Vinum Executive Chef and restaurateur Massimo Felici’s passion for food started as a young boy growing up in New York. He started his career in the Restaurant business in Manhattan. Through the following years he kept on moving up the ladder over many other fine Italian establishments in New York such as, Cipriani's, Giambelli, Da Umberto, Meza Luna (in California), Canastels, and more.
Transcriptions are produced by AI as well as humans and may contain errors.
Disclaimer: A warning before we get started. This episode contains explicit language.
Glen Sanders (GS): In today's episode of Main Street Hustle, we sit down with Massimo Felici. An Executive Chef and Restaurateur who has owned and built restaurants in Italy and in New York City. Today, you'll find him at the helm of Vinum and the Richmond. Two eateries in the burgeoning restaurant row along bay street in New York, Staten Island.
Massimo is.. well, an interesting character. As you'll soon discover, he has a way with the English language. His native language is Italian but he speaks in a type of English called Brooklynese that can make even the saltiest of sailors cringe. I was always a little frightened of the restaurant business because at 13 years old, the father figure in my life who owned restaurants, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me dead in the eyes and said, "if you ever learned anything from me, don't go in the restaurant business," so I didn't.
This is the same advice Massimo gives the people who tell him they want to own a restaurant.
Massimo Felici (MF): Don't f*cking do it. Straight up. Don't do it. I'm going to tell you, save the f*cking money. Don't do it!
GS: I worked as a bartender from Osmond in the late 90s at La Nonna is restaurant in Manhattan's West village. Massimo is a very hands on owner. So I was treated to a behind the scenes view of the inner workings of a real restaurant. I would ask questions. He would tell me to F* off that I asked too many questions, and then he would launch into a detailed answer, satisfying my natural curiosity about all things small business.
GS: So tell me your background. How did you get into the restaurant
MF: I get into the restaurant business because I need the money for my pocket when I was 15 years old.
GS: Living where?
MF: I was living in Brooklyn.
GS: Yeah. So you took a job. What? Washing dishes or whatever you could get?
MF: Uh, no. Go f*ck yourself. I was, uh, Nah, nothing wrong with that actually. But I was a busboy. I started working as a busboy.
GS: One step up from Washington.
MF: Yeah, one step up, which I ended up washing dishes sometimes, anyway. Busboy and a couple of you know, cool restaurants, high end restaurants in the city got lucky and my father knew some people so I got in there and started making some serious bank back then.
GS: As a bus boy?
MF: As a bus boy going back to.. Jesus! When Reagan got elected.
GS: Whenever that was. What kind of a busboy where you, I mean, were you a
MF: Damn f*cking good busboy.
GS: What makes a good busboy?
MF: What makes a good busboy?
GS: Damn good busboy. Why are you better than every other busboy?
MF: I honestly, I was better than any other busboy.
GS: But you were.
MF: But I was. Nah! I was working down on Wall Street man. I was down a Wall Street working as a busboy and his restaurant and a lot of of my age. I was 16 I think at time I was already working somewhere else, at 15 down on Mulberry St. And then I went to this place on Wall Street. I was 16, I told the guy I was 18 what did about a full bar less than a year, and he made me a waiter after that and then I have my 19th birthday party there and he goes, What the f*ck? I said, if I told you I was 16. You don't want to push up to a waiter.
MF: Everybody around there was mid 20s 30s
GS: You're a waiter at?
MF: 17 and that's going back. Who? Jesus is going back a long ass time ago and going back in 25 now. Yeah, exactly. I was in the late 80s early 90s. I was making, I was making good money. I'll let to go money. Yeah, the back then. It's still considered decent money today. That's what's scary about the restaurant business.
GS: Yeah. Can a waiter make a decent money these days?
MF: No, not anymore. I mean, you make a living, you know back then that you were making stupid money.
GS: What if you're a waiter at a Peter Luger's? That's like the folk, the folklore of the word on the street. Isn't Peter Luger's waiters make more money than anybody in the business?
MF: Well, listen man, when I was 19 I stuck in the dining room mainly working. I didn't get into the kitchen tool like in my early, early 20s, like 21, 22 until then, I was always in the dining room. Manhattan was crazy money in a restaurant business, a lot of cash credit cards just started really coming out, you know, late eighties, you know, everybody had a lot of credit cards, so it's still a lot of cash. Uh, all the tips, one declared there was money in your pocket. You made 200, you made 200.
GS: It was cash.
MF: Yeah. Now you made 200, you making 120. So somebody tells me, Oh, I make two grand a week in tips. Really? For all these restaurants in Manhattan. You're making 2 Grand a weeks and tips even your cash gets declared, which I understand is, should be, but you know what, you're not making 2 Grand. No. Back then it was taken home to mean 30 years ago, 33 years ago, and his restaurant, I was working, I was averaging no less than 250 a day. That was my average working lunch and then a long way, I mean long freaking hours, but I was having changed. It's still along. Also now making two 50 a day. I was working five days making $1,200. I was off on Sunday and I was f*cking broke.
GS: So how'd you get from a waiter at a restaurant owner?
MF: I mean, that's the progression. You know, I ended up with chef.
GS: as Chef. I mean..
MF: I guess, yeah, I mean, listen, I ended up, uh, like in the business I will enjoy the cooking, the food part of it. Growing up in an Italian family, Italian, Italian family. Not American- Italian or they want one American Italian. But you know
GS: What's the difference?
MF: I just told you there's American- Italian, the Italian- American. I was born in Italy. I grew up how, you know, a good part of my life. I spent in Italy and they move here. It's a little bit different mentality, different cooking, different mentality. You know, they'll obviously the American- Italian here, only knows, mostly knows about Italy through the parents and grandparents, which, you know, they have a different outlook on how things were back in the day in Italy. You know, as things have totally changed in Italy now.
GS: How did you develop your chef skills?
MF: By eating well, listen, I was lucky to work in a lot of great restaurants in, in a, in Manhattan back in the day, like I said, because of friends or that my father knew I was able to get in where other kids my age never would have gotten in there then what? I had to go through them, you know, the grinding of it. I mean, don't get me wrong, they're still broke my ass, but you know, I worked in all, you know, Cipriani's back in the day, John Bellies and a bunch of others, you know!
GS: Big kitchens.
MF: Big kitchens. The kitchen's, I mean back then it was a top, top Italian restaurants in the city. I got firsthand of high end food, good food, got spoiled with the good food, and listen, one of the reasons why you get into the restaurant business also, aside from enjoying and and making a good money, you know the quick money in your pocket every day instead of waiting until the end of the week and so forth.
I think everybody in any business has worked in a restaurant business at one point in their lives because make quick cash put in your pocket and it's not like you or they asked you for college degree or you know, huge incredible references to work in a restaurant.
GS: So the natural progression is to go from, from the kitchen to front of house?
MF: So well some guys just stay in the kitchen only. Some guys stay in a dining room only. I went into the kitchen, all chefs and a lot of them do need to know how the dining room works. To know that you really need to be also work in the dining room a bit on one point in your life or being intertwined with the dining room. Just to understand dynamics and mechanics of the dining room and kitchen, how they flow. Listen has always been as animosity between kitchen and dining.
When we all know that, I don't think his animosity is mainly there in restaurants where the owner, either he's the chef or the dining room guy doesn't understand both. You understand the only one part.
GS: Can you tell that when you walk into a restaurant?
MF: Many times, yeah!
GS: You can notice that, hey, you know what? Either of these two aren't in sync or this is a chef that may make great food, but he can't run a dining room
MF: Well, you can't tell sometimes if sometimes you can, and the reason behind it, like you know, everybody always has a bitch in and ammonia. You going to train your staff, train your staff how to do this and how to do that. You know, listen everything. We don't come in and train staff. A lot of times staff sucks. Not just in a restaurant business and any f*cking business.
The hardest thing about business is that at the end of the day, I worry more about babysitting my staff than I do anything else. Um, obviously babysitting my customers about babysitting a staff that does the right thing cause I don't give a sh*t how good you are because they're new or they're telling your staff, your, um, your great employee that does everything right when you are around looking. And then when, when you're away, you're on your camera and there's mother f*cker is doing shit he shouldn't be doing right. Everybody's experienced that. So it's called babysitting. You gotta be there all the time or checkout compound check up on them and this and that. Just the way it is. You cannot control your staff to do the best job possible. Even though unfortunately you, you know that they know how to do it. It does selling mean that they're going to execute it.
GS: You train a lot of people. I mean, when you get new staff and you train them on the way that you run the business?
MF: Absolutely! But you can't be looking at everybody all the time. So a lot of times you're going to get a a waiter that maybe says it doesn't do the exactly the right thing or it doesn't serve the right way or whatever the case may be and customers gets pissy and then automatically blames the owner. Yes, it does fall upon the owner ultimately because I own the place. So yeah, sure. Everything is my f*cking fault.
GS: What do you say to someone that wants to get in the restaurant business that has never been in the business before?
MF: Don't f*cking do it! Straight up. People come to me and asking you that question all the time because I'm in the restaurant business.
GS: Why you think people want to open a restaurant in the first place?
MF: Because they see the Glitz and glamour. They see me walking around, hugging, having a glass of wine and chit chatting and hanging out and do podcasts with you and they think, oh, look at it. That's a f*cking lie. Look at this guy!
GS: Just a quick, just to clarify the podcast as part of the glamorous part.
MF: That is the glamorous part. Yes. Well, that's what I'm saying. But the see that you know, and I think it's all, oh, what is it you want me to turn? I've heard people saying, oh, I'm going to hire a good, I've got a great chef. I'm going to hire a chef. I got this good guys, a managing his other restaurant. I'm going to bring them in. You know, I'm going to open a restaurant food and they make great food is in that. Well it makes, you know they've robbed you mother f*cking blind and because you are a, I don't know, you're a plumber and electrician.
You made a lot of money in that business and now you want to get out because you don't want to get on your knees and clean sh*t pipes. And you know what I'm saying? Oh, whatever the f*ck it may be. And you think now they can make a lot of wine in a restaurant. Cause, and I want to go in and say, Hey, I don't want a restaurant because only in a restaurant it has always this glamorous thing. Look at these f*cking actors and celebrities that I opened up restaurants. Oh, I own a restaurant. Oh, I own us dry. Most of them end up failing anyway. Why? Why? They hired a bunch of managers and this and that. And even though those managers were very capable, they ran great places and the chefs have probably f*cking 2-star Michelin Star on that air balls. It's not theirs.
And that guy, when he gets a better offer somewhere else, he's gone. You know that manager when he gets A's, once you come with me, Yo, what are you doing over there in managing, I'll give you, I'll give you 25% of our restaurant make your partner and in a restaurant, that guy's gone.
GS: And those guys have the experience to know that that restaurant is going to fail long before that owner knows it's going to fail.
MF: At the end of the day, you got to be there if you own the business. I don't get, there was three. I don't care. Selling light bulbs, brother,
GS: How many hours a day you gotta be there?
MF: It depends on the business. And this business, it's a long, many hours and another business maybe it's not, but whatever the business is that you decided to do, your ass gotta be there, period, or your partner he's gotta be there. Then you gotta Watch your partner and isn't that stealing from you? But at least the only one got to worry about. But at least he's gonna run your business. Well, he might steal the money from you, but he's going to have your visit is gonna run it? Well, hopefully it goes to the same bank. You know that you're sharing, but that's another conversation. But you need an owner. An owner needs to be in the place and I don't give a shit where you're selling in this case.
I'm fortunate. The restaurant business is long hours. Another thing, why I live in Staten Island now, I ended up moving in. Don't ask me why is another long f*cking story, but actually I like it. You know, it's close, accessible to everywhere I got to go. And you know what? I'm 12 minutes away to my house.
My wife and kids come by all the time religiously.
GS: You see your family a lot more now than when you came?
MF: Yes it became almost a normal life. You know this becomes an extension of my home. All restaurants are an extension of your home, but that's because your ass is there 15 hours. In this case it's the same thing, but at least I see my family, right? Kids come by and my wife comes by. We have dinner together. I run home in the middle of the afternoon to surprise my, you know, my kids and hang out a little bit then and come back here again. You know, I'm 15 minutes away when I had my restaurants in Manhattan House. Now I was at my house 9:30- 10 the latest and I wasn't home until 1 in the morning.
GS: Do you think families suffer in the restaurant business? Typically?
MF: 100%. Of course they're not there.
GS: Of course, unless the whole family works in the restaurant and then everybody's there.
MF: Well, if you want to do the whole time it goes, then Jesus Christ!
GS: You don't want to hire your whole family to work in the restaurant?
MF: Absolutely not.
GS: Have you ever worked with family and the restaurant?
GS: Do you have family now that's still in the restaurant business?
MF: No. I'm the only one. Yes. I was the only sick bastard yet.
GS: You're the only one? Everybody else is normal.
MF: Everybody else is normal.
GS: You've had a bunch of restaurants over the years, right? How many restaurants have you owned?
MF: Oh, the first one was in Italy, was a small partner in the restaurant in New York. When I just moved back from Florence, I was a chef at a small partnership, which meant nothing but whatever. Then I opened, we believe on Park Avenue, so that's 2. Then I open. Wynonna is 3 we are asked worked.
GS: I was your greatest bartender.
MF: My greatest bartender? Yes, absolutely. Hands down.
GS: Really? I got, I got that on tape now.
MF: Ah, yeah. Definitely my greatest bartender
GS: Couldn't make a drink to save my life, but I had a great, I had a bar full of happy people.
MF: Absolutely. Everybody was f*cking drinking, registered, any hidden.
GS: That's not true. I always collected.
MF: Then I opened a lounge slash club in East village and then I opened a little place and then I opened this place here. So some of my own by opened 4 people, a bunch of other restaurants. I was the starting crew. I will go in, I would hire the staff, train the kitchen, do the menu, put together the food costs, possibly sometime the wine list
GS: So you are helping other people who put all the restaurants together.
MF: Put all the purveyors together. Meaning started up.
GS: Did you like that?
MF: 3-6 months. It was fun.
GS: You like starting it up more than running?
MF: I had another job also as well. That was my part time job. I was in corporate for a while. I was in real estate for a while but always kept my, my gig for restaurant cause I do like it and that's what I know and what I like for what of a sick thing it is but it is true. And then after that, when I left the corporate world, I ended up for two years knowing I was gonna open up a little something I would just doing consulting. But it wasn't a mistake just doing consulting because you know, jobs comes, jobs don't come and you get paid well then you're not working, Going around opening places and more than half of them opening places for people that did not belong in a business for them. We'll just a business deal for them.
GS: You know right away when you meet somebody, whether they can do it, they can make it or not?
MF: Look, this guys I've met that were not from the restaurant business and they got lucky because in any business you still need luck. But there are few to none of those.
GS: I was going to say that's not, that's not the majority.
MF: The majority is not. You really need to know the business to be able to survive, especially in a city with a kind of competition that we have here. Uh, especially in, in our, in my business. And then there's guys that know this shit and know this shit well. Well, and it didn't make it, you say to yourself, wow, that guy's f*cking, he's good at what he does and he knows his shit. How did he fail? Well, it just happens. You know, it doesn't mean because you open up, you know your shit, you're going gonna make it right.
GS: You've had a couple of places close, right? You've opened a bunch of, closed a bunch of any big lessons learned?
MF: The main one that I closed up was the one I lost at the September 11. I mean, I don't consider it a failure on my, on my part. It was me and many others lost businesses down there around 13th St and the West side you think? Oh, no big deal. The city back then was that, first of all, they closed down 14th street below for 2 months.
GS: Right. Everything below 14th street was closed.
MF: You couldn't AV access to unless showed ID after that. It was house below. Nobody went downtown, my other restaurant and the same time in Manhattan at all as to restaurants in the same time. My other one was on Park Avenue and 21st. are you still had? We believed her thrive. I was very busy there that year because nobody was going downtown. Nobody was touching it. How do you survive? How do you maintain a place that you need? You might not in Manhattan back then.
Might not at linode now on 13th street was had to make at least 20 a week to break even or maybe a little bit more to break even.
GS: So now you've got this place, you've had this place in Staten Island for how long?
MF: It's almost a year. Almost a year.
GS: You're opening a second place. What are you crazy?
MF: Yes. Next question.
GS: And you're opening a place across the street nonetheless.
GS: Why across the street? Why are you opening a second place? Why are you opening it across the street?
MF: Well, here it is. Reading the plays across the street came up capon on army and the landlord cross the street. Literally told me many, many times when I opened this little place here on Stapleton on Bay Street, which is a Funky, funky neighborhood that people told me I was out of my f*cking skull to open down here next to drug drug rehabs and he got housing down the block, which are very lively and not exactly all that. You know, you've gotta be a little careful. It's not a really good neighborhoods.
GS: So why'd you open up there?
MF: Because I'm from Brooklyn and because I grew up, uh, I had, I lived in Fort Greene back in the day, you know when it was, it was a tough neighborhoods of neighborhood.
GS: But you got to people that come in.
MF: But you know what? I love the area. I love the, I love where I was at. I, it reminded me of the old school Williamsburg before the high end candles went up before we came trendy before became the guy from Kansas moved over here.
GS: Do you see that as an opportunity?
MF: 100% I'm done a block from the ferry but right next to the water through candles went up already. This neighborhood, it has to change. It will change. It's too close to Manhattan not to. And guess what? I'm seeing the results that I was right about that. I'm wrong about many other things, but at least about that it looks like from the business that had the clientele that I had had, which was a great clientele, that it is happening. So the guy across the street goes, look, you know he has a business to across the street.
He has a little kid in the hall on a bar. And he goes, look what you did across the street. He's been in for 35 years and that's nobody to do it before, you know, right time, right guy, whatever the f*ck you want to call it.
GS: Where there were attempts?
MF: You know, he goes to, there's been restaurants, he and nonstop and he goes, well you did that. You brought me more business cause you brought more people to the area, to this particular area. This guy who owns the restaurant across the street, he's the landlord. He offered it to me a dozen times. I say, I can't, I'm ready. I'm not ready. I can't. I'm not ready. And finally you offered me again. So, and I'll maybe as they look and I asked him for f*cking everything and he handed me a great deal and, and I said, well I'm going to need help.
And we became friends or a couple of guys in the industry. They were frequent frequently in my restaurant as customer then loved it. They own the great spot, a Cebu 18 years running. It's a big place, big operation. You know these guys are restaurant guys. That's all they f*cking do. And not actors than on anything on, nothing wrong with it. But that's all the do. You know, they put food on the table, thanks to that restaurant. They don't have any other side income. And that's same thing with me, you know? Listen to me, if this place would have failed, I took a huge risk. Yeah. It could've gotten a job again afterwards. Sure. But if it were to fail, it would have been scary for me. I, you know, 50 something years old. You're not 25 30 years old anymore. You think you've got the f*cking world by the balls and you got all your life in front of you. I still got the world by the balls, but I'm also knowing,
GS: You got a family that you'd be responsible for.
MF: Exactly. I got kids, I got family, I got ex wives. So you know, it's scary to do that. It gets scary because now you're not worried of only by at least by yourself. You worry about everybody else. So it was very scary moment when I put all my money, whatever little bit I had, everything and dead and myself to open up this f*cking place. I said, this place cannot fail,
GS: Is this the first place you open up without partners?
MF: No, I have 2 small investors. Family friends in this business. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I always have some kind of partner. Why not take somebody else's f*cking money? Nothing wrong. I'm not greeting the mortar Maria, but when I bought them is please vote. It was failed.
GS: You would have been in trouble.
MF: I would have been in trouble. So that's why I said it cannot fail. There's no option. I said it's small enough that it doesn't have, it's not 150 seats. I got 30 seats to worry about. I'm in the kitchen. I can see my whole dining room or I need, my wife would've came to help me out. She does.
GS: Would you make more money if you had 60 seats, 80 seats, 120 seats.
GS: So why not open bigger?
MF: Because all I got to worry about is 35 seat 30 seats and a little room in the back
GS: It's easier to run.
MF: No. Aside from the, it's always hard to run a restaurant, period.
GS: It doesn't matter whether you've got 10 or 20 seats.
MF: I got to fill this dining room once it's full. I'm doing okay if I don't fill the 60 70 seats I'm not doing okay. So if I fill it up every day and maybe more, I'm good.
GS: You're doing great. If you fill it up every day.
MF: Right, but now you have a bigger place. I mean you have a bigger place. You mean I have to hire more staff. That means my payroll is bigger, so now I have to fill it up. That's one. Two, it's easier to control. It's not vast. I get controlled dining room and kitchen me by myself. When you start seeing, we start s 80 seeing, 90 people or whatever. You cannot watch everything anymore. You'd be delusional.
GS: You gotta have an Account Manager
MF: you've got to have staff to have somebody else that is watching the other portion that you can't watch.
GS: So how's that going to work across the street?
MF: I got two guys and that's what they do.
GS: Don't they have another restaurant in Bay Ridge? They've got to watch to.
MF: Been there for 18 years. They've got a big man, a couple of managers. They're running the place and one of them is always going to hop there every single day. The other one's going to hop every single day and I'm gone. And the reason why he's across the street, because I can run a little, he's across the street.
GS: So when are you bringing to the table? I mean they already know how to run a restaurant. What do they need you for?
MF: I don't know. My good looks.
GS: No, that's definitely not it.
MF: I'll tell you what it is. Just like it's hard to find people on the dining room. It's even harder to find a chef in the kitchen. Node is done really, really hard.
GS: What keeps you up at night as a restaurant owner?
MF: Not being busy tomorrow.
GS: Every day you got to, how do you know how many tables you've got to turn every single day?
MF: I know exactly what my thought is. Everyday I worry about everybody showing up to work because a lot of times they don't. Every day I worry about making sure that..
GS: What happens when the dishwasher doesn't show up. Who's going to wash dishes?
MF: Well, I have couple of dishwashers. That's one, and they all don't show up, which has happened before. Let me give you what's up. Ready? I don't want to answer that question. I have 2 dishwashers downstairs and I had upstairs along with me. There was five of us second month that was open, all four. Then I show up when I mean all four meaning that's my home. Everybody okay? I was in the kids who want myself small kitchen. My menu, I mean it's me. I put an ad on craigslist. A couple of people answered that morning. I handle what have I had a handle that morning by myself.
I call somebody to come in rush at the dishwasher. I just threw him down there. I said, just watch this shoes, let's say. Then just keep going when you come upstairs, you know, cause the dishwashers downstairs passed me. What am I tell you? One guy answered all my [inaudible]. All right, come in, come in today. He has, well, I paid them to come in. What do you want to do that I couldn't do shit for me. I say, you stand over there. You look at the menu. When an order comes in, I'm going to tell you what I need and you pass it for me. You slice, I'm going to tell you what I need and I handled it for 3 days straight. Then a couple of my guys came back who was sick and who was whatever. A couple of those guys got fired even though I needed them and you know what?
Go f*ck yourself. You went on a binge, go on and on the bench. Now that's the other f*cking problem. They all love to drink, everybody loves to drink in the kitchen.
GS: And right in the business in general.
MF: Right, while we all drank while drunk, whatever. But we, you know, some of them handle it, some of them don't. Then I find a couple of other guys and I'd say, so yeah, that happens all the time.
GS: So staffing is a major problem.
MF: In the restaurants. If you decide open up a restaurant and many guys do that, a lot of them, you open up a restaurant and then all about even boiling a f*cking egg. Okay. And there's chef leaves and then all of a sudden it get some, a couple of the other guys left over, they take over and next thing you know you're here 3 months later that, oh, he used to be so good over there and all of a sudden, oh yeah, the chef left and the place is dead.
GS: So what's the secret to keeping the chef if you're, if you're a restaurant owner.
MF: If you are a restaurant owner you but are not the kitchen. And if you should be a chef, let me f*cking finish. And if you're not a chef, I said, then you get yourself a partner. And as a chef or you give a chef a shot of him being your partner and you bring him in as a partner, there'll be a greedy motherf*cker because that money you're going to invest no matter where you go on, you're not investing less than three, four, $500,000 these days. So you're going to invest your money, you want to safe, keep your money, don't be greedy and give us and give a piece to a chef so at least you know you're going to keep them, you're going to, you'll lock them in.
GS: All right. Final question. Do you see yourself more as a chef, a restaurant owner or an entrepreneur?
MF: A restauranteur. An all around restauranteur. A restauranteur needs to be front and back of the house. Needs to be, to be successful. Needs to be. It's not about cooking. I tell my chefs now, I hired a chef here cause I'm an island, I'm going to go on home street. So I had the chef here at a chef there and I'm the executive chef that runs on both sides and make sure the, you know, the buy and this and that. Get to be on the stove and cooking. It's the fun part, the US chefs and joy. It's fun to get back there and still saute and create a little something.
Unfortunately, that is the only fun part of the business. The real part of the business is making sure that everybody does their job and executes it right. You're babysitting them. The food costs, the menu, creating the spoilage and the buying of the food, keeping your food costs below 30% keeping your payroll below 30%, maintaining a fun menu that return. Customers don't get bored about, all of that. Getting behind there, oh, I'm a chef, I can cook, but you cannot organize. You cannot run the kitchen. You don't know how to order a f*cking list and a grocery list or a food list. You don't know how to organize and keep organized your walk inbox. You don't know how to shift around food and make sure there's no food waste. You don't want to do that. You're f*cking useless to mr.
GS: What the other way around. What if we got a front of house person that's good at marketing and getting people in the door, but then they don't know the back of the house?
MF: No. Then you got to hire two people. You as an owner should know one of them. You got to know one of you gotta.
GS: You gotta be a master at one of those two things and then you've got to hire somebody to be, you know..
MF: You gotta, you gotta bring a partner in to do the back or the front, whichever one it is that you're lacking off. Because if you think you don't need, unless you open a place this small, but if it's a little bigger than this, like across the street, it'd be foolish to think that you could do it all because you can't find the right staff in the moment you change chefs. There's going to be a problem.
GS: If you were given a talk to a room full of people that might consider the restaurant business in their career, what advice would you give them?
MF: Well, be ready for long hours. You don't mind the long hours. If it's a passion, you don't even realize it. It become, it's in the blood, it's, it's normal. It's just like you got up in the morning taking a piss and brushing your teeth. It's automatic, but know is, I will tell those people, make sure it's a passion and not just another line of work. Because know another line of work. I pin those guys right out in the kitchen and the dining room for them is just, it's just another job to provide for their family. Nothing wrong with that, but if that's what it is, don't go into the restaurant business because when you're pulling those long crazy hours, I had my first day off 5 months into the business.
GS: So the rest of the time it's not five days a week, it's seven days a week.
MF: For a restaurant guy. Yeah, for the first year, 100% until you find the right crew the right. Unless you have a partner, you have another partner and then you could shift around. By yourself, no you don't. So you need a partner to be able to.
GS: Do you think a lot of people don't realize that commitment that's necessary?
MF: No, they don't realize it unless they've done it. If they haven't done it. They'll still think like most people think cause they, they come to me and telling me, Oh just not I what? Hire a great chef. Pam. I got money. I'm gonna pay him top dollar fraud. Good chef and top dollar for a good manager. Easy peasy. The moment I hear that don't do it. I'm going to tell you, save your f*cking money. Don't do it because that chef is going to leave you and then you're f*cked. Cause you know what? You're going to find all the chef just like that. When you're there. When you go to craigslist, do you know if we can put an ad on Craigslist and the guy's going to come in and pick up from where the other guy left off? You are f*cking moron if you think that you really, really truly are. You. You may a lot of money doing whatever you doing. Well, you're going to lose it right here.
GS: Thank you. I appreciate it. It's, see, I know in Brooklynese that means that means I love you.
MF: Yeah. Yeah.
GS: The next time you think you'd be a great restaurant owner, remember Massimo's advice. You're here to work. You need to be able to fill in any spot, do any job at any time, and if you don't, you better have a partner who compliments your weaknesses. In short, know the front of House and the back of house, you'll find Vinum and the Richmond across the street from each other on Bay Street in New York, Staten Island.
I'm going to be honest with you here. These may be the last few episodes of this podcast. I love doing these interviews. I find it fascinating to hear what other small business owners have gone through in part because it puts into perspective my own struggles as a business owner, but producing a podcast isn't easy. It's time consuming and if it's a side project, it takes money. And as I've learned, it takes a significant effort to stand out from the crowd, all of which takes time and focus away from my real business.
I'm asking for your feedback, and if you like to show your encouragement, you can reach me by commenting on the web page for this episode at www.mainstreethustle.biz or simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org