Friday, October 30, 2009

Quick not before opening for the first time.

Just a quick update for you.....

Went to Seabrook on Tuesday and bought the electric cart.  It works perfect!  It doesn't really need anything done except for a vinyl wrap put on it for our business.  Will be looking into that next week.

Will be going to Austin today or tomorrow morning to buy product.  We still plan on opening at 5pm tomorrow for the Halloween celebration in Bastrop.  Unless something goes horribly wrong, we are opening.  After that, we will start doing lunch everyday from 11am to 2pm, until things get going...then we might expand the hours.

Having to finish cleaning up the building so that our indoor seating will be available.  We should be able to knock that out by tomorrow and hopefully have people inside by Monday morning.  Not planning on letting all the little "trick or treat-ers" in our building with all those antiques.  Will pull a couple tables outside and let them make a mess out there.

Looked at Thursday's paper for Bastrop and we are listed in a write up about the Festival of Trees event on November 21st.  We are getting more and more excited about this event.  I may end up changing the menu a little because of a chili recipe that we found.  Not going to talk about it here, you will have to come see us at the event or in the restaurant after the 21st.  It will be a limited time thing, but I feel like it could be a big hit!

Need to get some signs made for the building.  Will have to start working on that soon.  I am hoping on renaming the building "1852 Union Hall" since that is what it original was...a union hall (saloon).  I want to get signs with that name and then the names of the other businesses that are inside.  I think it would look nice and would honor the history of the building.

Not much else going on right now.  Just getting excited about opening.  Been a long time coming.  Hope to see some of you on Saturday, and if not, then on November 14th for our Grand Opening.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

First event was a success.....but not at first.

So very tired.  Got up around 1:30pm today and still dragging around the house.  Feel like I had the hardest workout of my life.  Guess I now know how hard it is to cater an event!

Recap of German Texan Heritage Society Oktoberfest Event

Friday night - Got home around 3am, after cleaning everything up.  The propane tanks were filthy and we need to exchange one.  Not sure that we need 3, but not sure how much gas this cart can burn.  Had to setup and hookup the cart and my wife chopped onions.  That smell was giving me a headache.  Packed everything in the truck and took it home.  Will only have to get up and go in the morning.

Saturday morning - Left home around 10:30am and got to Restaurant Depot around 11:15am.  Bought the items we still needed, but couldn't find a lid for the 1/3 size pan. 

Left there and headed to Sams.  We bought all the remaining hot dog buns and then purchased some of their deli buns.  Can't wait to try those deli buns out!  They didn't have pan lids either.

Went to Mission Restaurant Supply next.  Found the 1/3 size pan lid that we needed.  Got a free rubber spatula.  Score! 

Left the parking lot to head back to Walgreens.  Left the parking lot a little fast and lost the cart.  It was still attached by chains, but the front wheel hit and caused it to come un-hitched.  Pulled into the middle turn lane and fixed it.  I was scared that we tore it up and wouldn't have a way to attach it again....but the hitch worked like it was supposed to. 

Went to Walgreens and exchanged the propane tank for a full one.  We now have 3 full tanks.  Off we go.

Saturday Afternoon - Arrived at the German Free House around 1:30pm.  Parked the cart in our spot and started to setup everything.  Had to clean the cart because it had some dust and water spots.  Arranged everything in the order we needed it.  The wife said to let people put on their own mustard and ketchup.  Boy, that will be a lifesaver!

Started the cart around 2:30pm.  We have to start serving at 3:00pm.  The wind keeps knocking the flame down.  Can't get the water to heat up and now I am freaking out!  Problem is that I insisted on buying 4" deep pans and we really needed 6" deep.  Considering going and buying new pans real quick.  Will try boiling some dogs on the stove in the house. 

Here we are at 3:15pm and still aren't ready.  A few people have started coming by and seem a little upset that it is taking so long.  I am trying to get the dogs to boil on the stove.  Came back to the cart around 3:20pm and everything is working and nearly everything is done.  Started serving around 3:25pm, but was already running out of bratwurst.

Setup the electric steamer to make more brats.  Not sure how long this takes, because we never used it before.  We seem to have enough for now, but worried that we will not have enough after the next rush.

Got the hot dogs off the stove and put on some brats.  We are doing ok because there haven't been 100s of people in line.  The electric steamer doesn't seem to be getting hot at all.  This is not going good.

Finally have enough of everything.  Checked my phone and it hasn't even been 2 hours yet.  Man, this is going to drag on.

Started to run out of brats again.  Checked the electric steamer and those are very close to being done.  Part of the issue is that we used very cold beer to cook them in, when room temp beer would have been better.  Have to tell people to wait about 5 minutes for them to finish.

Served a huge line of people and it seems that we are caught up!  Putting more brats on the stove so we have enough to stay caught up.

Saturday Evening - Things are going great.  Everyone loves these fresh bratwurst and they can't get enough of the sauerkraut.  Everyone with the German Texan Heritage Society has been great.  They come by and check on us and let us know how much everyone loves the food.  Makes me proud that my team and I could rally back and do a great job! 

Everything is starting to slow down.  Bands are still playing and some people are still eating.  Asked the band to come down once they are done.  The band played at my brother in laws rehearsal dinner.  Sorry guys, I can't remember the band name.  Hoping to see you on November 14th!

Got everything cleaned and packed up.  Was told by several members of the GTHS that we will be invited to do other events.  We really enjoyed working with them and would love to do more events. 

Pulled out around 10:15pm and headed to my brother in laws to see my wife's family.  They had come by to watch us work, earlier in the day.  Didn't get very much time to talk, since it was pretty busy.

Got interviewed for an Austin Podcast.  Don't remember the name of the podcast, but will find it and post a link here.  Was also filmed serving up brats and hot dogs, but not sure what the footage was for.  Will have to find that out also.

So that is a nutshell of what happened.  I know now that we need to buy the right pans (yes dear, you were right about the pans) and that we need to start cooking much earlier.  I am also going to replace the burners on the cart and clean the knob assembly.  One of the burners worked perfect, but the other two were acting funny.  We only ended up using one propane tank and only used less than a quarter of it.  Guess that cart is pretty efficient! 

* If I left anything out from last night it is only because I am so tired today.  The recap is pretty much the stuff that stands out in my mind and doesn't reflect the whole night.

Need to work on figuring out our counts today and sending that info to the GTHS.  Will settle up with them this week.  Need that cash to get setup and going for Halloween.

If we get the electric cart this week, then we should be a go for opening on Halloween.  I am so tired now that Saturday seems like a million years away.  Will be ready for this and will pre-test this new cart before using it.  Don't want to be behind on my first day.

Did I mention the fact that I am tired?  Also, my back starting locking up yesterday and I could hardly bend over or sit down.  My lower back always does that when I am stressed.  Will need to visit Dr. Taylor tomorrow!

Not doing anything today.  Will probably only leave the house to get a Dr. Pepper.  Will need to starting working out so that I don't feel like my next birthday will be the 75th one.  Will need to wash my hands again before leaving the house...they smell like onions.

I did find a "steam-able poppy seed free" bun that we will probably carry on the cart.  Will need to see if Restaurant Depot can get them in a 6" size.  We bought the 7" ones yesterday, but they are really big.  We didn't end up steaming them and they were still really good.  They were soft, but had a little harder outside and softer inside.  They would be perfect for those people who do not want the poppy seed buns.  Only used those once we went thru the 240 buns we had bought.  Thank goodness we remembered that the Sams deli sells buns.

So this week will involve finishing up my issues with the city, buying that electric cart, getting product to sell, and running some tests.  If everything can get done, then I will see some of you on Halloween.  We are still undecided if we will open for lunch that day or just during the Halloween event.  Will let everyone know by Tuesday or Wednesday.  Check my website to see for sure!

After Halloween, we will be on our normal schedule of 11am to 2pm Monday - Friday and 11am to 3 pm on Saturday...except during special event days.  Our Grand Opening will be on November 14th from 11 am to 5 pm.  Will have some giveaways that day, so make sure you come by!


Friday, October 23, 2009

We are healthy.....or at least the permit says so!

Health permit is official.  Finally got it today (Thursday).  Worked until 2:30am Thursday morning in order to get it.  Was able to get everything done right before the inspector came by at 3pm.  That's the biggest obstacle and it is now out of the way.

Found out that we don't own all of our sidewalk in front of the building.  What does that mean?  We have to find another cart that doesn't go past our 42" from in front of the building.  Not getting rid of the one we have, but will need to get a smaller one to use.  The length isn't an issue, but the width.  I found one that is outside of Houston, but will need to get some money to actually buy it.  I am hoping that the owner will hold it for me until Tuesday.

If we can get the other cart and our occupancy permit, then the Halloween opening will go as planned.  If not, then we will work on another option and will still probably open on Halloween.  Looking forward to finally getting this company launched.  We still have tons to do and more stuff to buy, but we can get our daily operation running.

Found out that our local Restaurant Depot is now carrying everything I need for the business.  They carry pretty much all of the Vienna Beef hot dogs and accessories.  Had a great conversation with the store manager and he is going to look into getting the soups, chili, and other types of dogs from Vienna.  If they can do that, I will be set.  I will have to drive into Austin and pick it up, but I will save tons of money and not have a minimum that I am forced into purchasing.  Yea for Restaurant Depot!

First event is Saturday.  Pretty much have everything purchased and will only need to haul it to the site.  Still a little nervous, but that will pass once we get going.  Hoping to sell out of everything, but will be fine with making some money.  It should be lots of fun also.

Got our uniforms tonight.  I am wearing a red Chef Jacket and black pants and my staff is wearing red shirts and black pants.  I like the color scheme because it is not only very professional, but also fits our "Rock and Roll" side.  Won't be wearing the uniform in the restaurant, but only for special events and catering.  Will have a little more relaxed dress code for the restaurant.

In all of this work we have put in, I am lucky enough to have learned tons of new things.  I can now run plastic (pvc) plumbing, run electrical wires and hook up outlets (with my buddy's help - Thanks Joey!), and build shelves by hand....not put them together, actually cut the wood and screw it all together.  And I can also hook up a tankless hot water heater.  Not the one I originally bought (it leaked) but the one that my buddies at Lowes sold to me.

I am very proud of not only the work I have done, but the work that my wife and niece have put in.  Without them, we would still be wondering when the business was going to open.  They really pulled it together today and helped me get everything done with only minutes to spare.  Not sure what I would have done if they had not helped me.

*Just a little info for those who are wondering:

We started this concept back in March of this year.  Not in May or June, those were just some milestones, but actually all the way back in March.  I was recently unemployed at that time and needed to find something to do.  I had not thought of this at first, but my brother in law giving me that Chili/Cheese machine really set my mind at work.  My wife wasn't sure at first, but told me to do research and make sure this is what I wanted to do.

I spent uncounted hours doing research before we started this business.  I not only gained tons of knowledge from the internet, but from also going to Hot Dog University.....that is where I knew for sure that I really wanted to do this.  Mark taught me a lot more than he knows...considering that I showed up knowing more than I should have.  I know more about hot dogs than most people would ever know...except my friends at Vienna Beef, they know everything!

Why has it taken so long?  Some of it stems from my endless hours of research, some of it from working on the kitchen, and some of it was just physically and mentally giving up the idea of this ever working.  There were several times that I really wanted to stop and not go on.  I just didn't think we would ever get this done.  There were a lot of things that had to be done first and the task made the final outcome seem unimportant.

I finally had to receive a push to get my head back in the game.  I had grown to love the idea of this business, but hated the path I had to take in order to get there.  I was not only pushing myself, but also had my wife pushing me.  Those that know her can attest to how motivating she can be.  She stayed on me until I got my mind straight and pushed harder than I ever had.  Needless to say, I love her very much for what she has done for me and the business.  Plus, she came up with a really great idea that I think we are going to do.  Needless to say, it will take our business beyond just the hot dogs.

So why the change in my mindset?  I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.  I really love this business and am willing to do whatever it takes to make it succeed.  Am I very optimistic about this working for us?  You better believe I am!  We have the right ideas and concepts to take this business very far.  We already have preliminary plans to expand next year and ideas that will make us very successful.  I think that 2009 has been pretty productive, but 2010 will be the first year that we really shine.

And thanks to all the other who have supported us during all of this.  I really appreciate your word of encouragement and patience while we were getting setup.  Please continue to read the blog and we hope to see some of you real soon!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Color me surprised!

Not happy.

Things did not go as planned.  Having to make some changes and was "informed" of challenges that we had no idea about.  Should still be able to get the permit on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Just need it to do this catering job.  Will still have to fight with the city over getting an occupancy permit.  I'm ready for that fight!

Very tired right now since we all stayed up until about noon today.  Took a small nap and now I need to crash until the morning. 

No matter how hard this becomes, we are opening the business.  I have come too far for these little issues to stop me.

I will post a better update once I have had some sleep.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Guess who is opening........

Exciting update!

Called the county and setup my appointment........Health Inspection is this Friday morning.  Should pass with flying colors.  I have some plumbing to do and have to fix the wall and paint....all that will be done tomorrow (Thursday).  Will have to get my insurance this week and finish getting my pans for the cart.  Shouldn't need much else to be able to operate the business.

If everything goes well on Friday, we will be opening on Halloween.  That's right, Saturday, October 31st.  Will probably run a small lunch (11am to 1pm) and then reopen at 5pm and go until around 8 or so.  Will hopefully be really busy and forget about all the work.  Looks like that will be a very Happy Halloweenie!

Catering job on October 24th is still a go.  Need to purchase all the product next week.  Shouldn't have to prep anything but filling mustard and ketchup squeeze bottles.  That will be a true test of what I am made of....serving hot dogs and brats for 6 -7 hours.

Next up is the Grand Opening.  Looks like that will be on November 14th, which is the Veteran's Day celebration weekend.  That should bring tons of people downtown.  Hopefully we don't have 20 hot dog vendors show up.  Won't really matter in the long run because I will be here everyday and they are only here for special events.  I think people will remember that.

After the Grand Opening, we have the Festival of Trees event on November 21st.  Should be a good time.  Getting excited about this one because of what we are serving....won't be hot dogs!

Once that is done, we are going to try and relax a little and make plans for 2010.  That is already shaping up to be a great year for the business....already have another event lined up.....will post more once it is 100% official.

Sent a proposal to the City of Austin for a really great site for a cart.  Will hopefully hear a "Yes" sometime this coming week.  I really want this spot and think that it could not only benefit thousands of people, but also help us build the business into something spectacular! 

If it does happen, we won't start until after the first of the year.  Not going to run that cart myself, will have to hire people to run it for me.  If it doesn't happen, then we start contacting city council people and the mayor to get them on our side.  I will also get as many people as possible to sign a petition to allow the cart in this most sacred of spots.  This spot has never been occupied by any food vendor or anyone else for that matter.  It pretty much is the most perfect spot in Austin.  Stay tuned for this one.

Very tired from all the work on the building.  I feel that all this work will pay off in the long better pay off!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Charity work

Got my paperwork in.  And it is official.......

We are an official food vendor of The Festival of Trees.

We will be serving food and will be donating a decorated Christmas Tree for auction.  It is a charity event that I really wanted to be a part of and was able to get in before the deadline.  Even though we are giving the food away for free, we aren't just serving some hot dogs.  Our menu will be pretty exotic and will display my culinary skills.  The items we are serving will eventually be available at the restaurant, but I am really going all out to hopefully expand my catering business.

Getting the roof and walls fixed sometime this coming week.  I should have the plumbing pretty much done and just need to get my buddy to run my electrical for me.  Once that is done, we will have our permit.  We are now shooting to open on Halloween.  We normally have a pretty big deal here in town on Halloween, and it helps that it falls on Saturday this year.  Will have to find some hot dog shaped candy to give away.

Not much else going on.  Will post more after the weekend.

Monday, October 5, 2009

We need the rain, but it is causing problems!

Ugh.  Can't get an inspection because of the rain.  I know that sounds funny...keep reading....

Waiting on the insurance adjuster to come and look at the leaky roof tomorrow.  This little delay is setting us back again.  If it hadn't rained, we would be done and ready to open this coming week.  Will go into this more once I meet with the adjuster tomorrow.  I should be able to predict an opening date once we find when the roof is being fixed.

Signed up to be a part of a local charity event.  I won't make anything off the event, but it will get word out about our business.  I really wanted to do this and met with the organizer today.  Will be filling out the paperwork tonight and dropping it back off tomorrow.  Gotta work on my menu tonight.  Have to figure out what to serve and how much to buy for 500-600 people.  The event isn't until November 21st, but that is only 47 days away from now.  Got lucky because today was the last day to sign up and still be part of their I will still be in their ads, on their website, and on the invitations.

Have a meeting set for early December regarding a local event in March.  This event should make me some money and be HUGE for promotion of the business.  I will be selling dogs outright and not being hired to cater.  Will post the info once we get all the agreements in place....which will be in December.

The hot dog eating contest is on....for now.  Still in the planning stages, but the charity involved has changed and the date has changed.  Looks like it will be in March.  That is all I know for now, but will be meeting with the charity to shore up everything.  The nice thing is that there will be tons of people there and will have plenty of volunteers to help.  This fell into place today and is more like my original vision for the contest.  I think that having it during a main charity event is the way to go....this not only does it add to their event, it also shows how much we care about this charity (which we do, a lot!).  More info to come.

Got an offer to buy my way onto GPS and In-Car Navigation systems.  The company will put my location on as a restaurant and will put a small ad.  It doesn't cost very much and your business stays on there until you ask them to remove it.  This would be great for people driving down the highway and find out that we are only a couple blocks away.  Not sure how many people would stop, but it is worth the price.  

Had lost the business cell phone for about 3 weeks.  The wife found it for me 2 days ago.  Thank goodness I have her!  Checked the voice mail and only had 2....and had already spoken to both people.  Glad that I didn't miss hundreds of calls!

This business has been very hard to get up and running.  Everything was going great at first and then the setbacks starting coming up.  I think this is par for the course and will make us all wiser about the next location.  If this had just been a cart and I just used someone else's kitchen, then we would be up and running....but the rain would have shut us down for a few days and we can't afford to be open and then not be open....people won't come back if you are closed all the time.  Being patient and waiting until I can open indoors has been the right path.  

Everything is a lesson...good or bad.  It will all work out and we will be open and running very soon.  I have faith that what I have learned so far will not only improve how I operate, but will also give me the strength to forge on when things get tough. 

Will I ever want to expand and go thru this again?  Sure.  I think that our Austin expansion won't be anywhere near this difficult....I'll already have the commissary and will only need to drag the cart to Austin each day (unless I work a deal to store it in Austin).  The only hard part will be having someone either run the Bastrop location or run the Austin location...I can't be two places at once....or can I?