#14: Restaurateur Couple Shares Journey from Hobbyists to Entrepreneurs

February 10, 2021 by David Scott Peters

If you’re working in your restaurant because you have a passion for hospitality and your restaurant is a dream you made come true, but you struggle to thrive in your business and your personal life, this episode of The Restaurant Prosperity Formula podcast is here to offer you inspiration.

This week I talk with Brianna and Jonathan Cowan, owners of The Wooden Paddle in Lemont, Illinois. For the last year or so, I’ve been coaching them through the implementation of systems and their growth as leaders. In that time, they’ve gone from working hard in their business, often on the line, to hiring a quality GM to run the restaurant and the systems. In fact, in the midst of the pandemic, they just spent 24 hours in one week working on high level strategic planning, looking at how to catapult their business forward.

I first met them at the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show about a decade ago, and they made a decision to get on an airplane a week later to attend one of my four-day workshops in Las Vegas. At that time their business was more like a hobby. After the workshop, when they realized the sales they could be doing and the results they could be having, they went home and tackled the business more seriously. They upgraded from carryout pizza to artisan pizza cooked in high-heat ovens, added catering services, bought a building and opened a dining room.

Fast forward to March 2020 when we reconnected at Catersource, days before COVID-19 business restrictions shut down their dining room and catering events. They were looking for how to break through the ceiling that kept holding them back from the next level of success with their business. They decided the missing piece from their efforts to build a better business was accountability.

When the pandemic hit, they decided the extra time they had on their hands should be committed to learning and finding an accountability partner.

They were kind enough to share with me their incredible journey of taking their passion for hospitality and turning it into a thriving business. During our conversation, they describe their initial motivation 10 years ago for taking their business more seriously, which included connecting and interacting with other restaurant owners at my four-day workshop, attending food trade shows, reading books and continuing to pursue knowledge to find what they didn’t know. They saw what was possible at my workshop and decided they wanted something similar for their own business. They took a piecemeal approach to systems, and even with limited systems, saw a big impact.

Once everything stopped for restaurants in March 2020, the first thing they figured out was the catering side of their business was supporting their bricks and mortar restaurant.

It made them take a hard look at their restaurant to figure that piece of it out. They figured other people have found a way to be successful with both, so why couldn’t they? If they could have both a thriving catering business and a thriving restaurant, they could probably break through that ceiling that kept holding them back. So that’s what they focused on.

Their biggest hurdle to breaking through was their day-to-day duties in the restaurant. If they were not in the building, it was not going to get done. They had some supervisors, but no one who was taking the big-picture view of what needed to be done in the daily work. They made some huge decisions to eliminate the distraction and problem. 

Tune in to learn the decisions that have made a huge difference in their operations and what they do with their time now that they have help in the restaurant day to day.
  • The one thing that made all the difference in their business
  • What made them realize they could afford a GM
  • How they found and hired that GM
  • The changes they made to their daily hours of operations and the impact it had on their food and labor costs
  • How a budget opened their eyes to opportunity
  • The shift they made from being the managers of their business to being the leaders of your business planning
  • The jobs they focus on now as the owner entrepreneurs instead of working on the line at any given moment
  • How their restaurant runs better now without them in it
  • How finding the right person to help you in your business helps you uncover what you didn’t know so you can make more effective and helpful decisions
  • Hear what has made the difference in their stress levels and what they look forward to now that they don’t have to do the same tasks over and over again
  • What their new job description looks like compared to their old one
  • Why mindset is such a huge factor in a restaurant owner’s success

If you want to hear from restaurants owners who have a passion for hospitality, a passion for developing people and giving back to the community and used these things to grow their business from a hobby to a rock star business in their area now looking at multiple locations, tune into this podcast


This episode is being brought to you by The Catering Coach. If you are a restaurant owner now more than ever, you need catering as a profitable, proven multiple revenue stream. But right now, who has the time to establish all the checklists, systems, packing lists and proven methods to grow your catering business? And who are your catering customers when there are very few catering events? You need The Catering Coach. Sandy Korem, the catering coach, and her team will show you the path to immediate catering profits by taking out all the guesswork of what works right now in this ever-changing world. Catering is not what it was last year, but catering is still profits, profits, profits. Learn the systems, learn the checklists, learn the out of the box methods that successful restaurateurs are using right now to be catering profitable. Click here to see if The Catering Coach is right for you.

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