How to Quit Your Day Job and Open a Restaurant
Sure you’re a foodie who loves dining out, but maybe when you go to a restaurant you eye the decor and every detail because you secretly want to be a #girlboss with a dream culinary career. If your fave episode of Top Chef is “Restaurant Wars” because the idea of opening a restaurant from the ground up — like Jessica Biel’s kid-friendly eatery or an all-female sushi chef resto — is exciting to you, then you might want to consider becoming a restaurateur. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Samantha Wasser, the president, cofounder and creative director of by CHLOE., a series of popular vegan restaurants with locations in New York City, Los Angeles and Boston.
Meet the Restaurant Pro: Samantha Wasser
Samantha worked in celebrity marketing before she decided she wanted to go into the family business. Her father, Jimmy Haber, is the CEO of Esquared Hospitality, a restaurant group that’s opened BLT Steak, Horchata and by CHLOE. Samantha always knew that she wanted to join the foodie world, but she wanted to be ready. Since coming on board as the company’s creative director, Samantha has opened Horchata de Nueva York and several by CHLOE. locations, and was named one of Zagat’s “30 Under 30” in 2014. Samantha continues to work on expanding the by CHLOE. brand and is launching The Sosta, a new Italian fast-casual concept opening in January 2017 in New York City.
1. Pin it to win it. Samantha says that it takes about a year for a restaurant to go from concept to reality. In that time frame, the chef works on the recipes while Samantha and her team work on the branding. To keep her creative ideas flowing, Samantha creates a slew of Pinterest boards to help her brainstorm. “I collect everything that I have in mind for the concept, what inspires me and intrigues me,” she says. The visual aspects of the restaurant are hugely important to Samantha and what makes her work stand out in the crowded culinary industry.
2. Have a role model. Samantha has seen her dad grow Esquared Hospitality into a successful business, and she looks up to him for his ability to constantly challenge her and encourage her growth as a creative director. “He had always been supportive of my joining the team and starting to work on new concepts. That opportunity helped me realize my love and strength for brand creation and restaurant development,” says Samantha. Our tip: Find a mentor, a fellow #girlboss or an industry expert who can help guide you and support you as you grow in your career.
3. Be meticulous. Part of the charm of the by CHLOE. brand is the chic, fun vibe of the restaurants. A “You batter believe it” pink neon sign brightens the Sweets by CHLOE. bakery in New York City. Puns like “Drop us a beet” or “We make a prickly pair” adorn the to-go bags, napkins and placemats. It’s no accident. Samantha worked on every single detail with the branding team Paperwhite Studio and Dekar Interior Design. “Everything you see in the restaurants and on our website are designs and thoughts that I meticulously pored over until I thought it was just right. Type A perfectionist right here!” she says.
4. Fear is good. If you’re completely freaked out about your brand-new venture or creative idea, Samantha says that you’re on the right path. “I think, if you have fear, it means you’re doing something right because you are taking a risk, with everything to gain,” she says. Sure, it means that you might have some sleepless nights, but if you’re moving in a direction that gets you excited, go for it.
5. Go with your gut. Going with your first instinct can make all the difference in your decision-making process. “When I was opening Horchata and by CHLOE., my gut was the road map to ensure I knew I was making the right decisions. Even at times when I’d spend weeks second-guessing a choice, I always ended up coming back to my initial decision,” says Samantha. Follow your gut reactions to make the best choices for you.
6. Accept help when you need it. If you’re in charge of a restaurant’s start-to-finish, there are tons of details to work out, and it can be all consuming. Samantha recommends asking for help when you need it. “You can’t be at every photo shoot, or in each restaurant every day to make sure everything is set up properly. Learning to ask for and take help, and learning to trust your team were two extremely important lessons I learned,” she says. Recognize that tapping into the talent around you will only help you grow.
7. Enjoy the variety of your job. Samantha opened the first by CHLOE. in July 2015, and things have moved very fast since then. Every day is a different day for Samantha. “I wake up every morning and have a different list of things to accomplish. The diversity and creative outlet I get each day is what keeps things exciting,” she says. Right now, she’s on the hunt for new cities that are great fits for the by CHLOE. concept and is working on three new fast-casual concept restaurants that will launch in New York City in 2017. Her work day is certainly never boring!
Perfect Your Skills
1. Design Your Brand Identity Online Class ($29): When thinking about starting a restaurant, you’ll want to consider the design aspects of the brand. Join creative designer Meg Lewis to learn how to develop your brand’s mission statement and a mood board that represents your brand’s unique identity.
2. Logo Design in Adobe Illustrator Online Class ($39): An important part of creating a restaurant’s concept is coming up with the logo that will cement your restaurant’s look for future customers. Sketch out a possible design, and learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to take it to the next level.
3. InDesign Typesetting: Design a Restaurant Menu ($29): A restaurant’s concept is all in the details, and the look of the restaurant menu is a huge component of branding. You’ll learn how to organize and prioritize content, use multiple typefaces and practice using InDesign for a final look.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Esquared Hospitality)