The Last Word on Hospitality

What's the secret behind a restaurant's success? One of the most noteworthy consultant groups in Los Angeles explains...

The team at Last Word Hospitality know a thing or two about starting a restaurant- put simply, they are immersed in the restaurant world. From managing some of the most well known restaurants in Los Angeles to becoming co-owners of a popular eatery- they have probably done just about every little thing that needs to be done in this business. Adam Weisblatt, the co-owner of LWF brings 15 years of hospitality experience with him and an academic background in Hotel and Restaurant Management. While his business partner, Holly Fox, brings her own background in project managing, restaurant marketing and finance to the table.

So dedicated and passionate Adam and Holly are about the hospitality industry, that they created tuition free courses known as Last Word Academy, to help industry professionals and those hoping to get their foot into the industry, learn about all aspects of the restaurant business.

We had a chance to sit down with Adam Weisblatt to have a wonderful conversation about restaurants, what it takes to succeed and the strokes of insight he’s found after years of experience and lots of trial and error.

What would you say is the key piece of advice you would give to someone who thinking about starting a career in hospitality?

You have to be passionate about it and not just one aspect of it, you have to be passionate about the whole business. The food, the people, the adrenaline rush, the long hours.

I know that in your business model you don’t reveal the names of the restaurants you’ve consulted because you want the restaurant to receive all the credit for their success, but I also know that you’ve helped build some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the industry, What would you say is the key to helping those restaurants start with a step ahead?

It’s really about implementing systems, functionality and work-flow in your restaurant from the very beginning, actually even before you open the restaurant. Whatever systems you can put in place, put those systems in place. The more structure and organization your restaurant has from the beginning the more chances it will succeed.

What would you say are the most difficult aspects of starting a restaurant?

Absolutely it’s a lot of the business side of the industry: licenses, permits, leases with landlords,  employment laws and marketing. Many people are talented in the trade of the business- the creative side, but they get stumped in the business side. That’s why it’s very important for us to be as helpful as possible in the business aspects, to complete the circle. Of course, we help with the creative too, but we find where our clients need the most help and we fill the gap.

Do you have examples of a situation where supporting the business side transformed the restaurant?

Yes! We actually have a very personal experience regarding a perfect marriage between the business and creative side. A few years ago, two owners of a restaurant called Rambuten in Silver Lake approached us for consulting. We realized that they had a great concept and they were very talented, their knowledge for Thai cuisine was deep and they have the passion. However, they needed help and support on the business side- learning how. Therefore, instead of consulting, we decided to go into a partnership with them and change the name to Same Same ( as in same same, but different) and since then, because of collaboration, our sales have tripled.

Can you tell me why you started Last Word Academy?

We started Last Word Academy because we realized a pattern- restaurant owners have a very hard time finding capable managers for their business. There is just a shortage of people who have enough knowledge and experience in the industry to manage a restaurant.

So, we thought we’d do something about it. Our courses help anyone who’s working in a restaurant, whether is a chef or a busser, to learn more about running a restaurant– the finances, inventory, staffing- everything, so that they could be qualified to manage a restaurant. We also wanted to help those who are trying to start their own restaurant but don’t have the capital to find out where to start and how to go about making their vision come to fruition.

So, how do you start budgeting for your restaurant?
Of course it’s important to find capital, but the most sound advice I can give is to understand that first step of business is based on survival, budget your restaurant business the way you budget your own life, don’t live out of your means- therefore don’t run your business out of your means. Choose smaller steps and set steps to  get to your ultimate goal.
What is the most important investment your restaurant can make?

The best investment for a restaurant is a good manager– if you have a great general manager and great chef you can walk away knowing that things are taken care of. Empower those people and help them, so that you can take all the pressure off of yourself. 

What is the biggest key to success?

Hospitality is a business of people; reading people well and understanding them, so that you can communicate effectively. Part of communication is honesty and trust, so you have to deliver what you are promising, deliver what you promise is what I think is the key business.

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