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Monday, June 23, 2014


Cohab to hosts restaurateur seminars

People rave about down-home delights, but is it enough to sell in a grocery store or online?

Should you open your own business?

These questions were answered during the Louisiana Small Business Development Center’s restaurateur workshop June 23 at Cohab in downtown Shreveport. The two-part seminar featured Dianne Sclafani, business consultant and restaurant specialist with the LSBDC’s Greater New Orleans Region.

Sclafani uses her extensive food business experience in consulting and training restaurant owners, chefs, food manufacturers and wholesale and retail food sales vendors.

“I come from a long family of restaurateurs,” she said. “When they did theirs it was tough back then but they didn’t need all of the things that are required to start a new restaurant.”

Sclafani’s grandfather Pete J. Sclafani Sr. opened Restaurant Sclafani Inc. in 1945 in New Orleans’s Mid City.

In 1958, he moved the restaurant to Metairie to expand with a living space above the restaurant for Sclafani and her parents to live. She said the restaurant became her playground to learn the “ins and outs” of the restaurant business as a teenager.

Sclafani has over 25 years of professional selling in four industry sectors: culinary-skilled training, wholesale food sales, financial and retail sales.

Jane Allison, project coordinator for the LSBDC, said the first thing anyone looking to start a restaurant needs to do: Visit your local health department and see what’s required.

Next thing, design a concept to try.

“That’s the beauty of the Cohab’s kitchen incubator,” Allison said. “You can actually go and try that out.”

Cookhouse@Cohab is a food business incubator located in the Red River District with a commercial kitchen available for rent to culinary entrepreneurs in Northwest Louisiana. The two-part workshop will feature the topics “Starting a Restaurant” and “Creating Foods that Sell!” Courtney Grubbs, co-owner of Aidan’s Place Granola, said she’s attending the workshops because she wants to learn as much as she can.

As a new business owner, her and her family have taken over the popular granola company that supplies to Counter Culture Frozen Yogurt throughout the state. The previous owners sold the business in January, and Grubbs said it’s important for her to keep tabs on any information she can find, including workshops like these.

“We want to see how we can grow throughout the state,” Grubbs said.

The company is primarily wholesale but does sell in Brookshire’s and other local grocery stores. Grubbs said they also take their granola to the Red River Revel, Texas Avenue Makers Fair and Farmers Market.

She said these workshops help her business.

“We are actually moving to a new location in downtown [Shreveport] soon,” she said.

“After we move, we’re rebranding our product,” she said. ”We’ve been working on new logo designs. We’re all pretty excited.”

Guests who attended the “Starting a Restaurant” seminar learned basic knowledge about why restaurants fail or succeed and the importance of understanding the business side of the restaurant.

Allison said her biggest tip when it comes to opening your own business: Crunch the numbers.

“Get your start-up costs. What all do you need to buy? Equipment? Money in reserve?” she said. “That’s the number one problem you see, particularly restaurant businesses. They want to start undercapitalized. They will have a passion for what they do, but they want to get the doors open, and they forget about the little things.”

Some of those little things include successful marketing strategies, logos and design, staff and even the paint color on the walls.

Down to the flatware, Allison said it’s important to bring it all together for a successful restaurant or business.

The second seminar, “Creating Food Products That Sell!” will focus on the opportunities, challenges and risks of marketing specialty foods.

Sclafani said education is the biggest tool out there that can help the most when it comes to deciding what products a person wants to sell.

“They really need to educate themselves,” she said.

“They try to run it as if they were putting on a family reunion. This is a business. You’ve got tot understand the background of it.”


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