Jimmy Niwa talks about Japanese BBQ and the restaurant business

The Ranch & Table

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Jimmy Niwa talks about Japanese BBQ and the restaurant business

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Welcome to the ranch and table podcast,  where we discuss all things related to our Texas ranch and our ranch to table restaurant located in downtown Rockwall.  I'm your host, Lee Wells.

All right. Welcome everybody. Today is a, another great day for a podcast.  Another great day for a great friend. And I'm glad to have with me today another restaurateur  guy that knows a lot about this business and more than, more than I may ever know. And so it's good to have my friend, Jimmy Neuaw.  Thank you, man, for coming out.

Thank you for having me on. Yes, sir. I've been looking forward to this for a little while. We've, we've had this set up and  been going over questions and thinking about it. And so. I'm really glad you made the drive out to the ranch and sitting here with me. Yeah. Thank you. It's an honor. Yes, sir. Well I want to, I want to kick it off by telling the story and then I'm going to let you finish the story.

The way we met. Right. So several years ago I had a guy come in and he was  But a mutual friend of ours Brian Adams came in to the restaurant and not the singer. I have to always clarify because people our age are always like, Oh, Brian Adams came in. No, no, not that Brian Adams. The other one.

And Brian is a. I would say one of the leading experts in restaurant, restaurant leasing, facilitating the, the financial backend of, of a lot of what we do especially lease spaces and Right. And stuff like that. Just a, just a great guy. He came in and he said I've got someone that wants one of these wells restaurants.

And I said, man. I don't know. He said  no, they really do. They really want one bad. And they said we will want to, want to talk to Mr. Wells. And so I said, where at, you know, after we talked for a while, he said, he said, Westlake. I said, no way. I said, I said, there's no way. I said, I don't have time to get to Westlake.

I said, it'd take a, it'd take a helicopter. To get me to Westlake and he said all right, so he ate and we chatted. Well, about two or three days later,  Hey, Lee, I got your helicopter. I write, I write about this in the book. Hey, Lee, I got, got your helicopter. And well then what do you do? You have to show up.

Yeah. Can't say no then. Can't say no. He met the condition, you know, so. So I said, all right, he said can you make it to love field private side this day? I was like 10 o'clock on a Wednesday or something and I said, yeah, I mean if you got the helicopter So  I'm the country boy from you know out here and  in the cattle bills, Texas You know and and I'm driving up and I first thing I see is these high fences around that airport and the cars You know, I'm like this is I felt so out of place, you know, what am I, what am I doing here?

And so,  so I, I'll just, I'll give it away now. It was it was Ross pro juniors helicopter. And and they were putting a  a development together and asked for us to come out and look at, look at their space and. And do something with them. And so that's how we met on that helicopter that day.

That day. So I want you to take over now and tell what you thought about that whole deal and how we ended up meeting. Well, so that was kind of similar for me. Brian asked, you know, would you be interested in a space out in Westlake? And I said, no, no thanks. That's a little bit too far. He said, well,  think about it.

I said, okay. And I said, actually, I have a friend of mine who has a sushi place. She may be interested in that because she's looking for a space. So Brian called me back and said, what if I got you a helicopter ride out there?  

Okay. Oh man. You're welcome by the way. I think that's a yes. You're welcome. I owe you for that one.

Yeah. And at the time it was just, well, it's a helicopter ride, right? I can't say no, but obviously the place was.  A little bit ahead of its time, I think, when we went out there and it never ended up getting off the ground because of COVID,  you know, but I think they are going to pick that back up a little bit smaller.

So when we met. What was your first thought? Because you know where I'm going with this. Yeah. I want to hear your side of the story.

Well it was Brian really didn't tell me who else was coming.  So,  and I didn't really ask. He said, you know, we're going to get you a helicopter right out there. So I said, okay, I'm in.

And obviously my friend Maya was coming too, we met there. I called her and said, are you here? Yeah, okay. I think everyone's inside, so we went inside. Obviously there was Brian, and then there was you, and then there was Javier. Mm hmm. Yeah. You know, my first thoughts were, wait, what's happening here?  Is everyone here restaurant people?

Or, you know, what's going on here?

What's this country boy, cowboy doing in these boots? Yeah.  

And then Javier as well. Right. Right. A very different group of people, but obviously a very fun ride out there. And, you know, we all still talk. I still see Javier quite a bit too.  But yeah, it wasn't, it was, it was a very unique experience.

And, you know, as I wrote a little bit about it in the forward you know, at the time I thought,  well, it's a helicopter, right? I don't think I'm going to have much to talk about with these guys on the helicopter, right? But you know, obviously that's where our friendship began, kind of had discussed food, obviously that's our, our go to and what brought us all together.

And I think our love for beef you have a, a unique love for beef and I do Wagyu and finer, the finer things of great flavor. And so that's a, I wanted to open with that story just because  that's what gets us together today. All these years later is is that that day we met, but then of course I went over and saw you at your restaurant or went to the restaurant there.

And for those who don't know, Jimmy owns Niwa Japanese barbecue and it's in Deep Ellum. A really cool place. Just a really cool place. You cook at the table. It's a high end Japanese barbecue concept. And so you can have what, A5?

We do. We have A5 occasionally A4 Wagyu. A5 is the highest grade.

A4 is the next one down. You rarely see A3 or below imported to the U. S.  We also have American Wagyu  as well as our Prime and choice cuts,  man. I'll tell you the the mushrooms. I hope you still have this on the menu, the mushroom pouch. Tell me about that because I was telling a buddy of mine today about it and it's still one of my favorite things.

So we. Post COVID, we took away the pouch.  We used to cook it in the foil pouch on the grills, but because it took up so much space on the grill  and there was occasionally some cooking problems, you know, people would poke a hole in the pouch, try to let steam out, but ended up coming out or boiling over.

So we cook it in the kitchen now. But it also allows us to be a little more consistent, I think, with the product. But we do use a mixture of Japanese mushrooms four Japanese mushrooms and also button mushrooms. We use shiitake, maitake, shimeji, and bunapi mushrooms.  

And then is it a butter?

What is what's in that? Because it's delicious.

It's so simple.  I hate to tell it.  

It's delicious whether it's simple or complicated. Well, mushrooms are one of the few foods that naturally have MSG.  Okay, which a lot of people, you know, associate with a bad thing, but it's a very natural form of MSG along with tomatoes and Parmesan cheese most cheeses actually.

You know, there, there's presence of MSG there also in kombu, which was discovered in Japan which is a seaweed, but that's where you get umami from so because mushrooms are packed with umami already, we do a very, very simple preparation. It's just, we call it a sake shio. Sake is the Japanese alcohol, or cooking wine and then shio means salt.

So it's just salt, sake, and butter. And that's it.

It's delicious.  I'm hungry too, so we should, we should move on. But that, that was one of my, of course the beef was spectacular, but the the mushrooms were good. Really, really good. And when I get back there, I'll let you cook them for me, but I'm getting them.

Awesome.  You also do pickles. You do your own pickles. You still do? We do. We haven't done too many as of recently, but consistently we're doing at least three to 10, Three to 10. That's a, that's a range for you. Depends on, yeah. Depends on the time of year. Also what we have. In and then also what we're able to pickle so during the end of summer, we'll pickle some watermelon rinds but those usually go pretty quick.

Yeah.  So they don't last more than a couple of months before they're all gone,  but we try to pickle as much as we can. It's definitely, it's a unique restaurant, man. It's a, it's a great restaurant. And so I'm, I'm glad, I'm glad you're here today. I, I was told one of the critiques of, of my podcast early on was.

That I should do better at connecting why I know the guest and how I know the guest to the podcast. And so I always try to do a better job of that, but, that, that helicopter ride, they're going to eat with you, and then you came and ate with me. Yes. And that was, that was really cool, because you taught me something that day that I have never forgotten, and I just told someone about it just yesterday.

I called someone a liar in my restaurant.  I said, do you, you want some dessert? Oh, I couldn't eat a bite. I couldn't eat one more bite, and I said, that's a lie. Yeah. And they looked at me and they said, what in the world did you just say? I said. I said. Let me prove it to you. I said I have a good friend who told me  that there is a word we don't have in English that you have in Japanese and we don't have an equal to it.

And so tell us what the word is. You gotta tell the story.

It's Betsubara. So, Betsu means other. And bara means stomach or belly. Which is a literal translation, but what it means is you have you always have room for dessert. I love it. And that's kind of just a very common saying in Japan, you know, of, Oh, I'm so full.

That's about it.  

So, so I'm full. But I've got a little room, I've got another stomach ready for something sweet. Specifically for dessert. Yeah, I like it. And it's crazy to me that,  of all words we don't have in America, that's the one we don't have?  I mean, have you seen us? We're like dessert people. And so I want to have that, I want to put a sign up in my restaurant, Stop Lying.

So in that culture you have it's a, it's a known thing to have a little dessert just some little ice cream or just something sweet. Is that, is that what that means?  Yep, almost always.  Japanese are huge on sweets.  It's very different than here in the States. It's a little bit less sweet.  And almost, you know, if it's, if it's packaged, it's always packaged individually.

Packaging in Japan is  Out there, you know, it's a little bit above and beyond. But you appreciate it a little bit more.  You can consume just a bite or two and be satisfied with it.

Right. The other day I talked about this on a podcast not too long ago about something should  always be free. And that was one of the podcasts that I made up and talked about, but, there was a hibachi restaurant that we go to and we've been several times. Last time we, we went to that restaurant, we finished up and they asked if we wanted dessert. We said, no, we're full. And they're like, you liar. No, they didn't say that. But they said, okay. And they brought the check, but with the check, they brought these two ounce plastic cups of a, some kind of a Oreo custard.

And I'm telling you, it. It impacted me because number one, they didn't have to do that. Right. Number two, they didn't charge me for it. It was just something they wanted to do, which really that hits me because I, and we're in this business, right? We appreciate people and it really conveyed that. But the other thing was it was delicious.

Like it was amazing. I, I, I, Kayla's  over here, she's producing today and she's shaking her head. Yes, it was. And it was just maybe three spoonfuls. You know, four spoons, but it was just, just right. It was just enough. And and that was, I guess that's just the culture. That's, that's part of that culture that they, they're sharing with us.

And I love that. I think that that's, I think we could learn a lot from, from that one action. Really? Not necessarily that we should eat sweets every meal, but  I mean, I'm good with that. But, but just that little extra that, that we should be able to try to do. And anyway, yeah man, I'm, I'm, I am glad you're here today.

I really, I've been looking forward to this. This is going to this might end up being a longer podcast today just because we're going to talk about so much, but you know, it's, it's fun. A couple of things that we, we've talked about recently is  You know, how we know each other, our journey together.

And then I asked you if you would write the forward to the book, the book I just wrote. And if you have that book this is the man who penned those words and and he starts out so cool. We met on a helicopter ride. I thought that was so good. We had to put that in there. That was great. That's a great opening line.

I mean, how are you not going to read at least a couple more sentences after you see that? I appreciate you doing that. Thank you. No, absolutely. Thank you. It was an honor. People don't know this, but you also pre read it, and then gave some insight and gave some some words of encouragement before it ever published.

And and I had several people do that, but I really appreciate you. I know how busy it is in this industry. And thank you for doing that for me. Absolutely. Really, it meant, it meant a whole, whole lot. I want to hear about your culinary journey. I want to hear a little bit about how, how you got started, what, what brought you to where you are, because I think people listening, even if they're not restaurant owners, there's a lot of entrepreneurs that listen.

There's a lot of people who who just are interested in the journey of. That people take and what gets them from A to B. And tell us kind of how you got started and, and, and how you got to this point.  

Well, growing up, I was somewhat of a picky eater. I wasn't so much into food. It was just something we did to  stay alive.

And it wasn't until, it wasn't until my father passed away when I was 11 my mom had to work longer hours at that point. And, you know, we were eating terrible, you know, junk food, pizza. Of course my mom would try to make something and we wouldn't eat it because we had no supervision.  

Right. I'm going to leave this in the refrigerator and then you don't eat it.

Exactly. Right. I get it.  And then at some point I said, I, you know, I don't feel well, you know, eating like this all the time. So I asked my mom to teach me some of the staples. One of them was curry, which is still to this day, one of my favorites.  And then another one was tonkatsu, which is panko breaded pork cutlet.

And cause I just love that dish. And so after she taught me how to make it, I would make it and then end up making it for my friends and my brother.  And then I made it more often and that's what kind of got me started. It wasn't until I was going to college for mechanical engineering  and I hated it.

I did the externship and.  It was, I think, four days into the  externship where I said, I don't think this is for me, you know. So you made it all the way through college?

I was in college. It was, I'm sorry, it was more of an internship because it was during college where I was trying to see, you know, which kind, and it was actually for Honeywell, which obviously is a pretty big company.

Sure. And I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand every part of it, you know, and I said there's no way I could sit behind a desk for the rest of my life. So I ended up quitting and going to culinary school. And at that time,  I think it was really just a way out. You know, it was what's, what can I do?

Cause I have to do something with my life.  I like to cook. I like to eat. So it made sense. You know, I kind of started that way, but then became a passion. During that time I was still working at a restaurant and working at multiple restaurants after graduating. You know, I kind of went down the chef life and then also kind of went down the manager life, kind of went both directions.

That, that enabled me to do consulting. So for about 10 years, I was kind of pulled on one side or the other. I never really did any marketing or advertising, and it was just  a friend of a friend or a reference. Can you help us out with this? Or can you help us out with that?  In most cases I'd start in the kitchen and then end up doing the front of the house or vice versa.

So kind of going back and forth. I also work for some nightclubs at the time. So it kind of gave me exposure to all aspects of the industry. And that was kind of it. When we moved out to Texas, it was to open up Niwa and to do a Japanese barbecue because  that allowed us to do the good thing about Japanese barbecues, you can do.

The lower level and you could do the top level and it essentially is really just a grill in the middle of the table. So we have options, you know, we have a lot of opportunity there to do different things. Which to this day is you know, is very fun for us because in the kitchen, we can kind of experiment to and make new dishes that aren't going to make or break us, but we can still do it.

I like it, man. So you've, you just, you've done a lot all the way up through consulting. You did that for 10 years, you said?

A little over 10 years, I believe. Consulting.  

Helping people figure out what was wrong with their, how to make more money, or Sometimes it was just filling in. A chef had quit, or a manager quit, or was fired.

Can you come help us out temporarily? And sometimes it was real consulting. We need help with our food costing or our P& Ls and operations.  Right. Even labor laws kind of just went in all aspects. That's interesting. Yeah. Yeah.  So I, I guess when I asked you to read the book that I wrote, I didn't know that.

Man, I, I asked the teacher to read my, read my report. Oh, that's why  it's, it's awesome to me, you know, because like I said in there, it's a great reminder to, of the things that I think  we all forget, you know, as we go through this and we deal with restaurants over and over, businesses over and over, it's great to hear that, you know, and, and from a very fresh perspective.

Without sugarcoating it, you know, it was just straightforward to the point  of, of what these, I guess, problems and solutions are. Mm hmm.  

Well, I don't know if I'd have asked you to read it if I'd have known that. I don't know if I would have put myself into that position if I'd have known, but I did. I did I did appreciate all the, all the feedback and help because I really, I didn't think I could do it.

First of all, I didn't, I really didn't think I could write a book until you do one. I don't know if people know you can do one or not, you know, it's like a restaurant. You cannot do this. Yeah. I don't know. We'll see. Yeah. And so at that point I had already written most everything and basically just our story and our experience and kind of how we handle.

the different challenges that come up and what we do with them and hope to be an encouragement to somebody else as they're going through those things and that's kind of the basis of the book I think but it's interesting to, to bounce that off of someone with that kind of experience and then and then hear back.

So  it was, it was pretty cool. It's pretty cool. Thank you. Pretty cool learning that today. I genuinely appreciate reading it. It was, it was, you know, I started and I kept getting interrupted.  And then going back to it, I was like, okay, I got to finish this because I want to read this, you know, stop bothering me.

So I ended up finishing it up late at night just reading through the night,  you know, cause I have to finish this. Yeah.

That's a good book. Thank you. Thank you. I wasn't, I wasn't really, wasn't fishing for a compliment. I really appreciate you doing it. I appreciate your, your journey too. It means. It means a lot when you get to know somebody, know what they've done, you know, and like we were sitting here talking before we started and I, I told you about doing video and stuff before.

I mean, when you start digging into people's experience and what gets them to where they are today, it's a lot more complicated than people think. People think, well, this guy just, he can, you know, he wanted to open a hamburger restaurant or this guy wanted to run, you know, his own thing. He didn't want to work for somebody or, you know, we, people think simplistic like that, but a lot of times, most of the time, if not every time, there's a whole lot more to the story as we get into it a little bit more. So it's, it's interesting. I want to hear about your trip to Japan  and the, and the butchering certification that you got or whatever, tell us how that happened.

You got, you got invited to.

Yeah, it was  I still don't understand how we got so lucky, or how I got so lucky. But  Japan has a lot of programs government subsidized programs. And Wagyu is one of them. You know, that they spend a decent amount of money on to, to get exposure to the rest of the world.

And One of the programs was with Toriyama Farms out in Guma, and so there was 10 people from the U. S. that were selected to  travel to Guma, and it included a first class flight,  which is amazing.  And then all our hotels stay and travel and food and everything. I don't, I don't know if I spent anything except a few  souvenirs, but otherwise everything was paid for.

And it was just an amazing trip. We went out to Guma and we visited Toriyama Farms and then we went to, and I, I'm not sure if it's K2, I believe it's K2 is a facility name. There's four major butcher,  butcheries in Japan that do all the Wagyu cattle for exportation. And. There I was able to, you know, they give you, first they give you the class, and then they give you a test, and then you have to get dressed all the way through with everything, and then  go out there and, you know, watch the presentation, and then they allow you to do some cuts too.

And then after that  You're able to get a certification if you'd like. So we got their certificate and everything. It's just a really cool thing. It doesn't really mean much. I don't think they'll ever let me back in there, but I don't know.  That'd be, that'd be something to hang on the wall for sure.

Yeah, it is actually, well, it's not hanging on my wall right now because the picture, the frame got broken. Yeah. We had a fire a few years back, so I still haven't replaced it cause it's kind of battered up, but another story.  

Well, that's cool. And in the. The country pays for it. The, is it the, it's a, I believe it's all subsidized by the government.

I'm not a hundred percent sure it could have been through our vendors, which was a one on meat distributors, but I'm not, I'm not a hundred percent sure, but that's for, that is for  getting there. I guess marketing, like  Japanese marketing to the world. Right. That's cool. And we did buy quite a bit of their beef, but I, I don't imagine we were their top buyers.

Yeah. They have excellent, Toriyama Farms is also one of those very unique farms. And visiting that, that farm was just amazing. You know, they, they,  They, they're not the standard,  you know, here's the recipe and here's how we grow our cattle and feed. They had charts and everything. They had this giant whiteboard right where all the baby, all the calves were, where they have all the breeding and they have the whole family tree  along with  the whole feeding cycle.

And when we got there, they covered up the feeding cycle. Oh. Because that's their proprietariness.  Yeah. That was their secret. That's their secret. But we can still see. All of the family tree and kind of how they're breeding and, you know, you could see the difference, you know, and they talked a little bit about it that, you know, picking the prime bull and the best heifer,  that was not the best way to do it, you know, they had to look for certain characteristics.

And they also don't find out  for another 28 months, you know, of how it's going to turn out.

It's a long process. Yeah. Breeding is one of the harder things in this whole industry is, and it's because it takes so long. Right.  We've, we've swapped out bulls. We've changed bulls almost every two years. Since we started our breeding programs, just because you, you have, you get them in there and then they go to work and then it's nine months and then, and then it's another two, you know, up to two years, really we can tell a lot by the way the calf looks when it's born and how it's developing up in the first three or four months.

We can, we can tell a lot right then.  That's still a year plus, you know, to, to get any feedback. On that one bull. Right. So yeah, it's a, it's a, it's a lot to it. I can imagine if you're really being graded and judged and  in, in the, in, in your government's watching. And I mean, I can imagine the, the, the pressure that they're under to get all that right.

Yeah. But yeah, that's, that's a cool story for sure. What do you think some of the difficulties? In the restaurant business are today. I know we've had covid. I know we've had the supply chain issues that hopefully have subsided some for the most part, I think they have what, what do you think, what do you think it is in, in, in really.

This is for any business, but specifically what we're talking about today, the restaurant industry.  

I mean there's We've got inflation. Yeah, inflation obviously is a huge, huge factor. I just had a sandwich on the way over here. Chips and a drink and it was 17. What?  You know, it's crazy. It's like, wait a minute.

What did I do? What did I learn?  But, You didn't ask me how I want my steak cooked.  

But you know, I think, yeah, obviously inflation is definitely a huge aspect of it. But I think the challenge that we are going to face for the years to come is going to be labor. So much of it is being replaced anyways by automations or being replaced  in the factory side.

You know, a lot of restaurants I see that are fairly successful are using frozen products, you know, products that just come out of a bag or a box and are thrown in the fryer, the factory put together. Yeah. So in that case it doesn't really require any skills there. So. You know, chefs  and line cooks, I think both of them are becoming harder and harder to find and to staff.

So let me back up real quick for those that don't understand. There are a lot of our chain restaurants and I won't call their names. I won't be disrespectful. I don't think they would care, but I don't want to be come off as disrespectful to anyone, but a lot of our chain restaurants, whether it be Italian food or Or other it, their, their products are  like their sauces are put in a bag, their soups are put in a bag, frozen, and then they're the only skill needed is thaw and serve in the kitchen versus what you do, what I do.

is very specific. It's very, the skill level is, is very high in how you cut, how you handle, how you work with the different products. So just to explain to those that are listening you know, what used to take a chef to measure.  You know,  understand, sweat in the pot, work, work, and then make this soup is now basically done by a machine in a factory, packaged and then defrosted and served on your plate and then charged, you know, 30.

And they may taste great, you know, they taste good and most people won't know the difference. Right. Right.  Part of the problem. Not that it's anyone's fault, but part of the growing problem.  

And they're, and they're, and to be honest and, and fair to them, they're just trying to make a profit as well. They're really just trying to find a way, you know, we talk about fast food and how often on this podcast, how it's it's not what we do.

A lot of your fast food doesn't need any skill in the kitchen. They just.  They just have to use their tongs to pull their different products out to put into a wrapper and that's all they have to do. There's no cook times, there's no anything that's, it's just a button,  a smart button that knows what product's in there.

Right. And that's it.  So, so skill levels of of all your cooks and, and chefs and lines and preps and, and then the fact that people just, They, they feel like they are worth 50, 000 a year.  That's a problem. That's a problem as well. You know, we, we actually, when we hire, we usually do what we call a stodge.

We do a one day stash with all of our, you know, everyone in the kitchen. So we have them come in one day and we say, let's try this out. If it doesn't work, we pay you cash and part ways, you know, and if it works out, then  we put this on our payroll. Right. And. One of the things that I look for most is, we feed these guys, you know, we have them taste everything,  and when they have no passion for it, and when they're eating our food and they're like, okay, I get it,  you know.

They're not excited.

Yeah, even if they say, oh, I don't really like that, to me that shows that they are paying attention, that they care, that they want. They have an opinion. Yeah, they have an opinion, but a lot of these guys are just there to cook, you know, and  they couldn't care less, and to me that tells me that, You couldn't care less what you're serving the customer.

You know I want to see that you appreciate this, you know, and if you don't, then it's not a good fit. You know, you should be working somewhere where that's all you're doing.  So that's one of the things that we really look for. Cause it's very difficult to instill that into someone that I don't think we can.

You either have it or you don't have it. Right. Yeah, for sure.  Yeah. So We've got the what, what else you think we've got the, the labor issue is a big issue. I've got plans that I could put into place pretty easily in a couple different areas that if I had the labor force for it, I would already be doing it.

I've been offered, you know, spots to open and, and opportunities to, to walk into. My fear and my, my hesitation is  How do I staff that location? Hard enough to keep our, our locations staffed as it is.

Just when you do,  something happens.  Oh, we're finally staffed. Nope, no we're not.  

That's exactly right.

Kayla's over there nodding her head really hard. She's,  she helps me with all of that. As soon as you get your full staff, you got your full schedule. There, there goes somebody.  We've been, we've been really blessed to have some long term. Help. We've talked about that before outside we've had some long term help with us.

It stayed with us and I appreciate those guys really, really do more than I even can tell them a lot of times, you know, they just get tired of hearing me say good job, but  really appreciate people who can stick it, you know, stick with it and learn a skill and be good at it. Right. You know you would think,  you would think cooking hamburgers would be easy.

You would think I can cook a hamburger at the house or, you know, I got a grill, I can, I can do it. But when you start multiplying that times 20 or times, times 40 tickets and you start multiplying those tickets by how many are on there and how many are singles, doubles, how many are cooked different ways,  it gets a little more complex, you know when you're doing that.

And then you've got to worry about timing with. Bread and toppings and then serving a hot,  hot burger. Now, all of a sudden you've got complexities that people at home don't have  and don't ever understand. You know, so guys that are in the kitchen, and the same is true for you guys, I mean, you, you probably have other complexities I don't even understand, but even something as simple as a burger is not simple when you start running a house full of folks, you know, absolutely.

Yeah, I get guys who ask me all the time if I'm in the kitchen, and I do, I try to be in the kitchen often but the reality of it is,  You know, most of my guys, the three main, shouldn't just say guys, cause one is a girl. Oh, right. It's a generic, it's a generic term.  You know, all, the three of them in the kitchen  have been with me for five years now, at least.

Between four to six years.  So, they'll do circles around me. Yeah, you're in the way. Yeah, I've created some of this, but I have to ask them, wait, what goes in this, or how do we do this? Right. You know, my manager laughed at me the other day because I had to ask one of the guys how, how does, how does it go and , so didn't you create the item?

I said,  yeah, but I get it. They're the professionals. , I get it. Not me. .

I get it. I was just thinking today, I think, you know, I, why I'm not at the restaurant so much 'cause I feel like I'm in the way. Yeah. , I feel, I feel like I, I stand around and talk to people Yeah. And get in the way. Yeah. Because they run it so well.

Every single day without me there. I was there this week, a couple of days. I was there yesterday after an event I did. And I just, I took a couple of orders and then I stood around and talked to customers because they didn't need me. They, they get out of the way, get out of the way. Oh, isn't this my restaurant?

Yeah, but it doesn't really matter because they can run it and that's a blessing. That's so, that's such a, that is so good when it happens like that. And we're, we're so grateful to those who, who do that work hard, try to, and of course we try to, we try to give as much as the budget allows for them. We want their families taken care of.

We want, we don't want them to be without, but the budget sometimes is what it is with the markups and the, you can't charge as much as you'd like to for anything really the way it is now talking about inflation All of the prices of everything has gone up. Nothing has nothing is excluded. Yeah.

Everything from paper goods.  I was telling someone before the podcast they were asking about a price on a feeder steer and I told them the price and they're like, well, for a feeder steer, I'm like, yeah, because two years ago when you bought one, it's just about doubled  what cattle are costing now.

Nothing you can do about it. It's just part of it. I wish that I could have doubled everyone's salary. I really do. But it doesn't work that way and I can't double the price of my menu and stay in business. So it's a, it's really a juggling act to try to take care of folks the way you want to. And still be in business next year.

You know, it's, it's tough to do it.  But  you know, what, what do you think? We talked about COVID. What do you think  of those complexities will be with us forever?  We've gotten through a lot of it. We've gotten back to normal. I think there's a lot that has returned. I think one thing that will never  Return and not just because of COVID.

I think COVID just magnified it is social media.  You know, I think  anyone who spends enough time on social media  is has enough time to appreciate someone else's life, you know, and it's, I get it. I, you know, I fall in the same category sometimes where every time I open up social media, I see someone on vacation.

I'm like, wait a minute, where's my vacation?  You know, but this is the one time that person is going per year in general. It's just, you know, if you have 365 friends, you can find someone every day of the week, every day of the year. But I think that kind of envy. Has created some problems, you know, where that's not the reality of things, you know, where people want to enjoy life  more than before, you know, where hard work  gave you reward, you know, and you've got to take a vacation because you worked hard for this whole year and you took a vacation.

Now it seems like people want to take two, three, four vacations a year and they feel entitled to it. Yeah. And it's a normal, but this guy's doing it or so and so's doing it or, you know. And I think that will, it's going to be very hard to get back to normal because as social media grows, it's easier and easier to see these things.

Right. I just saw a guy that, that I know, a good friend of mine, he's on a vacation, he's on a cruise and I saw a video today of him standing out there and the, you know, letting the waves go by and I thought, I want to be on a cruise.  I get exactly what you're saying. I'm going to be on a cruise right now.

I could, I could do that this week, but I can't. But yeah. And I think the other thing that happens is our expectations.  of reality have shifted in the service industry specifically. And people have, for some reason, they're holding,  I don't understand this, maybe you can explain this, but why is it that  a fast food restaurant  can get your order wrong every time you go through the drive thru?

And they can forget your ketchup every single time or forget a straw. I mean, come on. There's one thing you do every order. It's a straw. And you forget the straw. And we go back. And people go back. And they don't get on Facebook. And they don't get on social media and say, Oh, you know,  these guys at Fast Food XYZ.

But yet you or I make one  mistake, one, and, and we even own up to our mistakes and we get, we get beat down for it. I mean a one star review because you know, whatever. And I think that we see that on social, that's a social media climate that we're in as well is reviews and reviews are one of those things that.

They're forever. You can't, you can't ever get rid of them.  And people just don't care.  They're almost wanting to hurt sometimes. And I don't know. It just seems like that's part of the social media climate as well. I agree.

Yeah. I think a big aspect to it too is that you know, there's five, let's say one through five, the one star to five star reviews.

And I think if someone were to write just three star reviews, no one would really pay attention. And, you know, when we review our reviews, we look for the fours and the twos. And the reason why we focus on those is because I think there's some genuineness there. There's people that say it was a great experience.

But, you missed the mark on something, so we're giving you four stars. Right.  Or, the two stars is, it wasn't terrible, but something went wrong, and I'm upset, and it wasn't fixed. You know, and that's where you get the two star review. And the one is just someone being ugly. It's someone who's angry. And most of the time, they're not telling the truth.

Because they know. You know, if, if you gave a simple, well, you know, the, the server walked by me once and didn't refill my water. So I'm giving you one star,  everyone roll their eyes, you know, and say, what, that's it? So then it becomes a server walked by me 20 times. I even called his name, you know, and you just got to, you got to make it big enough to where people read it and say, oh yeah, that's ridiculous.

You know, I feel your sympathy. Right, right.  It's true. I tell you what's confusing to me is. When  people say excellent really great,  can't wait to come back, four stars, four stars. I'm like, hang on, wait, where's the rest of this? What am I missing? Like what? And then, and then you're like, oh, okay, you're the, you're the professor that won't, that says no one deserves a, A perfect score and so you're going to find fault somewhere or and then I say to those people you don't understand the way the scoring system works, you know, I should be able to get a five if I'm in your class.

I should be able to get a 100 if I do everything right that you said. But anyway, yeah, reviews are we could talk for hours about reviews there. I could go on for days. They're frustrating.  They're, they're rewarding, but the, the ones you can get four, five stars in a row and the one, one, two, three star  hangs in your heart for, you know, a day or two, because you really, people don't realize how much we care, how much we work how many hours we put into these things.

And I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm not asking for a slide on something that's wrong, but whenever somebody comes back and it's not fair and it's not. It's not quite what it should be, or they're not telling the whole truth. Then you're like, eh. They just stick, they just kind of stick there, don't they?

Yeah. Yeah.

Can't get rid of them. One that sticks with me is, and this wasn't at my restaurant, this was before when I was managing. She gave us a three star review and said,  I was sick so I couldn't taste anything, but all my friends really loved it.  What? And so she gave us three stars because she was sick and she couldn't taste it.

You know what my reply would be? This is not what a review system is for.  

I'm not, I'm not allowed to reply. Yeah, please stop. I'm not allowed to do that anymore.  On replies, I could tell you one of my philosophies is, and you know this because you read the book. I, I think that and I don't know how y'all do it, but I think that we should reply.

And I think that we should be honest and, We should take our lumps when they come. We should stand up and say, yeah, you know, we can do better if we did that. But then I also think that we should We should correct some things that are complete lies or, or mistruth. Well, we went here and it was a 20 burger, but no, sir it's a 9 and 50 cent burger that you add things to.

I don't think you could get it to 20 just for the people reading later. Let's be, let's be fair about the numbers.  And so I think we, we're having a responsibility  as management owners to say something back and be heard. I think that's, I think it's good for our business. There's a guy that. There's several people in our area that just don't reply to anything and I think I don't know, I don't necessarily agree with that because how  can I gauge what these things mean as the guy reading them later.

You know, at least if you see someone that's engaged, they're at least engaged, you know, I don't know. Everyone has their own philosophies on, on all of that. Let me ask you this, what, what do you think the  one of your overall biggest factors in successfully navigating a restaurant or a business?

What do you, what do you think one of the biggest things that you have to do well every day?  

We'll have to make this the PG version. So it has to be PG on my show.  

Don't mess it up. Okay.

We get you,  you  know, doing consulting. That was, that was  the number one thing that. I think I discovered is it was almost always  due to an ego.

The problems are almost always because of someone's ego. It could have been a chef. It could have been a server. It could have been a manager. It could have been the owner.  Someone's ego caused these problems because a lot of these problems were made aware of.  But someone had too big of an ego to do anything about it.

That's really good. Or, no, this is the way I cook things. If you don't like it, get out. Right. You know, a lot of that is kind of just ego based. You know, if someone  is too egotistical to say,  How do we fix this? You know, or should we fix this? You know, and have a genuine open conversation or thought process about it rather than Say, no, no, no.

This is the way we do things. Yeah.  

And I think that's when you say that there's a couple of restaurants that come to mind that are not very successful, they're, they, they hang in there. But I know some owners that are that way and they're like, this is how I do it. Right. Well, then, then you get what you get.

Yeah. You had to admit yourself.  I was saying, I was on a conference call earlier today and and the person asked me do you,  what do you, what do you see when you see restaurants that fail? And I said I, I see restaurant owners, a lot of times it's hard headed and stubborn. And and the person asked me, do you think that you ever were that way?

And I said, no,  I think one of the keys to my success has been being open minded and not knowing everything. Cause we opened up a restaurant. I didn't, I didn't go to culinary school. I didn't ever own a run of a restaurant before, you know, in the food service business. And so I entered the space. With humility, right?

And I, and I told that person, I said, you know, I think one of the most attractive elements, attractive  traits a person can have is humility. I said, I don't, and I even said that yesterday in a speech. I said, I think one of the most attractive things that we could have in our life is humility. I don't know of anything that's more beautiful than that.

Right. And and that works in business, that works in the home, that works, that works in life, you know? Right. And I think that, I think you're right. The people who don't have that,  they suffer and they never know that, they never know the reason. Right. They never can. It's someone else's fault. They always, yeah, they can't accept that it's their, their call that messed that up.

That's a, that's a great answer. Having some humility in in life I think helps us.  If we can, and I, I don't know, I don't always hit that mark myself, but I sure might know means not always the example, but I sure, I sure can't preach it. I was told I was telling that same person today. I said, I said, you know, one of our greatest moments in our marketing that we have had came from a bad review in a humble approach to a bad review is our, our brand on top of the bun.

Right. Somebody said, you know, they were talking bad about us and they said, you know, something about putting your burger in a bag that, you know, whatever.  I said, fine, I'll show you. And so I put it on a plate and, you know, eco friendly stuff and  made it look cool and put that brand on top. And that was the best thing I ever did.

Looking at that bad review that way is one of the best things I ever did. And now people take a picture of it before it goes on a check in or social media. At least it's sitting in their phone, even if they don't put it anywhere else. And they're scrolling past it, seeing Wells all the time.  I told the person that I said, I don't think a Wells burger would mean what it means today without that brand on top.

It would just be another burger. Right. And so it came out of a, came out of a bad deal really. Right. But me not knowing what I was doing is.  You know, it turned out to be all right for a little while there, you know?  And so, yeah, I know, I know that  seems like anyway, the the restaurant industry and chefs in general kind of have that tough exterior, you know, a lot of, a lot of sleeve tattoos, a lot of, you know, rough and tough guys and ladies, and it's cool, whatever.

But then that also kind of comes along with that. That tough exterior of not, not being able to be taught or, or told or whatever. Great answer. Well, ma'am, tell me some tell me some about your future, what you've got planned right now, because I know you've, you've got your hands in a lot of things.

I, I don't, I just do one thing all day, every day, but I know you've got a lot going on the other day. You brought me some,  some brisket jerky  that I'm trying, I'm trying to do, I'm trying to do better. I'm trying to lose some weight.  I've been doing keto. I've lost 30 pounds,  but then this jerky keeps looking at me through the plastic window of the bag.

And I keep.  It's the most delicious, this is not an infomercial for anyone, by the way, it's, it's, this is my podcast, but,  but I have to give honor where honor is due. And so tell me, tell me about how, well, tell me about the bar, the jerky. So the jerky is kind of funny. It's an interesting kind of tangent because when COVID happened, we didn't get notice.

I think it was March 16th or something where we just got the notice from Dallas and said, all restaurants are closed.  So I, I walked in there to the walk in and I was like, we've got hundreds of pounds of beef  and I don't know what we're going to do with it. You know, like even if I tried to give it away or whatever, it would take a lot of time and effort.

And so we said, you know what, we're just going to jerky all of this.  We had the dehydrators. So we just started.  Passing around, you know, and I always wanted to know what would happen if you jerkied a skirt steak, a ribeye, a New York, a hanger,  and it's not practical, you know, to, to, to do that, but we were given the opportunity because we had no choice anyways.

So we started jerking all of it and.  I learned a lot. We also had nothing to do because we were closed, you know, so we had all the time in the world to just, you had to close your restaurant. We did. We closed for,  I think, six months, almost five months.  I never

closed after COVID. I never closed today.

It was Dallas.

Dallas. I never closed. That's it. Today you're done.

No, we, we had to do takeout. We had to give everything out the door.

Well, we could, I think, have done some takeout, but  We're not a takeout restaurant, you know, we, we did, we ended up during COVID, we ended up doing cult shelter boxes where we would do full size steaks and marinated stuff and, you know, sell big boxes.

Yeah. We did payment meals. Yeah. Payment meals. Yeah.

So we did that. But when we first shut down, we had a lot of meat that we designed a jerky. So we kind of just messed around with it and came up with a ton of different styles and recipes. And  we had done a few. With Eye of the Round which was American Wagyu Eye of the Round.

And that was kind of our staple. We sell it in the restaurant You know, we make a batch and it usually sells out and that's it. The one that I brought to you the other day this was more of Kind of a, a project of doing a new style jerky. And that uses the brisket cut that you had. And it's done, where it's cooked over a very long period of time.

It's not a slow, or it's not a quick one. It's a 12 hour  for the first dehydration. And then a two and a half to three hours for the second dehydration. At a much higher temp to caramelize some of those sugars on there.  

It is sweet. It's sweet. It's so good. And it's crispy. And it's thin. And it's kind of juicy.

It's so good. So, yeah, that was, that was kind of one that mixes, it's kind of a Laotian styled jerky. With kind of Japanese flavors, but we use a premium pepper in there. So it's kind of just  you know, the last three years of tinkering around and messing around just trying different stuff. And this one kind of stuck.

It has so many different flavors in it that you're,  it has a predominant flavor that you, you're left with. And you remember, but as you're eating it, it really does take you on a journey. And I feel like I'm walking in the.  In the mountains of Japan, as I'm eating this, it is, it's really cool how it works, but the flavors in that are so,  so deep that  I didn't understand it.

Whenever I first took a bite of it, that's, that's how, that's how cool it was for our first bite, I was like.  And then, and then it grows on you. It's like a good song. You know, your first time you hear it, you're like, what is this? What is this? And then you hear it again and you hear it again and you hear it in a restaurant somewhere, you hear someone live band play it.

And you're like, great. It takes, it takes a minute because it's nothing like anything I've ever had. I talk about this and I don't want to get back to your jerky story, but I talk about this because I think it fits right here.  A lot of people are closed minded. They don't know that they are. Because you have to actively open your mind to receive new things and I talk about this in another podcast But if we don't allow ourselves room  for our brain to understand that this is good And this is this is something that I can Also understand, then we'll be picky eaters, for one, and we'll be narrow minded people.

And so I started, I started eating that, and I thought, this is, this is different.  And about the third time I ate some, I was like, I gotta put this up. Because I'm gonna eat the whole bag. And I want to tell you, this is true confession today.  I said, I already ate two pieces of this. Two pieces  about like this.

And I thought, well I'm out of ketosis anyway, so I polished off the bag,  I ate the whole bag, and it was, I don't even, I don't even regret it. I've got some more in there, I've, I've stayed, I haven't opened that bag on purpose though,  because as soon as I open it, it's going to be gone, and I haven't really shared it much with the family.

Well, I brought you some more. Oh,  shouldn't tell them. Oh, I mean, I didn't. Right?

It's, but, but it's like, it's like my it's like my bacon blue burger. Did you have that when you came? I did. So the bacon blue burger is weird. It's different. Yeah. And it messes with people's heads.  But it's like my fourth top selling burger every year. And that's, and that's crazy compared to the number of people who don't even eat blue cheese.

Right. Right. Right. And you have that peanut butter sauce that's on it. Well, that's that and pickles. Yep. And those things don't necessarily go together in any world. But when you take a bite of it, your brain goes, Oh, that is good. That works. That really does work. It kind of tones down that blue cheese.

The pickles kind of pick it up with a little salt and then you got the bacon and caramelized onions and it just, and the blue cheese, it works. But you're, if you're closed minded, it will never work. You have to kind of give yourself room to say,  Oh, that, that does.

It's not bad.  And that's exactly how I felt about your burgers.

You know, we talked about that is I had apprehensions as a chef,  putting all that, all those cuts into a burger. He was like, why? Why don't you do that? That doesn't make sense. So when I went out there, I was definitely like, well, I'm sure it's going to be okay. You know, it's not going to be bad, but  I don't agree with the process.

I don't agree with putting filet and prime rib, brisket, yeah, and you know, I got a lot of that from a lot of, a lot of guys that cut meat, a lot of ranchers, they're like, Oh, that's disrespectful.

It just goes against the conventional process. It does. But, you know, I had, and when I first came, we had the blue cheeseburger and just the Wells burger.

Cause I wanted to try, you know, just the patty, you know, without too much going on to where I could taste the meat. Right.  And that was it. You know, if I stayed super closed minded,  I wouldn't have come, but, you know, saying, okay,  I want to see this. I want to understand this. And that's always how I've been is I'll try food that I don't think I like.

Cause I want to see I'll try anything. Why other, why other people like it? Sure. You know, at least understand that aspect of it. But same thing with your burger. I was like, Whoa,  I get it.  It makes it worth it. You know, and obviously from the business aspect, I'm thinking, okay, does this make sense? You know, right.

Economically, does this make sense? But, you know, besides that aspect of it, the burger was. You know, different. Amazing. It really has a beef flavor that isn't typical in most burgers. Right. You know, people add in beef flavor too.  

Well, it's almost the best way I've described it, I think, is it's got a bouquet of flavor.

And I know that's kind of a weird way to say it because usually that's like a wine word or Right. You know, something, but that's the best way I know how to describe it is you have different elements of beef. I was in a restaurant, very nice restaurant in Franklin, Tennessee. And they had a filet burger, and it was a 20, it was the first time I ever had like a 25 burger.

Now this was, you know, I don't know, eight years ago, six years ago, when nowadays I think you could probably find it. Yeah, it's probably 50 bucks now. But they grind their own, it's a nice steakhouse, I don't know, 21 day age, 40, whatever it was. It was, it was beautiful.  And I took a bite of it. And  it was as one note as I have ever tasted.

And I don't mean that disrespectfully, it is what it is. It was a good note. But it was a one note burger. And most of what burgers you're going to eat are Chuck burger, which is a one note burger. And then when you get to ours,  then you start tasting the different types of beef that are in it. And you can actually taste that right.

You can taste multiple tastes of beef, which makes it an interesting, very, I believe the highest quality burger that someone could have. I would say it's a higher quality burger than a filet burger  or a ribeye burger or whatever because of all of the different tastes and right. There's different layers.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.  But if you would have kept a closed mind, you'd have never come and saw me. We'd have never been friends, because you wouldn't have liked my burger. I can't be friends with people who don't like my burger. No, I'm just kidding. So yeah, I  I think that, that,  to wrap all that up, the, the way that,  the way that chefs are, I think, and, and most chefs are that way, I would think.

They, they have an appreciation for, Flavor and for a different technique. Right. And, and the good ones, I mean, they're gonna, they're gonna be game for anything, right, you know, at once. And then  and then you got the picky eaters who  don't, don't enjoy food hardly at all, unless it's chicken nuggets and ketchup,  you know, so.

I want to be the first guy, not the second guy. Yeah, exactly.  So what do you, on the, back to the jerky for a minute do you have certifications or ability to

certify? We're still looking for a facility that we can get USDA approved so we can ramp up. That's a hard thing to do. But it is, it's a long process.

You're probably going to have to build it.  

You probably have to have the USDA office and everything in there. So for the, for the jerky, you can get that with beef processing, right? But you can't get that. I don't know where you'd find that with jerky. And I guess, especially that kind of,  that kind of those kinds of timelines.

Right. That's going to be tough. You probably have to build yourself one.

We were.  We were working with a processor  with the first style of jerky, which is more traditional style of jerky. And, you know, we finally found him down in, I think, around Dripping Springs area. And he said, yeah, just go ahead and bring down the spices.

And I said, oh, you just need me to give you spices, that's it? And he said, yeah, well, just give us the spices, we'll use our meat. And then, he's like, well, we're using an American Wagyu. And I said, well, we'll test it with ours. He said, how much spices do you need? 450 pounds worth, that's the smallest batch we can do.

Okay, so I drove down there with  truck bed full of spices for 450 pounds worth of beef  and dropped it off, waited a couple weeks,  called he'll get back to you.  It went on for about three months. At this point I thought, well,  I don't know if he kept everything, you know, there's soy sauce in there, obviously, which doesn't need to be, can be at room temperature, but if it gets too hot, you know, or too cold, then it's gonna definitely affect it.

So at that point I thought, well, this is never gonna happen.  And a year later they called and said, we're ready to run this.  I don't want, I don't want it.  Why was it a year? I don't know. I don't know if it just got felt through the cracks or if that was a typical waiting list for these guys or what, because it was kind of done through a friend of mine who also  grows.

Angus Wagyu,  F1 cattle. So he kind of brokered the whole deal and said, yeah, let our processor run it. And so a year later they called and said, we're about to run it. I was like, no, don't, don't do it. You know, just keep it. Throw away those, throw away those spices. I don't want them. You know, it's been a year.

Yeah.  So yeah, finding a facility has been tough to say the least.

I know a guy who was building one before COVID. For jerky and beef sticks and he wanted to be USDA and all that. I don't, I don't think he ever got it all the way done, but I'll check with him and see. Yeah.

If he's got a facility, he does love to, he's right out here, right out of town.

I'll, I'll ask him when we get done, but man  tell me one more thing here. And we're going to get into our rapid fire questions here shortly, but  tell me some of the strategy that you use. When you're developing your menus and you're, you're moving into a new development of your,  cause, cause every restaurant has iterations.

They, they, I don't think anybody would disagree with that. I mean, every restaurant starts somewhere and is at a different place today, or, or they're not a living,  you know, organism. They're not, they're not going to be relative to the society. And so tell me a little bit about how you approach that in your restaurant.

Well, we do have some of those seasonal staples. So some things that come through during summer and some things that come through winter that we rotate on the menu. We also like to do a menu revamp at least twice a year.  If we can do more, we do. Well, we also created the kind of daily special side  that are not daily, you know, more like weekly or monthly.

I mean, it could be daily. If it doesn't sell at all, then usually it's pulled off the menu pretty quickly. That didn't work. Yeah, whoops.  But, you know, like I said, I try everything,  even if I think I'm going to hate it. And even if I do hate it, I still have to understand for me  why people like what they like.

And if I could get a grasp of that, you know, there, there are some things that,  I understand now, I still don't like them, but I understand what people like about them. Because that's food. There's some people that way. And everyone has their own taste and everyone's entitled to it too. Sure. I can't tell someone who says, I love this, that you shouldn't love it.

Right. You know, you shouldn't like the way that tastes. Absolutely. It's their own opinion. So for me, I spent a lot of time  looking into that. You know, eating stuff that  I really care for. But,  you know, I think that's a big aspect of, of the restaurant industry too. When I was consulting, you know, one of the biggest challenges for chefs,  telling them, I don't care what you like, neither does the customer.

Right.  Right. You know, the owner is doing this for business. And to pay the bills and to pay your bills. And so as a customer, you know, so it's not really your way or the highway. And you could do all that at home, right? You know, if you're that passionate about it, cook yourself an awesome meal that way at home, but in the meantime, we have to do it.

the customer wants, you know what they prefer. So that's a big challenge. I think in the industry, especially the chefs, but for us, you know, with my team, they're all  kind of on board on the same page, you know, and creating something that they can see cells and that people order to have or reorder to us, that's something that is something to be proud of.

Right. You know, not something that I feel tastes great, but something that. Right.

So I don't, I don't eat eggs. I know it's weird but I don't like eggs. I mean, I can eat eggs in brownies and pie. Right. You know, when it's, it's not eggs. I can't, I don't eat eggs. And we sell a lot of eggs. I mean, we put eggs on, I think I have eggs on what, four or five of our burgers that we've, we've got that go out and, I mean, we'll cook 'em any way you want.

'em, I cook 'em anyway. My kids want 'em. I, I can cook eggs any way you want 'em. And I don't mind doing it for you, but I'm not going to eat that. Right. But I appreciate the fact that you do. Happy to do it for you. Yeah. So my menu can't be just what I like. Right. I mean, it can't that's, that's a good way to go out of business for sure.

Yeah. A quick way. Yeah.  

Well  what, what do you think about rapid fire questions? Are you ready?  I think so. You brought some questions. You brought something to the, to the table. Yeah, kind of some one funny one, but  I'm, I ask hard questions. I hope you're ready for that. I hope I am too. All right.

So you're the guest, so I'm going to let you go first.  And you ask the first question, then I'll try to answer it.

Okay. Well, this is kind of similar to what you asked me earlier.  What advice would you give someone that is thinking of opening a restaurant right now?  I think more specifically, what do you think the single most important aspect  to success in a restaurant is?

Okay. Good question. I think that  you have to have a product  that is marketable.  And what I mean by that is you have to make the case to the public  that you're different and better at what you do than anybody else.  I believe if you can do that, you can stand on a, on, on, in front of your building. And expect people to pull in.

If you do something that everyone else is doing with the same products, everyone else is using,  you don't have any reason to bring someone in your parking lot. So I think that that's first. Secondly you have to be,  you have to give the customer service  that  a paying customer deserve.  And I think if you can do those two things, I know you asked for one, but I think you do those two things.

You can be successful just about anywhere. Well, that

first one ties into GDAL.  Yeah. Yeah.  

You ready? Yeah. All right. I've asked this question before, but I liked it so much. I was going to ask you too.  If you are forced to make a career change today  and you could magically do anything in the world, you could just, you're good at it.

You can do it. What business would you start today?  Ooh.  Not a restaurant,  a different career path, completely total, and we know it's not going to be mechanical.

Yeah. Definitely wouldn't be mechanical engineer.  You know, what's funny though, is, is  I, because the reason why I got into mechanical engineering is I like to use my hands  and  I have to know how things work.

As a kid, I would get myself electrocuted all the time because it just baffled me. There's power coming through this,  let me open it up, let me see what's in there.  You know, so I think somewhere along those lines, I think maybe even architecture or something where I could build something.  Would probably be at,  I don't know if I'd be good at it, but

Well, you would automatically in this world be good at it at this question.

You know, what's crazy is I have an engineering degree as well.  Yeah. So, and I was the same way. I tore everything apart. Yeah. One of the coolest toys I ever got was a big board that had all the electronics in it. Resistors and capacitors and all. You ever seen one of those? And you like put the wires together to make different circuits.

I love that thing. I got one for my 13 year old and he doesn't play with it so I just did.  

You took it over? You took it back?  I don't blame you, I would too.  What you got on your second?

So,  rather than five years later, five years ago, are  you doing anything close to what you think you would be doing? And if not,  what did you think you would be doing now?

Okay, five years ago we had just opened the restaurant.  And for two years I ran that restaurant every day open to close.  So five years ago I did not imagine being free enough from it.  To do, to do anything that I'm doing now. So no, I would not have had any clue  at all that I would be on a podcast or writing a book or coaching other restaurant owners.

No, I have, I, I, I  don't think I would,  I don't think I could have dreamed that I would be doing this. Where'd you think you would have been?

Probably just continuing to  to just grow the business and be in the restaurant every day. I think that's probably where my mind was there and probably had needed to be.

I think if I were anywhere else in my mind I wouldn't have been successful, but I wanted to make sure that that got up and going with the culture and the, and the quality and the customer service that it, that it runs with today. So my mind at that point was I'm going to be here every day if I have to.

Right. So, but yeah, I wouldn't have ever thought that. No, I have no, I'm not going to lie. I would have no clue that I'd be doing what I'm doing today.  That's a good question though.  All right. What's the biggest life lesson that you've learned in the restaurant business? And now I'm not talking about the restaurant I'm saying in life.

What have you learned through running your restaurant business,  a philosophy?

I think to  deal with the problems at hand  and just take it day by day. You know, I think in the restaurant industry, it's so easy to lose control. Lose control of your temper, lose control of finances, lose control of, you know, anything.  Where  I think if you took a step back and just thought about it from a third person perspective It makes it a little easier to deal with.

Mm hmm.  You know, I think everyone needs to act as if they had a boss You know, well my boss want me to do  that's really good. Yeah,  that's a that's a great way to say it I've never heard of it that way  because a lot of times we get in business. So we don't have a boss, right? I've always considered my customers my boss, right?

I, every day I walk in, if I'm there, I'm there every Saturday. So but if I get a bad review, we get somebody call in about something. The customer's really the boss  and I always want to do well by them. I want to make, I want to make my boss proud. that I'm doing a good job for them.  That's good.  All right.

All right. So this one's kind of funny. It's, it's actually an interview question that I ask when I'm hiring someone. Okay. But I'd be curious to hear your answer. Okay.  If I were to ask, what are your family members? One good thing, one bad thing about you, what do you think they would say?

Oh, okay. Which family member?

Up to you. Okay. Good. I'm not going to talk about my wife.  Good choice.  Okay. Good and bad.

Okay. On the good side, we'll start with the good side. I think that my kids would say  that I'm a good dad. I think, I think that they would, I sure try to be,  to be real and to be  understanding and  guide, give,  give experience, call it wisdom as they go through life. I, you know, I think I, I think I do pretty good with that.

I think they would agree  on the bad side.  I don't, I don't think they'd say anything. I think I'm perfect.  And there, there's the answer right there. That's the answer. I could tell you what my wife would say.  My wife would say that I'm always right. And that I can't be told that I'm not, you know, at the house, but not, I think that, I think that for real.

I can get pretty wrapped up in what I'm doing.  I really can. I can get pretty, pretty honed in on  deadlines and what's coming up. And sometimes, you know, I try not to, but sometimes it's easy for me to, to just get real focused on the directions that I'm going. And sometimes I have to back myself up and say, wait a minute, it's dinner time.

You know, I don't, these kids aren't going to be young forever, you know, my wife's worked all day. I can, I can take a break and, and go to dinner or whatever. And I try to do that, but sometimes I have to.  You know, they got to remind me  so I can, I can get focused,  which is a good and a bad thing. It's not always good.

All right. You ready? Yes. All right. This is going to be a, this is going to be a  Jimmy question. You're the only one that I can ask this it's ever been on my podcast,  but I recognized the other day when I met your family that you you keep your culture. intact. And, and I was very impressed by that. You know, you, you keep your language intact, your, your customs, I'm sure to some degree.

And so what would you say is the single most notable difference in the culture of the Japanese versus America?  

Ooh, the single most?

Just what's what stands out the most. I mean, there's obvious differences, but what would you say is probably the most  different between  the culture  that  And then just, you know, you're in America.

You're living in America, and the thing that you have to kind of go  combat to, to not be.  So, I genuinely think that America and Japan are almost polar opposites in so many aspects. Hmm. And I think in a lot of cases, that's what attracts a lot of Japanese to come to the us. Okay.  So I think the single most is probably the mentality  of everything.

The way we see things versus the way Yeah.

And I get frustrated on both sides. You know, when I go to Japan, when you go up an escalator in Japan, everyone lines up to one side. And the purpose is, and these are long escalators, the purpose is because if someone else is in a rush, they could run up. The escalator.


Here.  We've got hands on both sides of the escalator. People are laying down, putting out lounge chairs.  It's very different. Yeah. You know, and just that mentality there is, is very different. Would you call that respect?

It is. It is. For human, your human beings. It's also a hundred percent necessary in Japan because of the dense population. Just because of the culture, it has to be that way. Okay. It would be much more chaotic if it wasn't, versus if it was that way here. This, over here, it's not chaotic, it's just the way it is. But, also, you know, here, sometimes to get frustrated with some of those things too, you know, is  sometimes it's, it's simple  to not litter, you know.

Drop that. Pick it up, you know,  versus like, that's not my problem. Someone else is going to pick it up, you know, and they get all the other trash out here, you know, but that's the mentality that causes that to happen is everyone says, it's not my responsibility. So I think mentality wise.  That is a very tough thing to, to, to grasp.

Which that's respect too.  Yeah. Yeah. That's respect as well, or a lack of.

Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think, I guess respect is, is definitely a huge It's the root of what you're talking about. Yeah.  And sometimes it frustrates me on the Japanese side because they're too conservative, you know. They won't take a risk.

Yeah, speak your mind, or, you know, do what you want to do. Just say it. Just be you. Quit being nice and say it. Yeah, I can see that. Yeah. Very. But again, they're very respectful of your opinion and they're respectful of not being  overstepping what you might think. And so from what I can tell from the friends that I have and the connections that I have, which are  obviously why I'm asking this question, but they're all very, very respectful to almost to a fault.

Right. Yeah.  

I struggle with that because I'm American and Japanese.  Sometimes I talk too much. Yeah. You're conflicted.  Sometimes I should be more American. Sometimes I should be more Japanese.

My Japanese side is really upset with me right now for saying this, but I'm about to tell you what I think.  Yeah.

Yeah. That's great.  Well, man, it's been so fun. I knew it would be getting to talk to you and just, just pick your brain and talk about stuff. I appreciate your passion for, for good food. I really do. That's one thing that stands out about you. Is when you go to your restaurant, you go sit down,  every detail has been thought out the, the way it looks and feels and the way it sits and the, and you can just see the way that it's done.

I think you explained to me one time that you've got  ventilation systems under the table. We do, it's a downdraft system. So rather than the air being sucked up, which causes smoke and smell, everything sucked down through the ground. See, that's genius. I didn't think of it. I don't care. I'll take credit.

You have it. I didn't come up with the hamburger, but you know what? I serve them. But just the details like that, that are we went to a restaurant and not to throw any, any stones, but we went to  a restaurant a few months ago. And it was a.  A different style. I don't want to say Korean, maybe it was Korean barbecue kind of a place.

And  it was the first time I'd ever been to that style of restaurant. And it really wasn't for me. It really wasn't for me. I didn't care for the way, because I had been to like places like yours. And there's another place or two that we've been that. It just handled things just really, really well. And then you go somewhere that's almost like a,  it's almost like a Golden Corral style idea.

I know what you're talking about. Like, just like, let me throw some stuff at you and you eat it. Yeah. And and I shouldn't have said Golden Corral. I didn't mean it that way. That'll be okay. Yeah, that'll be okay. I don't, I don't think their stock will dip. Yeah. But anyway, you know, it's just, it's just different.

And and I appreciate. People who pay attention to those details because they really do matter and we sure try we sure try to  sometimes I wish we had a nicer place like I wish we had a  More like it could be more upscale, but it just is what it is that that house is what it is It's perfect. You know, I wish that we could do things I wish we had more seating to where we could not be so crowded into places, but you know Crowding is a Good problem to have it

is so what is in the base version ?

Yes, we deal with it But man, I appreciate your your philosophy and I appreciate your friendship. You too.

Thank you Thank you for having me out here. Thanks for writing the forward in that book. Absolutely. Yeah, I hadn't shown that I hadn't shown the book on the podcast Let's see if I can, there it is right there.

And  yeah, if anybody, if anybody needs it, you can get it at lee wells, official. com and or Wells cattle company,  those cattle code. com. And, or you can just come by the restaurant, grab a burger, grab a book. I'm around, I'll sign it for you.  And man, it's been great having you.  for coming out. You too. I appreciate it.

Yes, sir.  

And so I'm Lee Wells. On the ranch and table podcast until next time we say adios, farewell, goodbye, good luck, so long.