everybody knows it's good. Did it all that like you. Don't need read the MRI or the Lilia yelp to know that you should go there. The advantage of Yelp is if you are in another part of the country that there may not necessarily be as many reviews especially in place. You're not familiar with and you WANNA have a good meal. That's you find the diamonds in the rough do you. Do you feel like that is fair. It's okay I mean I think this is a generalization but yelp to me always has a negative slant. It kind of leans negative. I just don't use it ever as a diner to go out places because of that as an operator I love yelp I do because I know that it's negative slant but I also know that infatuation and instagram leans positive and so it's it's a good balance to those very positive platforms but for me like I think there's way better things to look at a diner. I never when I'm going to another city on never looked yelp. Just because it's it's to me is a is a negative slant. I'd rather go to infatuation. Were just Google or ask friends I use. That's actually the first thing I do always. When I'm going to a new city I ask friends like where? Where am I supposed to be going? How difficult has the last few weeks pin for you and Missy Given the sort of effects of Corona virus on the hospitality industry and. I know we've talked about it. But you know just how gut wrenching. It's been in relations to people that work for you and your team and your your restaurant family. Yeah I think you know it's it's interesting in January. When it first came out in in China I honestly had this weird feeling like okay. This is this could impact us and it really like accelerated so fast and we were the three of us. Were basically living in real time and I would say for me. I started thinking about contingency plans a month ago when Seattle is on lockdown and people are dying. And I'm like okay. This is going to impact New York. I started doing all these shocks to our our business and I came up with this feeling that okay. Even if our business goes down. Seventy five percent of sales goes down. Seventy five percent will be able to stay open. We'll be able to be profitable and that gives me some peace and comfort but then as the weeks would go on. Our sales weren't going down at all but knew that the ultimate outcome of this thing. We're most likely going to be not just sales. It was going to be closure and every decision. I was trying to make that time with missy. We were walking this. This balanced your threading a needle between keeping our restaurants of place of safety and health but also at the same time keeping him a place where people felt protected and comfortable and Those people were not just guests. They were our our family. The people that worked with us and there came this moment where it was two Sundays Ago. Where we just had to say man. We gotTA shut down. We're no longer able to say with confidence to our people that this is a safe place for them to come work every night and that was crushing. I've never been so sad in my life. I honestly have never been so sad. I telling the people at Lilia issue that we were going to be closing and I wasn't sad because we were shutting our business down. I knew the moment we felt it was safe and I still do once. It feels safe to do it again. We'll turn those lights back on and we'll be as profitable in his busy as we've ever been but what I was so sad about. Was that initial saying this is no longer a place where you're going to be safe to come every day knowing that because of that they were now completely unsafe outside of our restaurants in the form of their financial security because everybody each person two hundred people at work with US agree percentage of those people are living paycheck to paycheck and the moment we closed the business we had to we had. We had laid off of centrally and they had to get unemployment benefits immediately and they started there are risks and that was was really scary and there was no playbook on on how to go about this. This was never done before it was it was like a Google Crisis Management. And it hasn't been done before but in in twelve hours you know missy and. I were texting like crazy when we finally got back home on that Sunday night and I was just so sad and she was so sad and we woke up on Monday. And I said let's meet a Lilia at seven o'clock in the morning we met Lily. And we're like okay. How are we GONNA do this? How are we going to make these people feel better and then Mitchell thing was? Let's is three-part plan. The first part was we're GONNA pay them immediately for what they did last week. We're going to make sure that we help them. Get unemployment benefits as quickly as humanly possible. let's let them know we're GONNA pay for their time off that we would have paid this this year anyway and sick paid so essentially two weeks of pay and then also anybody that's been on healthcare. We got him until the end of April. At least let's give them some sort of help their anxiety this morning by saying that and then we felt good about that I attack and then the second prong was okay now. How can we bridge because I started doing all this work on? Unemployment benefits. Essentially unemployment benefits. Were your your your income was cutting hats at least a half and so how could we possibly get them up to what they were making like? Make them whole or because this wasn't their fault they want to work. They just weren't allowed to in safe. So we came up with this idea of starting a fund and we just went to our community very quickly and launched this family fund and fortunately a lot of people have followed and most restaurants. Now have these go fund me funds and it's an amazing thing and then lastly we thought it would be really cool in this moment where everybody would probably be so sad and it's time to give him some sort of excitement or incentive So that when we did open up they feel like they were participating in our in our success when we finally were allowed to do it so we were able to give everybody when we do open back up until the end of this year. They will participate our profits with us through throughout this year. And honestly through this entire situation this these two weeks now that we've closed our doors. We just fought really hard to make sure everybody that works with. Us feels protected and excited to come back. And that has been are only are only saying that we've put our efforts into and then on the side. I've worked really hard in in the background of just trying to get some of this. This bill finalized and worked on. But really it's been about taking care of our people missy and I were fortunate. We've had very successful businesses. We bill and they're going to be really successful. When we open back up I would say sixty five percent of the restaurants at least that have closed because of this virus will not be able to reopen. They were not very healthy before the virus. This virus made these businesses fail sooner than they probably were going to but now that we have people protected this bill was passed today and signed tonight. I think now it's kind of like all right now. What's next when it when it is safe again and missy and I are very on the same page of this we're not rushing back we don't need to rush back to open up business because we need to When it is safe now how are we GONNA do that? 'cause it's GonNa look a lot different especially in the beginning. These look a lot different for everybody. I know we've talked about this quite a bit in the last two episodes psalm eight but just how much this shutdown has impacted the hostile industry and living in New Orleans. The last eight months Met some amazing people down there in the industry for any listener has the ability to help any way you can. Your favorite has a fund. I trust me And if you could find on social media that you if you can help out any way you can. I mentioned this to episodes ago. But there's a lot of people are going to need food needs food and If you have a surplus whatever that may be you know please donate to your local food bank. If you don't that's not I understand. A lot of people are struggling with this right now. But if you can give by all means please help. Is this bill this bill? That asked is amazing. It's an amazing thing for people in America. It's honestly this is. This is why we should have faith in our country. Despite any politic view. You have what happened in occurred this past week with this. Bill is should give anybody face in in our country in the best of times and now in our darkest time where we are with this bill going to be able to take care of people on Main Street and it was a very different This is a bailout. It's a very different bail out than the crisis. The Financial Crisis in Oh eight where that crisis was created by people who over levered themselves and took advantage of systems and they ran out of money. The bank surrounded by this is a very different type of crisis and the country reacted in an amazing way and it is so amazing to see the support that we've received so many other restaurants have received with these funds that have been set up but it's also amazing to see the response of our country. Our government that that has that has this bill is is. We should be very proud. That this occurred in Apple. Sean this is sort of a specific restaurant question but you know even with these shelter in places all over the country. A lot of restaurants have takeout. Delivery explained the listener Are Jj night as well. Because I think that word obviously novices at this like what sort of financial hit? They're taking even if the takeout very successful. It's huge the restaurant model is pretty simple model. It says very simple financial formula where you have two inputs of sales. It's beverage and food and then you just have to manage a couple of fix costs and then a couple variable costs like food and beverage and labor and what happens is when you start losing sales when your sales decrease all of these other things all of these other expenses become out of whack and what happens in New York City a typical restaurant formula. You should never have your lease that you sign before you open business. Which is the biggest cost that you could possibly imagine? It's fixed for most people if you lose sales and your sales decrease your occupancy cost rent cost goes up and it throws everything out of whack so in New York City you should never be over. A percent of sales hang in rent were occupancy end in New York City a typical restaurant especially Manhattan is like fifteen percent of sales. People are spending on rent fifteen to twenty percent so when you actually start losing sales and your sales decreased by fifty percent which happened in the past couple of weeks with a lot of restaurants. Your occupancy costs goes to forty percent and you can't possibly make up the difference anywhere else. The price of products aren't going down with prices. Labor's going really down. You could fire people you could have less people working for you but really just became this huge decrease of sales throws the entire formula offer restaurants. Now the restaurants that are trying to get through this and to change their business model you know I. I don't I don't know if it works for them. I think he can. There is a lot less people that you could possibly employ but in order to pay your rent and all of that thing you just have to. You have to change your whole business bottle in the delivery takeout thing. I think what we're going to see coming out of. This are going to be great opportunities. One of them being the ghost kitchen. Ghost kitchens haven't worked for the past five years there's been many businesses that started goes kitchens that failed but I do think through this This time we're going to figure out a way to ghost kitchens and I'm excited about that. I think I think it is a time where we could We could build a new form of hospitality in a in a pretty authentic and delicious wet. Let's pretend for second that you're having your last meal and let's pretend that you get five courses in that last meal and these five courses very specific things I he not a hot dog if it is a hot dog. It's gotTa be a very specific dog. So that's this week's power rankings. You're you're you're five courses in your final meal Tommy. Why don't you start us off? We need to make clarifications on I want to hear. Let's go are we doing with wind barracks? We'll get to the wine. Are we doing our all time meal in New York? And Are we going specific? So we're just we're just talking about what we want as the food so it's not about the restaurant it's just what you want for each course. You seem to be confused confused. I think it gives you go first. I want you to hear yours I have mine but I want to hear yours. I okay. I'm actually my first two courses. I've doubled down on shellfish so the first course would be a half dozen raw oysters from the Walrus and the carpenter which is in Seattle. The second course would be the classic. Thomas Keller dish oysters and pearls featured at the French laundry and I believe per se as well it's a Sabacajan of Pearl Tapioca with Beausoleil And White Sturgeon Caviar. It's insane ask third so I'm going to double down on my third fourth horses. Well I'M GONNA GO PASTA for both courses at. I think Tommy agreed beforehand. We were not allowed to say anything that was from Lilia or MRI THIRD SPAGHETTI. At Large Fourth. Course I was just GONNA say any. You know sort of Pasta with truffles but very specifically the Tagliatelle with truffles At the Surf Club in Miami the last great bowl of Pasta with trump was that I had and then my fifth course. I'm GONNA have Some some meat There's a there's a little hibachi grill in Kyoto called Edo Kyoto's about two hours from Kobe and Had Kobe beef there on the grill. It was the most delicious red meat I've ever had in my life. That would be my final course. I feel very good about my choices. I feel better about choices today than I did about my cereal choices last week because people killed choices all you got to the wine pairings man. That's this is your this. Is Your Shit right there. You know all right. So here's what I was thinking so for the raw oysters. I JUST WANNA local craft pills nerve from Seattle. I'm cool with that. Of course to three. I thought I could take my time with a bottle of domain lef- love Chevallier Mara Shea a grind crew white Burgundy Chardonnay grade for the tagliatelle truffles and Kobe beef. I would obviously. I'm GONNA do a a Red Burgundy. I know role. Truffles was go together. But I get his stick with one bottle of Red Burgundy and I would do a Tosh and make it a great fit like that I I'm up. I'm doing all New York because I was misinformed about what the topic was and I need more time to do this national. It's just impossible for me to do this ten seconds but I haven't ever list I haven't list. And when Shawn comes on in two weeks at his and his repeat appearance we're going to go through are going through national. That's Yeah Okay. I got Sean on every week. I'm in Boyce. I got nothing but time I I course. Dispatched OCTOPUS TABOOED MIDTOWN WEST. Fifty second tents amazing Lebanese Mediterranean every everything. There is great but the Spanish octopus appetizers incredible. The Salad is a Caesar Salad from Ph. Rose forty third. Second if you've been there. Jj though but the fact that you chose this is your last meal your life. You don't have to have a salad and Caesar Salad but this is the this is. You'RE GONNA pick a salad. I knew it first of all. I don't think the sound is that healthy but it's an you're gonNA sell it. It's the Best Caesar Salad. The world just place Beatrice The Pasta Don Angie in the West village they have broken be Borugu which is phenomenal. Entree a new edition crown. Shy Lower Manhattan roasted short rib with braised ends in maturity which is which is really. Good those guys. Those guys are killing it. They're killing places. Incredible it's very weird setup but the food is amazing and the dessert would be a flour less chocolate cake from Baltasar. What are you gonNA drink tonic? I don't know because whenever we go out to eat you guys shoes. I feel like I don't want to put myself out there with the wrong choice. I WANNA let jj L. Y. Drink the wine that I just took the line that he picks hopefully stay into. I'm most I'm most excited to hear this shit because I know I. I'm so excited for this. I am so excited this so what I've been thinking about is I could potentially do every every dish I eat before I die is right here in Brooklyn in and I'm not going to do that. But but what is what is amazing about where we live you know. We have the best chef in the world's in that Cooks Pasta Monsieur Robbins. We have the best tip master in the world's billy earning and we have the best pizza. Ola PIZZA MAKER MARK. I Kona from Lou. Collie I'm not GonNa do that though But it is a pretty amazing thing where we live. I would say the five dishes that I'm taking our dishes that I actually wake up every morning and I think about. I don't know if you know this but I have this crazy photographic memory and there are dishes that like. I know that exact day that I ate that and First things first. I would have this last meal in the Secret Garden. It Luke Kelly outside that would be the place that I had this last meal. I would start off with an agronomy And I would then go into a bottle of dom because every celebration as you guys know now starts in my family because my dad with with Baal adopter in yawn and I would have a starter from Masa. Which is the Fatty Tuna Tuna Iranian? Caviar on a little piece of toast that you start off every meal at Moskowitz. I would then go John Vince. John and Binny's has a gem lettuce and collaboration Chili dressing. That is absolutely fire that I cannot. I can't get out of my brain. It's essentially a spicy. Caesar Salad and it's just perfection with that course I would start a bottle of emidio peppy tech arena. Oh it's a it's like a white from route so it's my favorite white and then pasta it would be on Bucatini amateur Jonah from Babo. I had bist this dish February. Twenty third two thousand five was the first time I ever had dined at Babo. Changed my life. The BUCATINI CINA is perfection. Guan Xiali Red Pepper red pepper flakes Sammer Jonah Tomato and Bucatini is just like a very stick spaghetti and with a lot of cheese mixed in at the end Entree I would have from hometown barbecue. Beef Rib Billy. Dernie is probably the greatest meat cook of all time. I I don't know how to say it but this beef ribs is perfection. It melts in your mouth that I thought that was may eleventh two thousand thirteen at hometown barbecue and the desert is firm. A Little Tuscan restaurant on west Broadway Canal No I had this desert the first time November fifth two thousand eight. I was married for about two months. And it is a ricotta cheese cake and it is greatness. It's Creamy it's perfection and they actually have a New York Times article written about it. I think back in the early two thousands and my wife and I tried so hard to recreate this this cheesecake and I think they gave you the wrong recipe because we can't get it and neither can missy but we do this thing where when we go to parties will always call EPA Lino and order twenty four hours in advance. I think they charge us like eighty bucks for this for this pie and when we bring it to parties is the showstopper and from there on out people always talk about this ricotta cheese cake from. Pepe Lena with dinner. I would drink Jacques which. Jj put me onto Burgundy and yeah that would be my my last meal. And because it's at Lou colleague and I was only allowed to pick the top five because it's that locally in the in the secret garden I might have to steal a meatball and a slice of Pie. You know go with hot peppers and shallots honesty. Hard to leave a slice of blue-collar Out of my top five and also I thought to myself if I was going to have a last meal. I just WanNa go have a piece of their and bring a bottle of Red Burgundy. Like that to me would be a nice last neil totally and mark hugging while while we're eating in a setting is also an incredible call. Well I don't think I don't think Tommy. I don't think you've ever been with me back out in that garden. I. Jj have we have. We're allowed to hang out together again. Hopefully soon in the weather's nice will have a really nice meal back in In that secret garden. There's nothing like it. It really is a special magical place guys when we can all be in the same room together. I really do think that's the call. I think it's I think it's a pizza. It's I always call it. I will bring the wine okay. I'll bring some Jack. Maybe we do the boys dinner the Friends of dinner at at calling when we first when we can gets it. Sounds like a plan. Very Amazing Sean. Thank you for the time man. Always good catching up. Stay say right Steve. Thanks so much for listening. This week's episode of the PODCAST Tommy. Alter lots of food talk. Lots of restaurant talk Really enjoyed our guest. Sean Feeney. Our good buddy. Do you have any questions comments concerns? It is up on twitter. T- alter and JJ underscore radic also hit us up on Instagram as always. Thank you for listening. Tommy would you like to add anything we we signed off. They say they say everybody

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