We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Roy Elam a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Roy, thanks for joining us today. How did you scale up? What were the strategies, tactics, meaningful moments, twists/turns, obstacles, mistakes along the way? The world needs to hear more realistic, actionable stories about this critical part of the business building journey. Tell us your scaling up story – bring us along so we can understand what it was like making the decisions you had, implementing the strategies/tactics etc.
At this point in our life we are doing 4x the amount of business as we did when we first opened. This has been a gradual growth with waves of growing pains. We have tried it all: dinner only, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week, 6 days a week, 5 days a week…it has all been a huge learning experience.
The biggest tool that I have had in terms of scalability has been knowing my recipe yields, knowing my staffing needs, and good old fashioned math. It’s not exciting but I think it’s a step that a lot of people skip over. I went from being a person that just loved to cook to a business owner that is constantly crunching numbers, checking sales reports, costing recipes, adjusting labor, and being the default accountant for our $1.5 million dollar a year restaurant. That is a huge jump for me personally but, as it turns out, I actually enjoy this part of my job. This is coming from a guy that failed college algebra THREE TIMES! At this point I open the calculator on my phone more than any other app.
Roy, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My name is Roy Elam and I am the Chef/Owner of the restaurant Donna Jean. We are located in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego, CA and will be opening soon in Sherman Oaks, CA. Donna Jean is a made form scratch plant based restaurant that focuses on artisan pizzas, handmade pastas, and seasonal vegetable dishes. We are proud of the fact that we have become a comfortable space for everyone whether they follow a plant based diet or not.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
Throughout the entire pandemic we never closed. We pivoted to take out only and offered anything that customers needed to get through the early days of the lockdown. Through that resilience we have come out the other side as a better restaurant than we were before. Pre-pandemic our takeout sales were very low at only 9% of total sales. Now, since we were resilient through the lockdowns, our take out business accounts for 30% of our business and our total sales have increased significantly.
Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?
Consistency with our food and service. We strive to maintain a high level in every thing we do.
- Website: www.donnajeanrestaurant.com
- Instagram: @donnajeanofficial