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 Doomed from the Start!

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mayor al

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Doomed from the Start! Mon, 01/2/06 3:50 PM (permalink)
I don't get involved much on this forum except when arguments turn into Brawls...But this is one that I want to add.

One of the things that seems to drag a good place 'down' when it expands into a multi-unit chain is the lack of concern for the quality of the food and the menu items.

Here is an article in today's Victorville CA Daily Press regarding a couple who have plans to open a series of foodstands, with I believe a 'Southern' Menu. Victorville is located on the High Desert about 100 miles from Los Angeles. It is a very rapidly growing area.

I think this plan as presented in the Media sounds like a High School Economics project, not a restaurant, or even a foodstand of any quality. I also would predict (based on the info presented) that they haven't spent much time insuring any quality menu items, or doing anything more on research than accepting the changing demographics of the minority population trends in their area and determining that their potential minority customers will support their business simply because it is minority owned and at least partially operated. I predict they will open a couple of the stands, use up the available investment capital, and fold before the rest of the business gets off the ground....and only because it appears that FOOD, the reason for their being in this position in the first place, appears to be a low priority in their scheme of things. This is only M H O and I will be happy to say I was wrong a year from now.
Here is the article.

Monday, January 2, 2006

Fast food chain gets High Desert start
Southern Side plans to open six restaurants here, beginning with Victorville

VICTORVILLE — As LaTonya Watson has watched the Victor Valley grow, she's also seen the business opportunities grow amid changing demographics.
So after years of working for Coca-Cola, Watson and her husband Derrick, are now pursuing their dream and are preparing to open a new chain of fast food restaurants.
"We feel the pulse of the area; more people live here now and they are looking for more choices in food," said Watson, the president of The Southern Side.
The Watsons plan to open six Southern Side restaurants in the High Desert in the next two years. The first location will be in Victorville, followed by Adelanto, Apple Valley and Barstow, she said.
For the past two years, Watson has spent the time to carefully plan this new business venture that will cater to Southern food lovers. "We feel we are offering a product that is not being offered in the High Desert," she said. "For the last two years we have been putting together our business plan and making sure this venture is well organized."
Watson said investments for the first three restaurants will be around $1 million. Each location will hire around 14 employees and the goal is to open the first shop between February and March.
Being aware of the number of mistakes that are made when planning for a new business venture, Watson consulted with the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center and was able to make sure she did not start her business until she had enough capital.
"We looked at demographics and the things that are not being offered in the community", IESBDC Business Consultant Louisa Miller said. "That knowledge allowed them to develop a marketing plan, a location and to identify the financial needs and requirements to finance the business."
Watson has also partnered with Polaris Petroleum President Steve Regier, who owns gasoline stations in the area."Our first location will be inside a shopping center in a gasoline station," she said.
Miller said that since the increase of more residents in the area, more minorities are now taking advantage of opening their own businesses.
"We are seeing minorities in the area and conversely there will be those individuals starting their own businesses."
Victor Valley African American Chamber of Commerce President Lionel Dew said more blacks are seeking strategic alliances with other races to increase business opportunities.
"We seek the desire to work collectively," he said. "We are a very diverse culture, but we know that black and white combine for green and everything in between," he said.
For Watson, 2006 will be a year full of challenges, but she says she believes in her business strategy.
"It's a big risk because it's your own money, but you have to believe in it, and this is something that I have been dreaming about for a long time," she said.


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    RE: Doomed from the Start! Mon, 01/2/06 4:37 PM (permalink)

    I'm not saying you're wrong, cause you could be right, but...

    1. My experience with the press (and I've had a lot) is that the person writing the story comes in with their own set of expectations before the first word of the interview has been spoken. They usually have a preconceived concept of what direction or angle the story is going to take. Consequently, either the "right" questions are not asked in the first place or, even if the interviewee does provide the information, if that information does not fit in with the interviewer's concept of what the article is going to be about, it will be downplayed or even ignored.

    2. You do not indicate in which section of the paper this article was located. If this article appeared in the paper's weekly Food Section or even the Features Section, I'd say your suspicions are correct. The article is short on food info, long on business concepts. Thus, if the article appeared in the Business Section or if the interviewer/reporter came from a business background (One of which, I suspect, is the case) then the lack of specifics regarding food in this article makes perfect sense.

    The bottom line here is that the reporter does not share your opinion (or mine for that matter) as to what the important elements are in this story. The most we can glean from it is that the reporter, Miguel Gonzalez, is more interested in business models than in how good Southern Side prepares a plate of Shrimp and Grits.

    One can only hope that LaTonya and Derrick Watson have put at least as much time and effort into the latter as they have into the former.
      mayor al

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      RE: Doomed from the Start! Mon, 01/2/06 4:51 PM (permalink)

      You're 100% correct in your interpretation! The story is located on the Internet version of the daily paper....That usually means it made the front page of that day's edition. Mike Gonzales tends to handle a lot of local issues and stories (Dog Bites Baby...Traffic stalls as sewers back up.. etc) The paper does have a pretty large circulation for an L A fringe area newspaper. Lots of space deeper in for High School sports.
      Since it wasn't on the Business page..or as part of the weekly food review and travel feature, I had hoped it would give a bit more of the owners thoughts about the main purpose of the business (the Food). What I think is the folks are caught up in the thrill of having a business and are sticking to the lesson plan chapter by chapter to make a go of it. I can only hope that the menu and quality are far enough up the list of priorities to warrent some attention before it is too late.

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        RE: Doomed from the Start! Mon, 01/2/06 10:12 PM (permalink)
        The article, as you note, certainly gives Food a short shrift. In fact, it gives it no shrift at all. And that, aside from shortsighted reporting, is curious.

        It's true though. When you intimately know a subject, and it becomes a news story, too often you wonder what on Earth the reporter was thinking. This happens less, of course, with top notch journalists.

        Case in point...our Hot Dog Tour in New Jersey this past Fall. The reporter got the story, sort of. But aside from making a factual error or two, he missed the entire pageantry of the event.

        I thought it was a great opportunity for him, being embedded with the Hot Dog aficionados like Ernie Pyle, but he just didn't see it that way. It was just a day's work. And that's a bit sad...for him, for his employer, for us and, ultimately, the reader.

        I'm never going to go to all the great food places in New York City, but a good food critic (Mr. Grimes of the Times was my favorite) makes sure I have a peek into that world... a vicarious thrill every so often.

        OK...this wasn't a criticism, or not even a subjective food paean. However, in the above story, an edgy, exciting journalist would have made the food folk salivate while equally intriguing the moneyed interests.
        The Bear
          mayor al

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          RE: Doomed from the Start! Mon, 01/2/06 10:39 PM (permalink)

          Perhaps he didn't know the questions to ask. In a sense it it much like many of the conversations about food we enjoy here. For everyone of the roadfooders who share an interest that extends beyond the Micky D's and Denny's level of food=fuel concept, there are literally thousands of people who don't give a damn about finding Hays Smokehouse or any other place that will take them off the Interstate... The writer in this case was targeting a story (I think) at what his boss had told him was a minority couple reaching out for the American Dream. He covered that and so ends the story. What my concern is that the owner didn't "push" the wonderful product they will create that will meet the dreams of thousands of consumers who are currently malnourished because they can't find any good "Southern" food in the High-Desert community. If they start off that way (missing the mark) I don't see them reaching success later in the venture.
          I will earmark a return to this thread in a year to see if we can find that these folks got their act together...and I will be quite happy to admit I was Wrong !!

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            RE: Doomed from the Start! Mon, 01/2/06 11:22 PM (permalink)
            Mr Mayor: I suggest that you assign Big Glenn and myself the task of giving this outfit the litmus test. Say, once approx a month or so after startup, then another test 6 months down the line from that. While I agree on your take on the article, read on:

            LaTonya may be on to something. The demographics of South Central L.A. are changing. For the first time in over 50 years the black population of Compton has taken a back seat percentage wise to another race, in this case Latino. As the Latinos move into the black enclaves of L.A., the black population is shifting to the High Deserts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties.

            I truly think LaTonya has a damn good chance of making a go at her concept. Whether she does or not, well, who knows. I'll be reporting on her progress during my trips between Fontana and my desert house in Lucerne Valley. Let's bookmark this one lest it gets swallowed up in the forthcoming posts.

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              RE: Doomed from the Start! Tue, 01/3/06 1:36 AM (permalink)
              1. Southern fast food? Yeah, I know you can get steam table soul food at Popeye's, for instance, but "Southern fast food" strikes me as something of an oxymoron. It makes me wonder just what will be on the menu. In that regard...
              2. If I were LaTonya, I'd be upset that the article didn't mention ANYTHING about what's gonna be on the menu.
              3. If these people have gotten $3 million for their first three restaurants but don't (apparently) have any food prep experience, I'd like to get to know their lenders. I have some (cockeyed) dreams I'd like to explore as well, especially with a nonrecourse loan. That being said...
              4. I know for a fact that other areas of the country desperately need an infusion of good Southern cooking. When the lines are literally out the door at Cracker Barrel throughout the midwest for a pale version of the food I grew up with, you wonder what these people would do for a shot at the real thing.

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                RE: Doomed from the Start! Tue, 01/3/06 2:06 AM (permalink)
                Southern fast food = BBQ joints. Burrell's in Santa Ana, CA comes to mind. All those homemade sides like the mac and cheese, dirty rice, beans, and the greens, and that unbelievable banana pudding, all served instantly. If LaTonya can do it the way Burrell's does it, she'll make it.

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                  RE: Doomed from the Start! Tue, 01/3/06 1:15 PM (permalink)
                  The article sounds more like a press release that was doctored slightly to be an article. It's a fairly common practice in the media. Even if it is a real article, another poster was correct. You practically have to spoon feed them (pun not intended but too lazy to change now) the whole story, background, angle and theme to them. There may be a shortage of southern restaurants but there could also already be a reason for that. Maybe folks around there aren't into it. The gist of it though also sounds like just the way corporate MBA's in the food service industry look at it. All business plan, theme, high concept and portion control. Unfortunately, I can't eat any of that.

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                    RE: Doomed from the Start! Tue, 01/3/06 3:04 PM (permalink)
                    I don't get involved much on this forum except when arguments turn into Brawls...

                    Hah! Do you find it hard to type while dipping your BigMac into a bucket of ranch dressing?
                      mayor al

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                      RE: Doomed from the Start! Tue, 01/3/06 4:26 PM (permalink)

                      Glad you used those particular items.... I haven't had a Big Mac in at least 20 years... (preferred Whoppers for awhile, then In N Out and now Culvers Jumbo Bacon Butter Burger) and I choke on Ranch Dressing in any format! But Get me near a Farmer Boy or In N Out in SoCal, or a Culver's here and I am likely to decide I need a 'Fix'.
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