This is the second installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.
“Find a mentor. Learn from their mistakes and successes. Then, find someone to pour into and ‘make a deposit in their emotional bank account.'”
As the chef and co-owner of Post Office Pies, Saw’s Soul Kitchen and Roots & Revelry, Brandon Cain has gone through the trials and triumphs of running a successful business. With elite culinary training, Cain worked under some of Birmingham’s nest chefs and learned as much as he could before stepping out into the industry on his own in 2009. He recalled sleepless nights and countless hours of creating, refining and polishing plans that have evolved into restaurants filled with culture that keeps customers coming back for more.
Cain and best friend John Hall dreamed up Post Office Pies, and when Hall returned to Birmingham from working at New York City pizza restuarants, they began putting their plan into action.
“We are just gourmet chefs that want to make an honest pizza,” Cain said. And with the dream in mind, Cain has followed some fundamental guidelines that have helped him build successful restaurants over the years.
Developing a business plan can be overwhelming and daunting. But whether it’s finding a template online or creating one from scratch, the business plan will be the most important material you can have when going to the bank, Cain said. Using this plan, demonstrate to the bank that you are a trustworthy client that is prepared to take the next step. Businesses can succeed or fail, and banks are a deciding factor in the beginning phase, so maintain a good relationship with your bank.
As you get farther along into the process, you will also have to seriously realize the cost.
“Once you get funded, it becomes fun and stressful at the same time,” Cain said. Sometimes he wasn’t able to afford the whole dream all at once, and he was OK with that. As you work out what is within your means, you can start physically structuring and maneuvering parts of the business to create your vision.
Especially if you’re in the food industry (or looking to get into it) inspections are a big hurdle that business owners have to get over before the doors open. Therefore, you need to go to the city officials early. Sending in paperwork and making sure everything is up to code early prevents mishaps from occurring later in the process.
“If you can have the city on your side, then you’re 50 percent of the way there,” Cain said. He also noted that while the first time you go through this process it feels personal, it’s not, and the officials are doing their best to create a safe environment.
Once a business is up and running, staying close to the core of the project can be tricky. In some instances, Cain has had to fight his corporate business sense in order to keep the culture of the restaurant in tact, even if it means spending an extra hour peeling the skins off tomatoes or making pizza dough from scratch. These basic measures preserve the authenticity so that when customers walk into the restaurant, they feel like they’re in a neighborhood pizza place.
“The culture is what everyone’s buying into,” he said. “All people care about is a good time and a good quality product that is consistent.”
Establishing a reliable atmosphere will comfort customers, who know they will have a better experience each time they come back. “Trust is the biggest thing in growing our brand,” Cain said. He strives to push Post Office Pies as well as his other restaurants to improve their technique and efficiency each day they serve the community.