Brent Frederick, owner of Jester Concepts, says a key ingredient in the growth of the hospitality company behind restaurants including Parlour and Borough was one that failed.
Jester Concepts has expanded in the past decade as the Twin Cities chef-driven restaurant scene has boomed. The group also operates P.S. Steak, Monello, Constantine and Mercado in Minneapolis and a concession in a sports venue.
In addition to overseeing Jester Concepts, Frederick is working to help others benefit from his experience and avoid missteps like those that led to the 2017 closing of Coup d’Etat after a three-year run in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. One issue in that case was not doing enough research into whether people who lived nearby would support the offering.
Frederick shares lessons learned and insider knowledge as widely as possible through platforms including a Twin Cities restaurant leadership group, a CEO roundtable and the Minnesota Restaurant Association (MRA).
An MRA board member, Frederick is working with others in the organization to develop a membership package that details how to get into the restaurant business.
Understanding the business side of running a restaurant is more critical with minimum wages rising to $15 an hour, Frederick said.
In response, Jester is focusing on costs “like crazy” and on retaining employees. Jester offers a health care option to its 250 employees and, Frederick said, was the first to join a new employee assistance program offering mental health services to restaurant workers.
As one idea to pare costs, Jester may launch a butcher shop or bakery to supply its restaurants and those of others, Frederick said.
The company also plans to acquire a food truck to market its restaurants and explore catering.
Frederick is an adviser to Provision Community Restaurant and has had Jester host fundraising events for that “give-as-you-can” cafe and for the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
Q: What did you learn from the Coup d’Etat experience?
A: We learned a lot about how to run a business and how to set up a business for success. Now we know exactly what we need in sales and what we need per square foot to make anything work in the future. It’s really shaped the way I structure all of the deals for us.
Q: What’s your motivation for helping other restaurants get started?
A: I want to share the knowledge that I didn’t have when I failed. Even though it made me stronger, going through it was something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. We have a timeline to open up a restaurant of 250 items that we use that I gave to the MRA. Join the MRA and we’ll give you the book on how to open up a restaurant.
Q: Why is employee retention a priority?
A: You have to be an employee-first company to be successful. If you can take care of the employee, the other things fall into line. Take care of the employees and the employees take care of the guest. If the guest is taken care of you’ve got the financial viability to make sure that all your vendors are paid and that your investors see a return.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.