Owners Life Story

The owner’s personal story of buying his first restaurant was in 1981, after years in the industry. What Michael really wanted he couldn’t afford and being very discerning, what he could afford he didn’t want. Michael’s background was in fine dining and country clubs. But, eventually, he acquired a summer quick service restaurant in very bad shape, with a poor history of sales. As he often says, “I actually like distress properties, as they only have one way to go”. The restaurant he bought certainly fitted that profile and only grossed $60,000 for the whole summer season.

With great amount of help from his father, Michael remodeled the facility, as much as time and money allowed, and opened not long afterwards. He grossed $100,000 the first year, and a further improvement for year two.

Mike Kinney - Restaurant ConsultantsBy year three, Michael was cooking two hundred pounds of haddock on Friday and did five to ten 50 lb. bags of onion rings per week. He ground his own beef and his signature item was a cheese steak…quite a new innovation in that area at the time. He was grossing $11,000 to $13,000 per week, without beer or wine, not even credit cards sales. Michael admits though, that this was a mistake, but he says you learn by experience. Since that time and all throughout his life, he has diligently read at least fifteen industry magazines every month. Michael has always believed that education is a journey that should never end.

Because the restaurant was seasonal, and in addition was very successful, he started to receive offers form other restaurant owners asking for help. As it happened, a good friend of his owned two ski lodges in Vermont and had problems with his food and beverage program. Michael was able to fix these problems in no time at all and the restaurant became very profitable.

Michael’s next restaurant experience was in a famous Irish bar, where the existing chef was going to have surgery. When Michael was cooking there, the local food critic, who loved the food, patronized the restaurant frequently and wrote a glowing testimonial. The place exploded with new business. After these experiences, Michael would return to his own restaurant for the summer. He also helped to replicate his restaurant idea in other areas. On reflection, he often says he should have franchised his idea. Eventually, he sold his restaurant after eleven years of operation, but the idea of consulting within this industry to help other restaurant owners was born.

During his last year at his restaurant, Michael received a call from a person who had just acquired a golf club…an industry incidentally that Michael had much experience in. The new owner confided in Michael that he had very little experience in this field, which was an opening for Michael to develop and write new menus and even sold the first dining party for the owner. Michael had to teach them how to sell a party, which is no small feat. Michael also suggested to a friend that he assume the role of assistant manager. Many times Michael would help them plan new setting areas, and even remodeled their bar. At one point, he would help to recruit a contractor to cater at a local park he used to have. This turned to be a huge moneymaker for the company.

Michael’s next position was teaching food service for the Syracuse City Schools. He wrote the syllabus and selected the textbooks. He taught three years at these facilities and in addition, he was also taught inmates at the local county complex two days per week. The class comprised, three days in the kitchen, making over 600 meals per day. Michael had great success and won various awards on the local and state levels for his culinary teaching program. At that time he had an epiphany and realized the problem with his industry was that nobody wanted to teach anyone, which he often felt guilty of himself on occasion, but not after this teaching experience.

This got him thinking about consulting in his chosen industry. As it happened, not long afterwards Michael received a call from a prospective client in Upstate New York. The individual owned and operated three restaurants and was seeking help. After discussing the assignment, Michael agreed to sign a one-year contract…this blossomed into and eight-year stint, which proved to be both lucrative and satisfying professionally. The owner of the restaurants turned out eventually to become a great friend, who incidentally was also a very adept lawyer. This new friend suggested that Michael might investigate obtaining a commercial real license to sell restaurants. Soon afterwards Michael had earned his brokers license, which led to a very fruitful career opportunity. This in turn led to a successful sales position with a large commercial Syracuse firm.

Following this experience, Michael was offered a consulting job at local casino as their food and beverage manager. He was aware that this was short-term project to fix their inherent problems. The casinos sales were at $3 million with 160 staff when Michael started the assignment, but in a short time he had improved operations…and at the completion of his assignment he had grown sales to over $6 million with a staff of 200. He was the casinos first employee ever to make money in foodservice, as they had always assumed that food catering was a loss leader.

He achieved this amazing turnaround by improving buffet formats; rigorous training for cooks, streamlining purchasing systems, and tighter accountability for all the outlets. After the casino job, a local person that planned to grow his convenience store centers to six or eight approached Michael. Michael helped in the design, drawing of the food outlets with the best company in Syracuse. Further, he worked hard to gain knowledge of that particular industry segment, by attending a c-store food show in Atlanta. By the time he had completed the project, each account had a three-ringer binder filled. Michael had started with a combination of franchise and food outlets. Some of the Franchise operations were Subways, A&W and Long John Silvers, in all; he gathered 16 outlets in eight operations. Because of Michael’s success with the upstate operations, he was offered a position with a family owned grocery store. His first projects were the hot foods, then deli, and in time all fresh food departments. Michael increased sales in all departments and helped to increase sales, as well as improve profits. He started a catering unit and cooked chickens outside on weekends. And for several years cooked for parties of over 600 people at a single sitting.

Michael’s goal is now more heavily focused around his consulting operations in helping restaurant owners to achieve success. Once a restaurant has been turned around, Michael is only too pleased to help the owner sell it for the largest return possible. With Michael’s wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise he can help to fix any operation, by improving the P&L, the menus, and exit plans; he has financing capability whether SBA or traditional commercial loans, plus the services of a famous executive fine dining chef, in the area. Michael has a front of houseman catering and can perform any type of food service…his first meeting with a client is always free. Michael has several talented specialists on staff, which compliments his operation.

In addition to his culinary skills and expertise, as well as his management experience in the hospitality industry, Michael is a licensed real estate broker in New York State. He limits his practice to commercial real estate and the hospitality industry.