“Small Business Spotlight” nominee Brunch Snob is a Phoenix restaurant owned by husband and wife team Keith and Celene Hillsbery that serves “comfort food with a twist.” As Celene puts it, “We don’t just serve your typical breakfast. To be honest, nothing we do is typical.” Here, we chat with her about the two things every restaurant needs to succeed, the biggest (and best) surprise that has come from being a small business owner and why she says you have to “really want it” to make it as a restaurateur.
Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired you to start your business?
My husband and I have both been in the restaurant business for a long time — longer than I care to mention. My husband has always wanted to own his own restaurant, even after years of working in other restaurants and running other restaurants for people. We bought a sandwich shop in October 2019, and we used to do brunch there on Saturdays — a little counter brunch. He always wanted a full-service restaurant. I didn’t want to do it! I knew better, but I said OK. And that’s how we ended up here! (Laughs)
What did you take from past restaurant experiences that you knew you wanted to be a part of your new business?
I think the two most important things are:
(1) Really making sure that we have good quality food that people love. My husband loves to cook, and he’s self-taught — his grandmother taught him how to cook when he was young. He just loves food. He is literally the original food snob. He is super picky when he goes out to eat, and it translates when he cooks here. I worry about a lot of things in the restaurant, but I never worry about how good the food is because I know he’s back there.
(2) The other is just taking care of customers. I always pride myself that I could fix any issue and take care of customers, and that’s what I focus on. I focus on the front of the house and he focuses on the back of the house.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?
Opening this place was a big venture. It costs a lot of money and the profit is very marginal on restaurants. The most rewarding thing is … we’re just so blown away by how busy we are and how crazy people are about the restaurant — the inside of the restaurant, how cute it is and how good the food is. More than once we’ve said to each other, “Did you ever think we’d be this busy?” We both said, “No way.” We never thought we would be this busy.
How has inflation affected your business, if at all, and how have you been coping with it?
It definitely affects everybody’s business. Our menu is super reasonably priced. You can look at our entrees and compare them to other restaurants, and we’re just way less expensive. We have, for the most part, absorbed most of those costs. We’ve talked about redoing the menu and maybe raising the prices a little bit, but we have not done that yet. Right now we’re just making less money, basically!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open their own restaurant?
Don’t do it! (Laughs) I’ve told this to many people because they’re always like, “I want my own restaurant!” You want to think long and hard about doing this because — especially if you’ve never done this for living, if you have never worked in a restaurant — it’s hard work, long hours and the profit margins are tight. You have to really want it — bad — and you have to have a good source of where the food is coming from; because, without good food, you’re not going to be able to make it.
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