On the Front Door
Many of you have noticed this sign on our front door at the Kangaroost in Kaukauna. We’ve made it Facebook official and are spreading the word. We are indeed moving ~ again. Now, I am here to tell you that in February when we moved into the Plum Hill building, I was the one who kept saying “this is the last time we will ever have to move”, fully anticipating my retirement from the restaurant business in this spot.
Of the Times
As things often go, we could not have predicted the rapid increase in the catering side of what we do. While we knew of events that were happening during the summer, summer quickly let to Fall and we frequently found ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to close the restaurant in order to fulfill our catering commitments. Catering is SO MUCH FUN and we are VERY GOOD at it, so we definitely know that we needed to continue with that.
With that in mind, we found that as the summer went on, the frustration and disappointment with having to close the restaurant frequently became a nuisance. We worked through it though, often using creative ways to do as much as possible with as little inconvenience to customers.
On the Other Hand
We found a shocking trend in restaurants. Folks are busy attending all the parties, celebrations and festivities of summer, they don’t eat out nearly as often. The Kangaroostaurant was always so much busier as the weather grew nicer, that it was a shock to us as newbies in the restaurant world. Fortunately we had the truck and catering which carried the restaurant through the summer. We had anticipated that to some degree, but certainly not to the degree that it happened. Some things we learned over the past 6 months in our current location is that in order to make ends meet, or break even at the location we were in, we need to serve 120 guests each and every day that we are open. Now, that doesn’t seem like a huge number but when you consider a busy day at the Kaukauna location, meant serving 100 people. We rarely hit that mark, and often fell significantly short. We assume responsibility for much of it as, at times over the summer, we struggled with slow service, and less than stellar quality. We were spreading ourselves thin and were struggling to find enough help to cover all the hours we were open. When one or two aspects of any system are off balance, the whole thing starts to unravel. Fortunately, we were able to hire a few key people to help restore some balance and get us back on track with the quality and service we expect. As we went into fall, we were optimistic as we saw things begin to pick back up at the restaurant. But, while they were busier, it still was not enough. We had to make a decision, and make it while we still had a chance of recovering.
What is Your Location?
And, we were in the right place at the right time, when the property at 3301 West Prospect Avenue became available. Many of you are familiar with this building, it’s been many things over the years. Le Bon Appetit, The Willows, The Vineyard and most recently a church, Living Faith. We toured the building on a Friday and could not wait to meet with the realtor on Monday to place an offer. The space offers many interesting architectural characteristics, a fantastic and convenient location just off of the highway and close to the Fox River Mall, (without actually being at the mall) a fun exterior with lots of space for us to plant a chef’s garden, host outdoor weddings in the courtyard, intimate wedding receptions and so much more. We are going to have a full bar at this facility and will be working with the folks at Bittercube to give us some training on setting up a classic bar menu using some awesome Wisconsin spirits.
But, for those of you who are concerned about what the space will be like, you can rest assured, we are working with the very best people we can think of – Urban Evolutions Inc. to help us with furnishings and décor that will create a relaxed, yet relevant atmosphere, using repurposed and refurbished and in some cases thrifted goods. We have spent time with them this past week and feel that we are well on our way to creating a space that is not only comfortable, but fun, and inviting, a place you will want to come and stay a while. Some of the furnishings will be familiar, like a table you may have eaten at while visiting your grandparents on the farm. And some may be even more familiar as we scour the thrift stores of the Fox Valley in search of chair and miscellaneous furnishings to fill in the gaps. We are super excited for you to see this space transform and look forward to sharing many photos and much of the experience of the next few weeks with you, as we remake this 80’s banquet and fine dining establishment into a relaxing and fun place to hang out.
HAVE NO FEAR
We are again embarking on the unknown. This time we have more knowledge under our belts, and in our brains than before. The last 9 months have been an intense learning experience for us. We know that there are many things we will be doing differently to ensure more consistent, high quality food and service every time you choose to dine with us. Emma Reiser and I had the opportunity to talk with Larry from Basil Café about the tablet based point of sale system they use. We enjoyed hearing his perspective and experiences with the system we will be using. It was great to not only get insight but to have another restaurateur share time from their busy day to exchange information. Working together as small business is an important part of success and we are deeply grateful for Larry’s generosity with his time and information.
Chef Adam and I are working together to create a new menu, expanding on variety and adding a few more vegetarian and lighter options. We will be keeping many of the favorites while expanding our dinner and entrée options. There will be Hoppin’ Fast lunch menu for those of you looking for a quick service option. Delivery and carry out will also still be available. And of course, we will continue with our daily specials featuring local, fresh ingredients. Many of our staff will be following us on the move. They will be working the next couple of weeks to help us prepare to open and be involved in the changes every step of the way.
Staying on Track
So, as we continue down the path of restaurateurs, we have been so lucky and blessed to have gotten to know so many of you. Along with that, we’ve built friendships and relationships along the way and have gathered the support of many. We currently have 3o CSR Members as well as 4 folks who have come forward and put their trust in us by working out small loans with us to make this move happen. As we move into our new location, we are more aware of the need for a solid financial position and adequate cash flow to ensure success. Many of our CSR members have been with us from the beginning and we are eternally grateful for their continued support and encouragement. Without them, none of the growth we’ve managed to experience would have been possible. Example of that growth is the fact that we have increased our staff from Jay, myself, our children Emma and Loudon and two part time employees to a staff of 15. We have 5 employees who work 35+ hours weekly. We are creating jobs and working to build our local economy by supporting local farmers and producers. Last year we spent nearly $100,000.00 on local food from local farmers and producers. While we often feel down hearted, tired and wonder whether the long days and hard work are worth it, we see the folks who started as customers and are now friends and think…yes, it’s worth it. We see our employees going through life phases and transitions and celebrate with them at weddings and births and think, yes it’s worth it. It’s not an easy row to hoe but, we are grateful for every opportunity we have been given to be a part of this community and we look forward to continuing to grow, together with all of you!
While we have been lucky to have the support we have had along the way, we are once again offering the opportunity for you to become a part of our family business as we grow. In order to be in a sound financial position and procure all the necessary things we need to open, we are hoping to gather the support of 20 more Community Supported Restaurant members. Members purchase shares at either the $500 or $1000 level. These shares are redeemable on a monthly basis over a 2 year period in $25 or $50 increments, respectively. If this is something you would be interested in, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by phone at 920-766-7662.
Hold on Tight
And enjoy the ride. We are about to have some fun, eat some more good food, get to know one another and continue on this path of good food, friendship and community. Thank you for your continued support, enthusiasm and patronage!