Mama Sed Name It Delinsta

April 26, 2017

Every restaurant name has a story behind it. No matter how insignificant it may seem, it can play a big role relaying your brand’s voice to the customer.

Adam Sobel from Cinnamon Snail said he got his name from a Danish customer who would always stop by his vegan cinnamon roll stand and exclaim “Kanelsnegl!” Over time, Sobel and his wife learned that it literally translated to “Cinnamon Snail,” and the name stuck when they opened their food truck. The name reminds customers of their humble beginnings and their devoted customer base.

By Chloe, another vegan restaurant (though who knows how long it’ll remain that way), got its name from Chloe Coscarelli, the famous chef behind the brand. Not only does this convey the prestige behind the food, seeing as Coscarelli has written several cookbooks and has even won a well-known television competition called Cupcake Wars, but it relays how she invested her time and love in her food and is now serving it to you “By” her.

Mama Sed, the original name for my concept, was born out of the memories I have of my mom telling me to “eat my vegetables.” As every child does, I would stage consecutive world wars every night, fighting away her steamed broccoli. However, being an inventive latin mother, my mom never seized to argue with me and eventually found victory by putting different condiments and dressings over my greens. Often something as simple as lime and salt would do the trick, and she’s be surprised by the amount of times we’d asked to go back for second helpings of vegetables we has tossed to the floor weeks before.

Mama Sed was supposed to do the same thing for its customers- make vegetables easier to eat and (dare I say) even craveable! While the story fit the concept perfectly, I had to think about the future of my business. I am dedicating my career to growing this company, and I won’t stop until I see the concept become a national chain. From animal welfare, to environmental and personal health reasons, there are so many pros to eating more plants, and my research has shown that the main thing holding people back from eating more of them is taste (my pre-limed broccoli-hating self would concur!).

Unfortunately, I learned that “Mama Said” was already trademarked by another restaurant in New York, which led to the variation of “Mama SED” which stands for “Mama Said Eat Deliberately.” The name seemed to stick, but was met with that long smiling, “ahhh,” people say after they get the punchline to a bad joke. Some people said things like, “but you’re not a mom,” “shouldn’t the concept be more related to you as a 21 year old,” and several other versions of the simple, “I just don’t like it.”

Being an entrepreneur, you have to know when to trust your gut and when to take advice from other people who have a different, and possibly better, perspective on a matter than you do. These comments weren’t the catalyst that caused the name change, but they definitely made me more open minded about continuing my search. Then came my week long trip of eating practically all of the vegan burgers and doughnuts I could find in New York City, and I realized that every single restaurant had more female customers than male, except Superiority Burger! If other restaurants were attracting the vegan girl and her boyfriend, Superiority Burger was bringing in the construction worker from across the street in addition to the other classic vegan clientele. I literally sat in the restaurant for far too long, and tried to figure out what they were doing that the other restaurants weren’t.

Two vegan burgers later, the difference was apparent. The story they were telling was completely different than Blossom, By Chloe, Dirt Candy, or {insert any other well known plant based restaurant}. Superiority Burger doesn’t have a feminine vibe in the name– that’s the initial attraction. No construction worker will become the butt of a joke for admitting he went to a burger place. Second, the menu is known as being “vegetarian,” even though most of the food is accidentally vegan. There is something to be said about getting people to eat more vegetables without realizing their healthy choices… and that’s when I remembered my Instagram.

From the first day that I went vegan, I started posting pictures of my food online. I had always taken photos of my food in the past, but they didn’t have a purpose besides allowing me to eternally admire the food’s meticulous presentation. Posting pictures of the vegan food I made kept me on track, and actually turned my focus onto plating rather than realizing I was missing most of the foods I normally had on my plate. Two years later, posting these pictures led to 10,000 followers on my page and a community that whole heartedly supported me, even if they weren’t vegan themselves. Suddenly, I would run into friends or classmates in the area and they’d say “your food looks amazing,” “I can’t believe you eat like that all the time,” “I would go vegan if you made me food from your Instagram,” etc. etc. Every day, without fail, I have an unsolicited conversation about my Instagram page. So, what if I just started making people the food that they seem so excited about? What if I made accidental (always delicious) plant based food that was quickly prepared and plated so beautifully that people forgot there was meat, dairy, and eggs missing from the plate? That’s when Delinsta was born.

“Del” means “from” in Spanish, which was actually my first language and plays a more discrete tribute to my mother and our latin heritage, while “Insta” is, of course, short for “Instagram.” Disclaimer: if Instagram comes after me for this, then this was all just to be funny and the name is a mix of the words “Instantly” and “Delicious.” This new name speaks to me, as a 21 year old trying to get people more excited about eating plants, and also takes away some of the femininity that was oozing from “Mama Sed” that might just bring in those construction workers.

As always, please comment below and let me know what you think! This is a test concept for a large scale venture and any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

 

P.S. Just might be signing the lease soon!!

The First Big Changes

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:

  1. Salads don’t attract people: The donuts in the window or the crowds of good looking people munching lettuce do
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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!

 

Signing a Lease?

March 5, 2017

I am writing this in a crowded reading room in Olin Library while other students are highlighting their textbooks or flipping through note cards. It’s always prelim season at Cornell, and today the tension is palpable. I, on the other hand, am costing out recipes on excel, and I can feel the eyes that are glued to my computer as I click through images of the various, mouthwatering meals.

I have been here for two hours, and in that time alone, I’ve already encountered three people and received two texts asking me about the progress made on my restaurant concept. This is not an unusual day. Unlike the past few months, however, I actually have an answer for them that makes me more confident in the fact that I don’t just waste my time cooking and driving around Ithaca all day.

The timeline needed to get a business up and running is often vague. There are hurdles that you need to cross before you can pursue the next step of a project, and you many not know what those are until they hit you in the face. Being a natural planner, I had scheduled what this entire semester would look like during my winter break so that I would have deadlines to keep me on track to open by the summer. Little did I know, however, that finding a space for a restaurant isn’t as easy as it seems when a) you have a limited budget b) you actually took classes on the topic and know how essential it is to choose a great site and c) there just isn’t anything available that fits the bill. I spent weeks (and I mean weeks) in my old black jeep driving through the snow with a broken heater writing down phone numbers, names, and taking pictures of vacant (or even seemingly vacant) spaces.

Just like every other day, people would come up to me and say “Hey, Jack! How’s the restaurant coming along?” and as I had probably told them weeks before, I’d respond “Pretty good… I’m still on the hunt for a space.” I can’t explain the mortification that I felt in those daily moments when I’d think “What if this is all for nothing and I can’t find a space?” Seriously, these people had completed entire class projects since the last time we had spoken and I had nothing to show. Classmates of mine would flaunt their new job offers or name big cities where they were moving to, and I was in the same place I had been when I went home for Christmas. As much as I would cringe when I’d see friends with their hopeful faces asking me about the restaurant, the worst feeling of all was feeling as if I had already let myself down before getting started.

Then, all it took was one fateful drive to Wegmans, when I noticed a space that had a logo on the window but was just the deserted shell of a retail space. I immediately swerved over and emailed the owner of the logo asking what they were planning to do with the space. Two days later, I had already done my first site visit and fallen in love with its location, huge windows, and vacant upstairs apartment, which was coincidentally also begging for its first tenant.

I am now in this weird stage that can only be dubbed “limbo.” A week ago, I questioned my ability to go through with my restaurant, considering not only the lack of a viable site, but also new competition and the sheer time that I had already felt slipping through my fingers. Now, I see opportunity. I see a shell that can house my new life, and I see a catalyst for an entire new set of activities. If I can revise my budget and get my proposed rate in line by midweek, I’ll look to sign a lease by the start of next week. I, Jacky Falkenberg, could be well on my way to being a restaurateur, and the allure of seeing my dream looming so closely reinvigorates me. I know there are about to be many more hurdles in my path, but for now, this small victory makes the journey a little brighter. Time to get back to costing!