Why does it seem everyone with the knowledge of how to operate a stove, a mouth, a tongue and mom’s recipe for fried chicken honestly believes they can take a vacant restaurant space, remodel it, and suddenly have an overnight culinary success on their hands? Are people that foolish?
I was. My first food venture, decades ago was a nightmare. A 100 year old grocery store was the bait that got me into the business of owning a food establishment. Fortunately I spent a few years being mentored by restaurant owners in New York City before I moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. It was in NYC that I learned the secret details of the restaurant business. Those secrets that only seasoned restaurant owners share with other restaurant professionals were invaluable lessons that I will never forget. From that first grocery store I grew the operation into 8 restaurants. However, the learning curve was costly.
I learned about cash flow, finance, food costs and perceived pricing. And perceived pricing is what saved me. What would the customer pay for what I was serving is the first question every chef and owner needs to ask themselves.
Perceived pricing is very simple. Basically it is charging a fair price for a salad, entrée, appetizer, drink or dessert without making the customer feel taken advantage of. PaloozaFresh needs to adopt this philosophy.
Located in Kenwood, California, PalloozaFresh is the creation of Jeff and Suzette Tyler. The duo opened PaloozaFresh in February 2014 without prior restaurant ownership experience and have done a good job of opening their little Gastro Pub in the center of town. They acquired the space that once played host to Doce Luna Restaurant, just down the road from Kenwood’s famed Café Citti.
The transformation the Tyler’s undertook was quite remarkable. A complete indoor remodel, with new walls, bar, floor and kitchen with offices and event space upstairs. And since the owner, Jeff Tyler was in construction, the remodel was quick, quiet and basically unnoticed. Then, Viola, PaloozaFresh opened.
When they first opened, it was apparent PaloozaFresh’s menu was influenced by the beauty of the surroundings: Beef Cheek Sliders, Venison Meatloaf and a few other pricey items took once traditional dishes and attempted to contemporize them with a new twist, highlighted the seemingly pricey menu.
And, customer resistance was apparent. That chef has left and been replaced by Andrew Jetson, who got his chops at Stark’s Steaks and Seafood and went on to later lead the kitchen at Napkins in Napa, Ca.
Jetson has changed the PaloozaFresh menu to coincide with the Tyler’s core business, hot dog carts and catering. Jeff Tyler bills himself as a “mobile foodist” making his mark in Santa Rosa, California with at first one hot dog cart and then a second. His culinary philosophy is relatively simple, “Buy good ingredients and don’t screw up,” claims Tyler.
Easier said than done. Especially in the restaurant business.
Tyler’s menu certainly reflects the fact he must be buying good ingredients. The PaloozaFresh Wedge Salad is highlighting the menu at $13.00. Rather high for a wedge of head lettuce. Actually, rather high for an entire head of Head Lettuce.
The hot dogs coming out of Jetson’s kitchen are billed as “Brisket Beef” Vienna Dogs and top out at $9.00 for the premier Chicago Dog, proudly including “neon green relish.”
PaloozaFresh is a case study in restaurant opening. While less than full on most nights, PaloozaFresh offers a neighborhood atmosphere, with local entertainment and a very nice patio, but the perception of a place serving $9.00 hot dogs and $13.00 wedges of lettuce is that it is more expensive and not as inviting as the great place next store. And, they may be right.