Thursday, June 26, 2008

First musing on just one of many frustrations in trying to open a restaurant

hey hey hey. This is from a couple days ago, but 1. it just popped back in my head and 2. as you know I just started this blog today, so there's a bit to get posted up here.

I called the San Jose building department day before yesterday. This is the crew that will issue permits to begin construction, and (except for the county health dept) basically holds any and all power in my quest to open the doors. Anyway, it was for me a big and scary step to make first contact with these guys. I called to inquire about restaurant signage requirements.

From my days working PR for Apple, I remember a story about unbelievably strict signage requirements for a new Apple retail store in some suburb. Something about the town not liking logos (least of all fruit logos) as signs, and the town DEFINITELY not liking signs that were backlit. Career #1 in PR served many big and little purposes. Remembering this story about Apple served a small, but important purpose for the business, I suppose. Anyhoo, I came across a very friendly woman in the building department, who had a lot of good information about signage (AWESOME). There are semi-ridiculous requirements (NOT AWESOME).

  • If, for example, the front of your building is 30 linear feet, your sign can be no more than 30 square feet in size. 50 feet, 50 square get the idea.
  • A freestanding sign over 10 feet tall must be set back 10 feet from the property line. A sign 6 - 10 feet must be set back 6 feet. 6 or fewer feet tall means 4 feet from the line.
  • Max height of a freestanding sign is calculated by total possible square footage of sign itself (as based on linear feet of the building), divided by 4. Sure, sounds good.
  • This one hurts. Absolutely no animation. The sign will not (APPARENTLY) feature a giant anamatronic Tony stirring a pot of sauce.

The back story

I posted a little this morning about my background, but here's more on the building to set the stage for the project we're undertaking in the coming months. The building has been a restaurant, and most notoriously been a dive bar for locals in Alviso (a San Jose neighborhood). I'm including a photo here because I want to share every aspect of this project - warts and all. I am not offended if you gasp or laugh when you look at this photo.

There are incredible plans for this spot, my friends. Incredible, but expensive plans. It's truly disgusting how much it costs to renovate a restaurant space. So in a few months - the fewer the better - Lunch with Tony will take shape in this dilapidated shell of a building.


I'm marking my debut blog by announcing huge news...from 3 days ago. My fantastic kitchen designer submitted our drawings to the health department for plan review on Monday 6/23!!! Now there have been a handful of less tangible milestones so far on this journey (ie finally getting access to the building, finalizing the kitchen plan, making nice with the banker for my SBA loan), but officially telling the health department our intentions, and starting the back/forth process with them on the path toward approval really is important. My kitchen designer tells me he knows them and knows how to work with them. But as with everything....time will tell.

Ok, about this blog. I'm a recovering public relations/marketing type who attended culinary school in 2006 and have since been working all sorts of food jobs in San Francisco. Personal chef, gourmet food stores, teaching cooking classes, a brief stint in a hotel.

The plan has always been to be my own boss, and the dream is Lunch with Tony. A quick-service, order at the counter, lunch restaurant featuring the highest quality sandwiches/salads/soups. I'm excited, anxious, and scared. Definitely in that order. Friends and family have talked a lot about blogging the experience of opening this restaurant, and I'm hoping others might also be interested. Either way, here we go...