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Real Talk from Restaurant Operators

We were delighted to come across this recent University of Maryland Smith Business School panel discussion moderated in part by food columnist Tim Carman. While it was not sponsored by GoTab, the panel featured Josh Phillips, GM-Mezcalier, Espita and Ghostburger, Washington, D.C., one of our most savvy GoTab operators. The panel features local restaurant operators’ candid accounts of their experiences navigating the pandemic while keeping their businesses afloat.

If you’re in the restaurant business, or just care about the success of local restaurants, take some time to listen. They cover a wide range of hot topics in hospitality, from managing the cost of food delivery services, to helping guests and employees to feel safe, and dealing with landlords. They also go into what guests can do to help their local restaurants and what they believe the future holds for each of their individual businesses.

We were most impressed with the passion and humility each of them brings to their restaurants. They genuinely care about their guests and their employees and show a unique brand of perseverance and persistence as they each have found a hard pathway to success. 

The Panelists

  • Eric Shu-Pao Wang, co-founder-partner, Toli Moli and Thamee, Washington, D.C.
  • Josh Phillips, GM-Mezcalier, Espita and Ghostburger, Washington, D.C.
  • Peter Opare, chef-co-owner, Open Crumb, Washington, D.C.
  • Janet Yu, owner, Hollywood East, Wheaton.
  • Jackie Greenbaum, co-owner of Quarry House, Silver Spring; Little Coco’s, Washington, D.C.; and Bar Charley, Washington, D.C.

From a 2-3 Week & $2k Ghost Kitchen Startup Investment, to $37k Per Week in Orders

Josh, along with his wife and business partner Kelly are brilliant restaurateurs and operators. The Ghostburger Ghost Kitchen concept they launched in August 2020, is featured in some of Washington DC’s hottest food blogs and media outlets. Josh explains: 

The idea was to start a new Ghost Kitchen brand and build it in time for the cold weather when they expected to have to shut down outdoor dining. They started in August using a free station that was made available when they  trimmed down their Espita restaurant menu for outdoor-only dining. Because they were all from Philly or had lived in Philly at one time, they were all burger and cheesesteak fans so that’s where the idea for Ghostburger was born. It took 2 – 3 weeks to go from an idea to launch and cost about $2k to open. Their initial revenue goal was conservative, estimating they would earn $5k – $8k per week. They figured that if they could earn that much, they would be able to keep staff onboard, and put some money away for what would be a few painful winter months. In their first week, Ghostburger made $26k in sales. They are now averaging $37k per week in delivery/takeout and the concept is also outpacing Espita because it’s so takeaway friendly. Espita guests can order Ghostburger takeaway from Espita too.

Navigating the Delivery Service Fee Landscape

“If a guest wants to support our restaurant and not pay fees to these big tech companies.The best possible way is to do takeout. The service we use is called GoTab and they charge a 1 percent fee which the guest pays, and that’s fine. Some of these platforms have delivery services that pass all the costs to the guests. I’m not cool with that either. We’re in the business of trying to provide the best value that we can to our customers.”

Josh Phillips, GM-Mezcalier, Espita and Ghostburger, Washington, D.C.

Josh continues, “Gotab has been great for us. We use it for contactless dining also on the patio. And that’s been really successful too. It’s allowed us to operate safely. Most of our servers left the city so we didn’t even have the choice to bring them back. So we’ve been operating with a fraction of the front-of-house staff and it’s just a much safer operating model where we don’t have to be on top of tables constantly. … Even when you do takeaway you can just walk up to the door and scan the QR on the door. Some people don’t feel comfortable coming in, they just respond via text and we bring it right out.”

Collection of devices with GoTab software on screen.

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