Diary of a Startup Seafood Shack

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Family-Life Experiences

Posted: 08/28/2011

This post is dedicated to everyone who has played a role in opening a new restaurant or small business, and everyone who helped us open ours.

Because of Hurricane Irene, today is the first complete day off I have had from restaurant-related work in about 4 months, although I did update our facebook page earlier today.

In anticipation of this blog post, I saved a few of the daily lists I used to manage the project of forming a company, creating a restaurant (Native Cape Cod Seafood), and operating it on a day-to-day basis. The following list represents a very small sampling of some of the detail involved in transforming an idea into a functioning restaurant:

  • Finalize next steps with all issues related to lease negotiation.
  • Tuesday 4PM Scott Kerry Insurance meeting.
  • Schedule meeting with Attorney.
  • Meet with Andrew (business partner) about budget and business plan.
  • Shoes: ECCO Track 5 w/Gore-Tex? Chuck Draghi recommended Sears Diehard Oxfords.
  • Consult with Scott Kerry (Insurance Agent) and Attorney Bill O’Donnell about LLC vs. S-Corp.
  • Call Attorney to see if LLC name was accepted.
  • Get schematic from Trimark guy and get list of kitchen equipment needed.
  • Copy Andrew and his wife on draft of LLC operating agreement for approval.
  • Commitment from private investor and coordinate logistics/next steps.
  • Review current draft of lease with Andrew, note all outstanding items to negotiate and email landlord.
  • Clarify who needs to be ServeSafe certified and finalize strategy.
  • Meet with Andrew and Attorney and execute LLC operating agreement.
  • Finalize quotes from 3 insurance agencies and make decision.
  • Get # of cleaner, Keith Arnold and schedule ASAP.
  • Do we need a small ice machine at the raw bar?
  • Take ‘before’ pictures of space for Facebook page.
  • Do I need to attend a class on FOG (Fats, Oils and Grease)? Check with Health Inspector.
  • Meet with Health Inspector, Jane Evans on all raw bar requirements for licensing and inspection.
  • Clarify whether or not we can use a neighbor’s ice machine to get started at raw bar.
  • Surface requirements for food prep? (Cutting boards, Stainless steel, ?)
  • Sink, awning and sneeze guard requirements at raw bar?
  • All signage allowances/requirements w/town and landlord?
  • Can we get raw bar operational and licensed, then inside concession later?
  • Who will be covering during Health Inspector’s absence?
  • Do we need to speak with Electrical and Plumbing/Gas Inspectors and get a permits before doing any work?
  • Does description of work and/or diagrams need to be approved in advance?
  • Confirm only 1 application for license is required, despite the fact that we will be operating 2 locations (outdoor raw bar and indoor concession).
  • Be sure plumber inspects the water tank and that it’s operating properly.
  • Hood cleaning: Status and requirements?
  • Be sure proposed kitchen equipment fits under hood to comply with inspector’s requirements.
  • Put gas and electric in the name of our LLC and be sure accounts are set up properly.
  • Schedule meeting with kitchen manager candidate and finalize compensation and all details.
  • Get referrals for sheet metal fabricators.
  • Get referrals for fire suppression/ansul system companies.
  • Open account at Seamen’s Bank.
  • Research payroll companies. Seamen’s referrals?
  • Brian Carlson @ Town Hall will be covering during Jane’s absence. Meet with him before Health Dept. inspection.
  • Sneeze guard will be required for raw bar but no awning.
  • Meet with builder of raw bar and discuss sink location and all specifics.
  • Meet with Saki owner, Steve Schnitzer at storage in Truro @ 11am tomorrow to view used equipment.
  • Confirm meeting with Thor Wednesday morning to discuss awning.
  • Determine whether or not Andrew’s welder friend can build metal frame for awning.
  • Talk with private investor. Status of funds and signed agreement?
  • Review all requirements to file license application with the town and complete packet.
  • Seamen’s Bank: Meet with Marie to finalize everything.
  • Follow-up on ServeSafe study materials and testing.
  • Talk with refrigeration guy about converting walk-in freezer to refrigerator.
  • Respond to builder about sink location and fridge location at raw bar.
  • Talk to Andrew about strategy for operating raw bar indoors during bad weather and slow times.
  • Clarify where our dry storage space is and clean it.
  • Meet with Mike from Perry in Hyannis to get fire extinguisher for inspection and discuss all ansul system requirements.
  • Buy cash register for raw bar.
  • Call refrigeration guy and terminate relationship and schedule new guy.
  • Call EF Smith in Quincy for used equipment.
  • Continue to pursue all updates/changes in lease language.
  • Pursue lighted exit sign and emergency lights required for inspection. Landlord will pay for.
  • Schedule inspection with Town Hall.
  • Replace bad ceiling tiles.
  • Review everything in our space with property manager and have him remove everything we don’t want.
  • Finalize purchase and delivery of all kitchen equipment with Chris @ Patriot.
  • Confirm ServeSafe test time/place with Heather McGowan.
  • Email sign company everything they need to complete proposal.
  • Email all insurance binders and requirements to Darlene in Licensing Dept. at Town Hall.
  • Follow up with all awning companies.
  • Find piece of stainless steel for wall in kitchen.
  • Schedule consultation with Mocco, gas fitter for all kitchen equipment and ansul system.
  • Study and meet with Heather for ServeSafe test at 10am on Friday at Orleans Library.
  • Pick up oyster-shaped chalkboard sign for raw bar and review status of all other signs @ Young and Fancy Signs.
  • Send landlord email; Lease amendments, keys, lighted exit sign and emergency lights before Wednesday inspection.
  • Pursue short-term solution for raw bar shellfish display.
  • Post ‘Help Wanted’ signs and hire counter and kitchen help.
  • Find shuckers for raw bar.
  • Exchange 1/2″ quick disconnects with 3/4″ before Mocco installs equipment to ensure better gas flow.
  • Email Darlene in Licensing Dept. at Town Hall proof that I passed the ServeSafe test.
  • Call plumber to dispute charge for raw bar sink installation.
  • Pick up checks at Seamen’s Bank on Friday.
  • Buy industrial stainless steel cleaner and clean hood and back wall of kitchen cooking line.
  • Soak and clean all hood vents and put in place.
  • Research fry oil removal companies and finalize game plan.
  • Buy paint for walls and floor.
  • Final prep and patching of all walls and floor for painting.
  • Thank Kevin and Editor at The Provincetown Banner for running article on Server Not Servant.
  • Laminate copies of ServeSafe certificate for raw bar and inside and post.
  • Get chili sauce and replace 2 cans borrowed from The Lobster Pot.
  • Call Chris at Patriot Equipment. Quote on stainless steel tables?
  • Cash register for inside, research and buy.
  • Set up a system to confirm all bank deposits and reconcile account.
  • Call plumber, Jamie Meads. Steamer installation and fix sink.
  • Call Mocco, gas fitter. Finalize installation of all kitchen equipment and all requirements for ansul system.
  • Call Arty, Electrician and finalize all ansul system issues and electrical punch list for shack and raw bar.
  • Empty walk-in and plug all holes in preparation for refrigeration guy.
  • Landlord: Get receipt from last hood cleaning before inspection.
  • Bring flyers to woman who works at whale watch booth.
  • Inventory all menu and kitchen items needed and game plan about sourcing/vendors.
  • Decision on selling Lobster Pot’s clam chowder.
  • Patch big holes in concrete floor.
  • Finalize smoke/CO2 detectors before inspection.
  • Liquid nail cove base to new half wall.
  • Complete promotional flyers to put into Film Festival gift bags.
  • Copy chef on tartar sauce recipe.
  • Replace can of chili sauce to The Beachcomber.
  • Comcast will be at shop 2-5 on Monday to install 2 phone lines.
  • Levi from Complete Payroll Co. appointment tomorrow at 10am.
  • Kevin from Perkins tomorrow at 9am.
  • Finalize strategy with fan or AC at back wall.
  • Buy stamps, envelopes, push pins, sharpie, masking tape and pens.
  • Call Mocco’s brother (welder) about steamer.
  • Set up Perkins account and finalize terms.
  • Paint board with chalkboard paint to use as menu.
  • Complete set-up and breakdown checklist for raw bar and inside.
  • Inventory everything required for raw bar.
  • Set up account with linen company.
  • We have 200 AMP, single-phase electric service.
  • Get buoys, oars, nets, clam baskets and decorations.
  • Follow-up with Chris at Patriot on status of used steamer purchased at Northeast.
  • See and pay T-shirt guy $100 for temporary T’s.
  • Set up account at J&E Fruit and Produce.
  • Pursue business debit card from Seamen’s for Staples orders and phone and internet purchases.
  • Finalize and launch Facebook page.
  • Follow up on new business cards.
  • Make copies of all forms required for new employees.
  • Meet w/Dan, sales rep from The Provincetown Banner to discuss advertising.
  • Remember non-powdered gloves, sink signs and paper towel for inspection.
  • Stop at Days Propane early tomorrow and get part for fryolator.
  • Finalize opening menu and sourcing of all ingredients and vendors.
  • Credit card machine meeting 10AM tomorrow.
  • Email T-shirt design to Brenda at Kaleidoscope.
  • Finalize checklists for FOH, BOH and manager and put on bulletin boards.
  • Be sure Chef coordinates shrimp order with Andrew so we don’t double order.
  • Finalize all payroll issues w/Levi, account rep.
  • Clean/organize dry storage in preparation for receiving Perkins order.
  • Bank early tomorrow. Confirm accuracy of deposits and get reserve banks/change for the weekend.
  • Research printer cartridge  and register tape requirements for both registers so we never run out.
  • Pay all bills and start folders for every vendor.
  • Learn how to program and operate cash register for inside.
  • Research how to pay monthly meals tax online.
  • Follow up with Chris at Patriot about part for fryolator.
  • Finalize cold beverage strategy.
  • Call NStar and be sure account is all set.
  • Call Days, propane company and follow up on all issues.
  • Pursue more pictures and decorations for the shack and raw bar.
  • Finalize new schedule for next week.
  • Get samples from other concessions of daily financial close out sheets and create one.
  • Place J&E Fruit and Produce order at end of night.
  • Follow up on catering proposal.
  • Finalize all details for Industry/Hospitality Night.
  • Follow up on Fryolator warranty/service issue. Schedule early in AM.
  • Discuss $1 oysters with Andrew and run specials?
  • Post payroll clipboard to track hours.
  • Complete paperwork and folders for each employee.
  • Tell Andrew and Chef about new oil removal company.
  • Finalize decision on new signs.
  • Pursue grease trap requirements.
  • Pay monthly meals tax and record on bank ledger.
  • Confirm when Women’s Week is and plan promotion.
  • Call in payroll early Monday and record on bank ledger.
  • Pursue September bus tour strategy.
  • Replace both register and credit card machine tapes.
  • Finalize T-shirts with Brenda @ Kaleidoscope. Record payment in bank ledger.
  • Print more menus.
  • Finalize decision on floor mats with Conwell.
  • Check forecast every day for raw bar staffing and adjust accordingly.
  • Pursue old photos from original Aquarium owner.
  • Hardware store: Lighter for pilots, hand soap, and paper towel dispenser.
  • Replace forks we borrowed over the weekend.
  • Update both blackboards, including hot dogs and fried chicken on the menu.
  • Finalize Perkins credit issue.
  • Inform everyone scheduled we’re closed on Sunday during hurricane.
  • Review and finalize everything on hurricane prep list.
  • Prepare for Labor Day Weekend.

I’m sure this partial list will bring back memories for everyone who has owned and operated a start-up restaurant or small business. Even though we’re only a 300 sq. ft., take-out seafood shack, the day-to-day experiences, drama, surprises and challenges could provide very rich material for a reality show. It certainly has been an on-going education.

PS- There are a few items that didn’t make my daily lists but needed to be squared away:

  • Learn what an ansul system is and how to spell “ansul”. (Every business has its own glossary of terms…)


11 Responses to “Diary of a Startup Seafood Shack”

  1. Norah says:

    Phew – and I thought our start up nonprofit had a lot of “tasks”. Hope it was a good summer and an even better fall.

  2. Lou says:

    I’ll be in P-town Thursday PM…can’t wait to have a peek. Seems like an endless list…as you tick one task off another presents itself. CRAZY!!! Good luck!

  3. MikeQ says:

    That’s how I remember my two stints as GM. Something addictive about it, isn’t there though? Challenges come up, you knock them down. Immediate reinforcement. Best of luck, Patrick! I doubt I’ll be able to make it down there in the next month or so. Will you be seasonal?

  4. Darren says:

    And I thought I had it hard juggling work and University. Fair dues to you Patrick and I sincerely mean it. I dont think many could have done all that in the very short time you took to start up your business.

  5. Arthur says:

    Even after 11 years, still having to follow similar lists. Wasn’t able to take a vacation until after 5 years @ 6 days/week. Didn’t really have much of days off on the 7th, as other issues needed attention. Down here, an occasional interruption is welcome now and then.

  6. Big Paulie says:

    We’re doing this right now, for an estimated October opening of our 125-seat Italian restaurant and bar. This is the fifth project I’ve embarked on and the second I’ve directed as owner.

    Patrick, I *love* Server Not Servant — but I sometimes am angered by the stereotyping of the “greedy owner” by servers, cooks and hosts. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my peers save pennies but then lose dollars because of a short-sighted need to cut costs. This translates into poor-quality products for the customers and peeved employees, at the very least.

    However, there’s so much we have to contend with as owners, so much risk, so many hours. The people who work for us who categorize us as “greedy profit mongers” who “profit enormously off the backs of under-paid workers” ought to inspect this opening list. Beyond grand opening, there’s a list just short of this which is on my computer and my desk each day we operate.

    Those who work for us are subject to an implied contract; perform acceptable-quality work for a certain duration of time and get paid an agreed rate. Then, they get to go home and do whatever they do with their friends, families and loved ones. Those of us who provide the jobs go home and, for example, dread answering the telephone because it just might be the alarm company, or an employee who’s either looking for a schedule change (probably at the last minute) etc.

    For me, the headaches associated with ownership are far outweighed by the sheer joys of being a restaurateur. Among the high points are: contributing to the community, providing employment for people who much more often than not are a delight to work with, and the pleasure of seeing customers return over and over to enjoy our food, hospitality and entertainment.

    As I said before, after 12 years of operations at our previous restaurant I still had my “to-do” list (one on my pc calendar and another on a scrap envelope on my desk) every day. The line items from the scraps of paper are sometimes utterly simple, but the complicated ones speak volumes even though they’re very brief:

    - buy wine openers for the bar (the employees stole all my nice ones from Robert Mondavi)
    - buy 3-in-one oil for the squeaky fan in the restroom and the restroom door
    - bail out the line chef (that one was only $1,000 plus $5,000 in legal fees; he’s working it off)
    - take-down the American flag in the front hall (the Green Party was having a meeting there)
    - put-up the American flag in the front hall (the Republicans met two days afterward)

    … and the beat goes on.

    I look forward to seeing your chronicles of “year two” of your seafood restaurant. And I commend you on having the nerve to operate in a resort area (risky) and to be willing to handle ultra-perishable product (extremely risky).

  7. sol diner says:

    I need to save this list to everytime someone asks how fun it is and can’t wait to open up a restaurant.

  8. Patti DiVita says:

    And people think restaurant folks are not too smart! What a list, holy cow…Great to hear that all is well and best of all with this great venture. I am looking forward to bending an elbow with you in a few weeks. Congratulations to you Patrick! Peace out from Canada.

  9. carpebliss says:

    This is unbelievable and gives a whole new meaning to the word–details!!!!! Seriously, the next time I delight in any delicious meal anywhere, I will remind myself of the endless exhausting hours that go into opening a restaurant. One hell of an eye opener!

    Wishing everyone at Native Cape Cod Seafood an awesome Labor day Weekend and beyond!!!

  10. Fenwick says:

    Congratulations Patrick and Andrew…..you did it…..and no easy accomplishment at that…wishing you all the best for much well deserved success….can’t wait to visit and bring my girls for a good old New England Lobster roll…have a great Labor Day!

  11. Marian Pooran says:

    WHEW!!!! Kinda,wore me out!!! Just reading it.

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