Opening a new restaurant is like going to war.
There’s a Seal Team Six mentality required, says St. Louis’s 2017 Restauranteur of the Year Zoe Robinson.
“You need to be in tip-top shape, emotionally and physically, and prepared for everything,” says Robinson, who threw open the doors to her third restaurant, Billie Jean, in St. Louis this past December.
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Robinson offers insights before dashing off to manage her Italian, French and American fare eateries.
Q: I read that you describe opening a restaurant as going to war. Can you say more?
It’s true. You need to be so prepared, not just for customers, but for online bloggers and critics on Yelp. Ten minutes of a restaurant’s life, good or bad, can instantly find its way into a review or a story. So, you need to be prepared for all eventualities.
Q: What advice do you have for getting prepared?
I would recommend having as many soft openings with friends and families as you can afford. They’re very expensive to do, but the they help prepare the staff and iron out any difficulties. I had several before I opened my newest restaurant, Billie Jean, on Dec. 21.
Q: You now have 3 restaurants in St. Louis. What’s your secret to success?
I don’t have a secret tip, but I guess I would say that first and foremost, I work very hard and stay focused. And, it helps that my restaurants are all in very close physical proximity. Two are across the street from each other, and the third is a block away. I’m in a great, sweet neighborhood just outside St. Louis. It’s the first suburban neighborhood just outside the city, so it’s still very urban. And the buildings are very pretty, with a 1920s architecture. All of my restaurants are very tiny in footprint, so all three probably add up to an average-sized restaurant for others.
Q: How did you get into this business?
I fell into it when I was young. I worked in restaurants while going to college and was hooked. There was no turning back for me. The restaurants won me over. My advice to anyone seeking to pursue the business is to definitely do it if you feel passionate about it. There’s nothing like working for yourself!
Zoe Robinson was named Restauranteur of the Year by St. Louis Magazine in 2017. She owns three thriving restaurants— I Fratellini, an Italian eatery; Bar Les Freres (pictured above), a French bistro, and Billie Jean, an American dining experience. Robinson uses Boxerbrand menu covers in her table presentation.