April 10, 2017
In my childhood, I used to do a fair amount of fishing (not very vegan of me, I know). My sister and I would fight over the hooks that we thought were best, and we’d sit out in our old blue boat patiently waiting to catch a fish. As any skilled fisherman will tell you, there is an art to this seemingly inactive sport. You have to have the correct boat speed, the right amount of line out, and of course, a lure that attracts the kind of fish inhabiting the lake. Somewhere along the monotony of waiting, however, there comes a point in our child minds where my sister and I would decide that time was not the issue. We’d tell our dad to speed up the boat or tug on his life vest to change our lure to a shinier one with feathers, and inevitably after a few changes, we would come home with dinner.
Similarly, there has to come a time when I realize I’m not getting any closer to catching my big fish. I wish I could ask my younger self when to change out the lure, but the truth is, when you know you know.
Being at the Hotel School, I have been very fortunate to have friends who challenge my concept or make suggestions I hadn’t thought of. While frustrating at times, I know they only want to see me succeed. Mama Sed, though a playful concept, has the innate problem (as several people pointed out) within the name. First, I am not a mother, and second, this concept isn’t only for mothers. I had initially chosen the name because of the connection I have with my mother. As I’m sure you can relate, I was told over and over again to eat my vegetables as a child, and it only became a habit because I refused to do so.
Mama Sed was meant to be a place where it was easy and delicious for people to be able to get their fill of vegetables. The “rebranded” concept I have since created will do just that. Having spent my last week eating at all of the vegan restaurants through New York City, I realized a few things:
- Salads don’t attract people: The donuts in the window or the crowds of good looking people munching lettuce do
- Great food can come out of tiny spaces: While chefs always seem hungry for more space in the kitchen, you’d be surprised at the impressive meals that can come out of a bathroom sized kitchenette
- Single restaurants don’t spring into chains like popcorn: There are a lot of great, popular restaurants in the city, and a few restauranteurs explained that it took them several years just to open a second restaurant
- Colorful food helps in every way: They say you eat with your eyes first, but if you can get every person to want to post pictures of their rainbow meal first, then you have a lot more eyes wanting your food
- The more people that experience your restaurant, the more opportunities you have: Popularity seems to be a combination of foot traffic x word of mouth x social media presence x food quality x value. Assuming that food quality and value can be good almost anywhere, we have to place a greater weighting on foot traffic, word of mouth, and social media presence
What does all this mean for the no-longer-named Mama Sed? Well, I have already started going back to the recipe development drawing board. Bowls will stay on the menu, but you can expect to see some new eye catching menu items in the next iteration. Not only will there be more color, but there will be more plant based food for people who don’t want to be reminded that they are eating “healthy.”
I have also decided to look at other spaces. Considering the landlord I am currently working with has a lot of other projects on his hands, my boat isn’t moving swiftly enough and I am desperate to start feeling the nibble again. It’s funny how you can have all of the financing secured for your first year, a solid business plan, and kitchen experience under your belt, and people still won’t get excited about taking your money. Now that I’m back on the hunt for commercial spaces, I will look more broadly for locations with high foot traffic and kitchen equipment. I’ve realized that I don’t mind paying a bit more for these “lures” if I know it will get me closer to my ultimate goal of developing this single unit into a chain. It’s time to speed up this sitting boat!