Shawn Walchef is the owner of Cali BBQ which is a company that not only sells memorable slow-smoked BBQ but also specializes in media and marketing. He is the host of the podcast, Digital Hospitality, which features in-depth conversations about what successes and failures propelled their guests to where they are today. Shawn and I talked about how to market in today’s world, the future of restaurants, ghost kitchens, how to create a memorable online experience and so much more.
If you can do something that you’re passionate about, but also have a secure nut so you’re not worried about living and your survival’s being taken care of. Then you have some gestation period between success or failure and success, you know, so I’ve truly believed you’ve got to keep hitting the ball.
All of that experience is something that I love because I learned how to communicate and connect. And it was just a beautiful experience, you know? So. Yeah, I mean, I failed, but it was, it was beautiful.
All right. I got Neil here on the establishing your empire podcast. Thanks so much for coming by the house and doing this.
Thank you for having me. I’m. I want to just say, I apologize for all the scheduling issues, trying to get this going. It’s been it’s been a time when I’ve been making some transitions and, and I appreciate your.
course, you know, the thing about a podcast, it’s always a want to have not a need to have. So I totally understand. And it actually happens. Yeah. It’s not the first time know it will be less. So luckily I get to do these at my home office, so I don’t have to like go someplace or schedule something. So it’s not, not too difficult to set up, but why don’t we start off with the seemingly easy question, but not always.
It’s just tell us a little bit about yourself.
Who are you, Neil? Yeah. So grew up in Minnesota. And my parents you know, came from India. So I have an Indian background and basically lived a pretty nice childhood. My grandparents raised me, my parents were both entrepreneurs and were very much into work.
So I had a childhood. And I got really amazing wisdom for my grandparents. My grandparents were into aryuveda and all these amazing things. And my dad was kind of more of an entertainer salesperson type vibe got into janitorial or janitorial products and stuff. But mostly he was a fun person to be around and he taught me how to dance.
And I used to dance like Michael Jackson as a business, as a child. So I had a very interesting childhood. I was like one of the only Indian kids in my, in my town. So I felt somewhat special and different, but also had a pretty normal childhood for the most part. I had some traumas for sure. Broke my hips and my legs and all sorts of things, probably due to some dancing and also just, you know, parenting in the way that they were parented, you know, which is a common theme in most people’s stories.
Which leads me to some of the work I do. But yeah, grew up in Minnesota loved tennis and table tennis and racquet sports
that actually, yeah. Yeah, for
sure. But yeah, overall just had a pretty cool life there. Certain things definitely like, you know, are my roots in Minnesota still, but overall, now, Texas man.
And how long have you been here in Austin? I’ve been here
eight years. Oh yeah. Nice. Since 2008. So I’ve been here for a little bit as well and seeing the growth and the change. Austin has been both positive and negative. I’ve enjoyed seeing the city grow and I’d rather be in a growing city than a dying city, but there’s also some.
You know, the life changes out of the city. Right. So why don’t you tell us a little bit more real quick and we can go through kind of how you got there, but tell us, like, when, when you talk about your businesses, you are now, what’s kind of the main thing that you’re doing. Cause it seems like there’s a lot
Yeah. So the main thing would be cacao that’s that’s the thing that I’m most passionate. And it was also a big part of my healing journey is using various plant medicine and then noticing how cacao this chocolate bean can, can make someone so much happier and also take them out of their, their head with.
You know, I used to drink coffee and teas and all these things that would put me very stimulated and this was really amazing. And so I asked myself, you know, this is my passion, what can I do about it? And I wanted to focus on creating more ceremonial cacao on this planet. 95% of the cacao in this world is hybridized.
And, and it’s kind of like a sacred thing that I believe can have a lot of change and help a lot of people. Needs to be preserved. So what’s the difference between
cacao and chocolate?
So chocolate is like an after thought of what the original thing is, which is cacao. And a lot of times as a Dutch process of alkalizing and making cacao into chocolate.
So it’s it’s kind of like taking sugar cane and making it into some form of sugar. But it’s not the original thing as such and most of the chocolate you find is not the original the actual genetics of chocolate. So,
and like, so people that are sitting at the cows probably extremely small compared to like what, where it should be like on those journey with cacao, like what stage or level do you think you’re at or want to get to at, or wherever you want to
Right. So, I mean, I feel like I’m at a stage where I can taste and feel and know a lot about what I’m consuming. It’s kinda like a Somia in wine. When you consume something enough and various types, you get a knowledge about it. And I feel like I have a pretty solid knowledge about it. I’d love to still learn more.
And then also I’ve been meeting connections through the cacao world. And there’s people who specialize in keeping the sacred bean and my dream and my goal. And my next investment is only focused on standardizing that process and making sure that people start labeling that, making sure the ceremonial beans are rectified, notified, and know people know that they’re consuming.
It’s a lot of times, you know, you get this fair trade and it’s, it’s nothing like that. It’s just. Something
and because it was just my lack of knowledge. Like some, when you say seminar, ceremonial, excuse me. Like what’s it actually mean? Like is that is actually actually what we do in a ceremony or is it something
It’s all of the it’s a ceremony is the actual genetics. So there’s three types of genetics beans that are well-known Trinitarios, Creole, and Fronterra. So these types of things. Are the ceremonial beans, the original beans that were found in 7,500 years ago, potentially in the rainforest potentially either Ecuador, Peru, it’s still, no one really knows, you know proof says it’s found first their equity versus his boundaries there.
But I used to work for the rainforest partnership and I learned a lot about some of the details on the history and a lot of the actual science behind it. So ceremony is conducted definitely with intention. So. It’s not like you’re making your morning cup of Joe. But you can do that with ceremony, like a cow and you you’re basically setting your intention.
You’re doing some form of energy release, so it could be breath work. It could be movement, it could be dance. It could be even journaling for that matter, but various traditions have different ways of activating the medic. And you literally are almost, you know, praying and into the cup and drinking it.
And then going through some form of catharsis, like a cathartic release, where you’re able to feel incense and emotion that hasn’t been seen and are held and you’re able to express it and fully move through it. And how
is that based upon the actual, what you’re drinking and then and how much is your for less
It’s, it’s there. I mean, you can’t drink a cow and go to sleep. You know, it’s going to do something to you and just that. And it has all these amazing bliss molecules. There’s actual chemicals in. A medicine that activates releases oxytocin. So the first time you fall in love that energy is in the body.
And if you’re aware of it, you’re going to feel it. Yeah. And you know, so for
me, that’s super interesting. Cause I think we always have emotions tied to a lot for things. Foods want them drinks, coffee, all this. And I think a lot of people have some positive and negative emotions to coffee. I wasn’t a big coffee drinker.
I was, I’m more of a, I like a lot. So like. Which is still, you know, a higher stimulant caffeine, but we did our honeymoon in Africa, on a safari and, you know, they serve your coffee and it’s like this fantastic coffee outside your door, right. When you wake up. And so I don’t, I’ve been drinking coffee more now.
Cause I think I just, you know, have this positive emotions towards it, but I still only like the cold brew because I just don’t. I think it’s too acidic. I think in my mind so I think a lot of us are looking for that stimulate and what I, what I’ve found that if I, you know, coffee, a lot of times isn’t enough.
I have to actually be out and move around because I sit in front of a computer all day. So how can somebody that just a normal, like, you know, office worker or whatever. This is something in the morning type of thing.
What do you recommend? Yeah, so coffee and cacao are kind of like, then they’re like the opposites of each other.
They both have similar ingredients. Both of them have theobromine, but the amount of theobromine in cacao is like the amount of caffeine in coffee. You, so it’s like complete opposite in that sense. There’s still coffee, caffeine. And. But it’s kind of the amount where it, instead of energetically bringing you a lot here, it brings you a lot here.
It’s, it’s literally theobromine is a hard opener. That’s what it’s made to do. So it’s definitely something anyone can consume. And I think it’s better for work for me. I feel like being in a happier place when I’m working feels better. And if you look at my organization, everyone seems to be more joyful.
But just like anything, moderation is very important. So I. Even cacao fasts, and one cup of coffee requires 32 glasses of water to balance your internal pH. So just like anything, like if you’re on a honeymoon and you’re drinking really good wine from France, you know, that’s going to be amazing. And our body has certain limitations, right.
So if we’re not actually healthy, it has some form of. Anything can be not so good for us. Right. I feel that way about it. Mostly. Yeah. I mean, I think
balance is not just in food and drinks. It’s just about everything. Why don’t you? Well, let’s back up, but I love that because it’s just something, I have very little knowledge of it, but I’m always interested in, in you know, new things and trying to.
You know, work in front of the computer. Like I said, it’s not, it’s not everyday I can get out and about, and I am a very energetic type of a person to always looking for new ways to do that. But let’s talk about kind of your journey a little bit. So, so you were, you did a lot of dancing as a kid. Like what, what, what, tell me go any way anywhere you want to go in the path?
Yeah, sure. So you know, in Minnesota I was dancing. I had a lot of fun. Expressing myself, but then there was the trauma part. So that’s kind of like the work even cacao helps with is is that, so, you know, I went to college in Wisconsin and in Florida, as well as England, I went to three different colleges and I studied hospitality and the reason I got into hospitality is my father was in pharmaceuticals.
And he used to travel a lot and I used to go visit with him and these awesome hotels. And I just loved the feeling of people being taken care of and just this amazing people, love food. And I love food. I’m a foodie myself. And it was like learning that, that hospitality feeling of, of creating a space where people feel welcome and at home.
So that’s the path I went on. And, and then I was working at a hotel. I was 21 years old. I was a director of catering for 300. And I had gained so much weight from just the Western lifestyle. And that’s when I went back into what my grandparents taught me, the, you know, the way my grandma would procure and garden, and my grandpa would go to like four or five different stores and markets to get the right foods and the right vegetables.
It was that I learned that sensitivity. And, and in that sensitivity, I. Implementing aryuveda and implementing the doses and balance and went down that path. So a cacao and all those things came later on in life, but it was first healing, the body and healing the mind and healing the soul and getting out of the toxic lifestyle that I was living.
So, and then how
I actually, like, you know, I’m sure 24 years old, 20, 25, how did you actually move to that next step? Right. You’re working in a job, you know, that’s unhealthy, but like some of those. It’s sometimes it’s really hard for people
to move out of that. Totally. It was, it was addicting. I was getting paid very well.
I was in a partnership with a very beautiful human and we were connected from college and we were on the marriage path and everything. And my parents came up to me one morning and told me we have an amazing opportunity. My parents have a janitorial and sanitation supply company and a company in India.
One of the largest companies in. Approached us to do a joint venture. So my parents were like, we need you to leave your job and we’re moving to India. And so my, my partner and I both moved to India and we started working and doing this joint venture. The joint venture took a long time and a lot of money.
And in that process, I took my American express card and I started. Importing care team. My mom was flying into New York city before she to drive in India and getting care team treatments done. So it basically takes your, your fuzzy frizzy hair and it makes it flat and beautiful for a period of four to six months.
So I, I contacted my mom’s salon and I started, I became the first, the only importer of care team in India. So that’s, that was one of the things I did for three years. And my mom is still doing that. So that was, that was like going to India and immersing myself in the culture. It became really easy to just start living healthily and having support.
For someone who’s
never been to India. Just a quick side question, like where what’s your favorite places where to go?
What do you love about India? India is like, I feel like I’m such a culturally fruitful place where people just are comfortable being with each other. I love India. And I love the food and just the very, the, the, just the variants that are there.
You know, you go to north India, south India, it’s so different everywhere in even the way they consume, even the way they believe in terms of spirituality. So different. My favorite place is called gold. And go is like a peninsula. And it’s one of the most beautiful places. If you asked me it’s been owned by the Portuguese a lot and no one really owns Goa.
It goes between India and various governments. And it’s just one of those very sovereign places where people go to vacation and people go from all over the world. Kind of like Bali. I don’t know if you’ve been to Bali or I haven’t.
Yeah, but obviously
know about Bali, but you know, the BGS and the John Lennon and all those guys used to go in and create palaces there.
And there’s beautiful places all over and it’s amazing. It’s like scooter life, you, you drive a scooter around. Eat fresh food and it’s really good.
That sounds amazing. So you’re importing and doing all this, what happens next? W why, why did you stop doing it? I
guess, stopped. So, you know, it was part of my own growth, you know, like as an Indian son, only one Indian son, Belief that I had to take care of my family and I had to create something for them in order for their lives to move forward.
And it was all these things that I had to work through in order to start fulfilling my own dreams and my own passions and carotene. Wasn’t my passion. So I decided to go back to the U S and rebuild my life again. And, and I had different thoughts on what I wanted to do with that business. I also became very aware of health and just the way.
The world worked in certain ways of, of just toxins and things. And I truly believe that keratin wasn’t good for humans, you know, personally. So I didn’t want to put my energy into it anymore, you know? And so I came back and I hustled and, and rebuilt myself. And yeah, it was cool. So what was the next thing that you
did that was successful or
anything that, yeah, so I started another business.
It was called outstanding dining. It was kind of like a group on for restaurants, family owned restaurant. And local charities. So charities that I believed in and, and so I would tie them together and it was basically like an app and I got, I think 75 local, Minnesota restaurants signed up and we were doing that for a bit.
And then, yeah, it wasn’t, it wasn’t something that really took off, but
w w well, one of the questions I like to ask about, like, starting something like that is there’s always so many want to be entrepreneurs. And they always want to start something. And you know, I think one of the traits of entrepreneurship is maybe just allowing, not hearing all the no’s before you start or whatever it is, but like any tips or tricks, I’ve just actually getting started with that
Yeah. I mean, If you can do something that you’re passionate about, but also have a secure, not say you’re not worried about living, you know, your survival’s being taken care of. Then you have some gestation period between success or failure and success, you know, so I truly believe you got to keep hitting that.
You know, like the only way you’re going to be able to hit that ball with confidence and authority is, is by not doing that first. You know? So I, I just, all of that experience is something that I love because I learned how to communicate and connect and it was just a beautiful experience, you know? So yeah, I mean, I failed, but it was, it was beautiful.
and did you have like a side hustle that you were watching perhaps,
or. It’s still in the hospitality industry. I was a general manager for a hotel and arrested. Even in between those years, I was a chef at a restaurant. I also was a bartender. I ran a, a local that’s actually not local it’s based in Denver, but it was a pop-up bartending service.
So I was a manager of that. I did all these things, you know, just to keep the doors open and keep moving. You know,
it’s so funny. It’s very civil me. I’m always doing multiple things, but chef real quick. What’s your favorite? Like seasoning, like if you have a go-to one that you just kind of always have to have.
Yeah. So it’s not a have to have, but I’d really love truffle. Okay. Yeah. I can go for, you know, making anything truffle, like, you know, it has its own grounding feel to it and it’s nice. Yeah. Yeah. And
that, that took off where now a lot of things aren’t actual truffle,
but truffle it’s true.
Yeah. Ma I think mine would have to be lemon pepper is, seems so basic.
It can take some very boring dishes and at least give some life to it at least a little bit. And if you don’t have lemon pepper, then you know, obviously lemons and pepper work actually even better, but just a little bit more effort to put in there. So what was one of the things that maybe worked or didn’t work that’s of note with the with, I forget what the business was that we were doing.
Yeah. That the hot, that, where you had the multiple
areas, what did, what worked and didn’t work? Yeah. Yeah, just getting into the heart of like, getting to know people and getting to know what they needed and being able to communicate from the heart space, that was like the best experience. And also recognizing like my dream of wanting to own a restaurant needed it.
It’s still there, but I knew that there was time between when I was going to start it and you know, all of that, just like learning. Absorb wisdom, you know, and, and see the hard work people put into their business and then try to be there for them in the most integral way possible. So, yeah, I mean, that was, that was, it was a loss in the sense, like, I couldn’t fulfill all their dreams, but I got to at least experience, you know, a lot of what it takes to be a restaurant owner.
So what kind of restaurant would you want? Yeah, I’ve got an, I’ve got a really good idea. It’s a farm to table. Are you Vedic restaurant? So like, I love Casa and I’m a huge fan of Casa. But I would love to make something like Casa, but more plant like flavor. And I’m more of the curries and the, and the, in the long take, like things that take a long time to make like the long taken curries and the boss monkeys, rice, and the and things, making something like that, where it happens serves only once a day.
But food is being created all day, you know, and that you can taste that flavor in that work it’s been created. So I think some of
that was great because one just like tactically, like something can show up and get their food pretty quickly. Right. Because it’s, it’s ready to go and you can make it in mass.
Right. As opposed to. Having everything being very specific. And then you could also tell really great stories around your ingredients because it’s in season or you got at the certain farm or whatever. I could see that doing really well. Also with that. Is this something that you could do pop-ups with, you can start that way, right.
And to test some stuff out,
you know, Casa allows me to cook in their restaurant and I’ve done it a few times where I’ve had a Curry nights and things. And I
give a little quick background on Casa. Cause there’s a lot of people I actually have there’s all over the world. So sometimes they
won’t. So let me tell you a little bit about Casa, Casa de.
Is a macrobiotic restaurant, but it’s also like a spiritual center. It’s a space, a community space where they have facilities all over my business. Third eye meditation lounge is inside, along with another other businesses. And it’s a beautiful nonprofit been around for 30 years. Serving similar food for 30 years and it’s all a hundred percent organic.
They try to do as local as possible. And it literally feels like integrity. Just walking into the space. It’s like this beautiful, very tropical feeling that you are.
I feel like you’re in a different country, but you walk in and it’s like downtown Austin, which I’m sure 30 years ago was not even downtown at all.
Right on the way from downtown to Zilker park or something. But. Let’s see, actually, that’s take a side note because there’s so many different areas. I do want to talk about meditation because I think. Something that’s very helpful, helpful for a lot of people, but a lot of people don’t know who or where to start.
And we can talk about it in any direction you want to go. I do think that people would get some value on like how to start meditating and where to,
yeah. I’ll just talk about a few things about meditation that I know that’s based on my experience. You know, I believe we all, I believe that the. The body keeps the score and the issues are in the tissues and our nervous system and how we feel in our body is really important on how much you can meditate.
So if you don’t feel good in your body, it’s going to be more difficult for you to manage. It’s gonna be more difficult to calm the nervous system down and to process certain things within the body. So, I mean, for me, I started out and I went to Vipassana and I did the 10 day silent meditation retreat, which helped me face a lot of.
Has helped me face a lot of my trauma and, and allow the feelings that I wouldn’t allow myself to feel that come up. And that was very helpful from there. I learned all sorts of techniques and ways to meditate and, and also heal my body. Cause I think it’s a simultaneous thing. You, you, you can meditate, you know, forever.
But then you can also integrate some of that stuff. So it’s kind of like taking. I re a backpack when you need a suitcase. And if you, if you don’t heal the body, it’s going to feel like you’re always on a shorter journey than you could be on. Essentially. Does that make sense? It does.
And I’ll take it another side note.
Cause as though it was fun. So you’re like the third pipe, probably fourth or fifth, actually they have done these, you know, these long-term silent retreats, right? Maybe walk us through a little bit of that a little bit more. Cause I think it’s so interesting. Something that I haven’t done, but it’s
something that I’m very interest.
Yeah. So I went to the DAMA, Siri, Kaufman, Texas, it’s this organization is beautiful. They have these centers around the world and it’s, donation-based they take care of you, housing, food, you know, everything you need. And it’s just this little room that you get and it’s so beautiful. This. So my experience was I walked into this room.
I have my suitcase, and there’s nothing really that you can bring into this other than like clothes and that’s it. No supplements, just you. And it was really cool. So I walk in this room. I’m in here, got a schedule. And it’s basically 10 hours or so of meditation or learning your there’s some, some classwork.
There’s a, there’s a, a man who started his foundation who’s passed and he’s got videos that you listen to every night. The cool thing about it is if you’re, if you’re with what, what has happened. Every question you have gets answered in those videos each night, which is interesting. This guy obviously put this program together with a lot of intention and you do have questions.
I feel like I had questions and you can’t really speak to anybody about it. So this, this video at night, it was really helpful, but it’s basically breakfast at six in the morning. You get a lunch, a small lunch, and then a small dinner, and then you’re basically. One hour meditations is happening every, every hour.
And then you, you’re kind of like just in a spot where you don’t move for an hour. Each time the meditation happens. And the first three days you’re concentrating only on the air that’s coming out of your nose. And then it goes deeper. So there’s different practices that you’re learning, but really you’re learning body awareness.
You’re learning sensations, and you’re also learning to come up and feel the blocks because there will be blocks that come up when you’re not dealing with anything in the world, other than yourself. You will start to feel some of the things that are potentially within you. And do you
go in there with like a goal and, you
know, I, you know, I, I did
like a business idea or this or that, or relationship
health, or I think after the first one, you could probably do more of that.
Maybe if you do come in with the goal, that goal might not be apparent. If you face something else within your soul’s journey. You know, so I don’t want to say, you know, I know,
right? Yeah. Because you’ve been through it and back to just the normal meditation, I think a lot of people have troubles quieting their brain.
And obviously it’s very easy to reach for your phone or TV or, or whatever it is or a drink, or you can go on a large list there. What’s some just basic tips. I think for someone who. You know, they, they hear that 10 day retreat and that that’s way too much, but maybe they’re starting to feel like they need to start doing something.
What’s a great way to just,
yeah, totally. There’s some really cool techniques that you can do prior to meditation. So I say getting all the energy that stagnant or anything that’s within the body, getting that up, moving, shaking a tap. That’s really good. And then there’s also these little devices you can get there’s meditation devices, you can actually use they can do light therapy.
There’s something called a NuCalm, which puts Gabba on your PCIX. Right. Right here, it’s an acupuncture pressure point and it literally helps you shut down the brain. And then there’s followed by that there’s actual sounds that connect with the GABA and helped you get into a meditative state. So I actually love that.
I use that on a lot of my clients. And that’s just great for anybody you do that for an hour or half an hour, even it’s like four or five, six hours of additional sleep that your body receives from that transmission. So it’s
interesting that you say the tabbing cause I, what I do use in this, I guess you could be in the meditative area, but when I get nervous, I count my breasts and tap my fingers.
And I’ll do a three and three out just to kind of reset myself. And what’s great is you could do it without anybody knowing it’s, especially before you know, you’re giving a big speech or something. It’s a great way to just quit thinking about all the, what ifs and all these nervousness that are popping up and just focus on breathing.
And I think the tapping helps with that. It was Tony Robbins that I heard that did that. I don’t remember where it was from, but that’s what was very helpful. That’s very basic because he could just do it on the side. And you’ve kind of talked about, and I know we were going to jump around the journey, but you’ve talked about clients.
So when, when you say that
what’s that mean project, me and my partner, and a few other healers, it’s called a rooted integration project, a rooted integration project.com. It’s basically a four week program where we help reset the nervous system, get the gut health, the brain health, the heart health, and creating basically more, more coherence.
So we use heart math. We use a Tre, which is tremor release exercises. A lot of times trauma is stuck in the psoas and we help release just basic trauma in the body. And then we teach various meditative techniques, clearing technique. And we also have a shaman who helps with some ceremony work. So plant medicine potentially can be used, but we meet people where they’re at.
And most importantly is for people to help develop a secure attachment to them. So they understand, you know, what they’re bringing to the world and understand the separateness and the connectedness in between.
What’s kind of a, either a normal client or an ideal
client for you guys. Yeah. So someone who potentially, you know, has trauma or has found awareness with the trauma, doesn’t know how to actually heal or integrate someone who’s taken plant medicine who needs some support.
Someone who’s lost a family member, anybody who’s needing emotional connectedness, also inner child healing. So we, we do regression work. We do a lot of emotional work, so people are having hard time accessing their emotions. We help them do that. Yeah.
So it’s kind of, you know, I guess a different way of kind of a psychologist with a little bit of you know, but also with the body, it sounds like too, kind of the
merging of all the bodies, mind, body spirit.
So all of it.
Yeah. I’ll I’ll yeah, that’s a great way to put it. And how’d you even get into that stuff, obviously, you’ve you kind of have this interesting path and you were getting more connected to yourself. And then a follow up question with that is how did you make that into a business? Cause that’s something that’s super interesting.
I think a lot of people start getting involved in these unique areas that might not be so mainstream, but then they just kind of keep it to themselves or just
do with their friends. I studied tantra, I learned seven levels of a lineage and I just started teaching. I had a clients about 10 years ago.
I started. Just implementing all the things I learned after two years of celibacy, after going through my own progress of the program, I learned from this couple who’ve been teaching for 40 plus years. They were 70 plus years old and they had all this energy and vitality and I was. Sign me up, you know, so that was my first teaching.
I become certified in somatics and Reiki and all sorts of things. But Tanisha was for me, one of the most important things that I wanted to bring to the Western world in an appropriate integral way. So I started teaching the COVID. And I did this a hundred day celibacy course about seven or eight years ago here in Austin.
And it was a huge success. I think we, we made like 50 grand, you know, and it was awesome. It was like, wow, this, this actually is great. And, and to this day, a lot of these students are people very much involved in my life and I’ve seen so much progress from it. I believe you have to root down to right.
And tantra is one of the greatest tools to root down, to rise up, to get strong in your core and your mulabandha and in the lower parts. And so it was tantra that taught me a lot of these foundational work. And from there, I just studied everything I could possibly study. And I put together a program based on what I thought worked best.
And it’s always improving. I’m always taking more courses and learning more that I can implement with this project.
So what about the haters that sit there and say that. You making money off of this stuff. Do you have any, any flack in that
area? Of course, money and I think is very powerful. And you know, if you’ve read rich dad, poor dad, you know, you’ll understand just the basic concepts and power around money and.
If you value something and, and you want to do something about it, money has to be exchanged. And I think that’s important. So I
see money as fuel, right? And because you have to have it, and let’s say in your field, if you want to reach five people and stuff like that, that’s fine. You don’t have to, you don’t have to charge for it.
But if you want to reach 5,000 or 5 million, you’re going to have to have some fuel
a hundred percent, a hundred percent. If I don’t feel comfortable with the work I’m doing, if I don’t feel. In that exchange. I don’t want to be there. And it’s it’s energy for me to be able to share that space. So I value it.
It’s not cheap. Our program is $4,000 per month and I don’t think that’s a small investment. It’s a mortgage for some people. So, you know, nice mortgage.
Yeah. But you know, it’s also investment in yourself is what in a lot of people that want it want to get to the next level. To me selling on value is different than selling.
Like, you know, I’m going to give you these four attributes to whatever you’re saying. Hey, what if I can. Really some blockage of you. So you could invest in some place or starting a company, or
not only that is preventative medicine, right? So it’s genetic work that we do that help prevent things that are in your genetic line.
So we do actual gene work. It’s crazy. Like you can prevent a lot of things that your parents went through. If you get awareness, And that’s, that’s all it is. And that you can’t pay. If you can’t go to the Western, you can’t go to a doctor and you can’t even go to a psychologist to find that information it’s deep work.
I say, you know, parents of alcoholic or something is that, and that’s kinda what you’re saying is,
and fix something like that. Not even fix it first, we figured out the root of how it started. That’s how trauma works. It’s it’s, it’s something that happened too fast, too quick, too soon. You didn’t have any way of, of processing or.
Finding the ground from there. So you’re still holding something that’s nervous in the body. That’s, that’s how trauma works, really. So it could be that they’re traumatized from something within their family line that caused the alcoholic gene to turn on. So we then find that and access it and process and heal.
was it. Are there any traumatic trauma there that you would like to share that, that you went through that got you on this
I mean, I went through a lot of things with my own father and my mother that, you know, definitely taught me a lot about how to even recognize trauma. I didn’t even know I was traumatized for so long and that’s a lot of people’s story.
Sometimes people think that this happy go lucky lifestyle in life. And trauma, what happens is it when it comes up you get to see some of the parts and the areas in which these patterns are stored and you get to heal, not just that aspect, but your, your family’s reason for carrying it too. So it’s really beautiful.
The circle that happens. Wait, sorry, what was the question again? There was
some traumatic stuff that you .
So when I was a child, I walked into a party with my parents and very nice lush. Beautiful home. And, and I don’t know exactly what it was, but there was an energy there and this, this person was unbuttoning my coat and fondling me right in front of my father.
And for a long time, that was an unprocessed trauma that caused me to not first of all, trust men, my father, and we had a huge gremlin between us for a long time, which got cause a lot of abandoned us and all sorts of things. But I’m at a point where I recognize. His story and all the things that created that incident, you know, and no longer causing blame and shame and all the things around that.
Well thank you for sharing that’s I mean, that’s that stuff can, you know and I’m very happy also on the flip side of it, that you’ve been able to recognize it, which is a big step and then, and deal with it to move through it because you don’t want that weight
to carry around forever. Trauma you carry people’s pain.
That’s not yours. You know, so it’s like I was carrying not just my feelings and emotions, but my father’s and his emotion and reaction was also traumatic. So you get to learn these things. And
because he probably felt very, very belittled as well or worthless or whatever it would be. It’s probably more than Muslim.
It was his inner child that was present at that moment to which you get to learn some of these. Through something called completion process, it’s a form of hypnosis that I also have trained in. So yeah. W w
why don’t you give us a little bit more on that? I suppose also there’s so many different areas
and completion process is a tool designed by teal Swan.
And what it is is it’s allowing, let’s say a traumatic incident that happened in your childhood. You there’s a whole set and setting that you create in order to have your adults. Comfort your inner child during that space. So if you have had something in a feeling or emotion, or even an incident that you feel still unsafe around, there’s a, there’s a way to bring your adult self to comfort your inner child.
And that’s what the process really is. It takes about two hours. Oh, wow. Yeah.
And you know, one thing I wanted to get to as well with a lot of these sayings is let’s say that somebody who doesn’t have a lot of money doesn’t live in Austin, Texas, But has some of these, you know, this trauma or traumatic experiences that they do want to begin to work through.
You know what, what’s a good place to start.
we recommend first thing is read the book. It didn’t start with you. That book actually comes with a bunch of worksheets that I utilize for my clients as well. It’s great. It helps you start to uncover and then process. Just learning how to sense your feelings is a great way to start moving emotions that are stuck in the body.
So there’s tools start doing that, and that will bring you to the next thing, which could be yoga or whatever it is that helps start moving the energy or tapping or emotional, you know Tre you know, things like that. So you can find a Tre practitioner in every state in the world, basically. And then what’s,
what’s, you know, what’s five years out for you.
Like, what are you, what
are you looking forward to doing? Totally I hope to have. Created really amazing connections with cacao and potentially owning a farm myself or creating more sustainability for farmers traveling and, and really sharing the medicine that is cacao. I think that’s probably the focus for the next few years.
I’m also potentially working with a franchise advisor. To make third eyes something that we can bring to other cities and to bring to other communities. And that’s also goal. And our do you guys have
plans for just selling like the rock a cow? We do it. I feel like it’s do that now, right? Yeah. Yeah.
And is that more in like a powdered state in a hard, slow?
Well, what we do is we take a cow paste, which is everything that comes from the actual being other than the, than the fruit like the. So the relish or whatever you want to call it. And we, and they grind it up into a paste, so that has all the fat in it.
And when you transport that it’ll melt. Right? So we do focus on making that and we ship it cold a lot of times. But we take that paste and we, we cold crumble it into a powder so people can consume it easier. And that’s one of our flagship products is the third act of cowlick, elixir. And people just add that to their hot water and use one of those little latte mixers.
And you’ve got your morning drink. That’s a
lot of fun. And then. Take a kind of a look back like, all right. So you’ve done a lot of interesting things a bit all over the world. It sounds like. What kind of advice would you give all the way back to like, you know, 16 year old self?
Yeah. Yeah, it would be probably to read certain books, you know, and get more info, get more knowledge around certain things that I feel like I’m playing catch up on now, you know?
So yeah, I mean, it would be to also have, don’t forget to have fun. Yeah. And remember your roots, remember how important it is that that culture brought to you? You know, there was a time and a place where I felt like my culture, wasn’t something I could be proud of and that’s completely shifted as I’ve dived deeper into it.
what about any, so you talked about, you know, we just talked about what you would recommend yourself, but in any regrets or along this path?
Yeah, definitely. Not like regrets, but just. Be slower, you know, just take more time, find, find meditation quicker, you know? I think those are the things, you know I feel like I had a beautiful life, but it happened too quickly and I wish I could have just slowed down a little bit.
I feel like that’s something. And so it would say when they’re older, so it’s great that, you know, maybe we didn’t recognize that when we were 16, but you know, the younger than better to recognize slow down. And I feel like that as well. One thing that I, it was a quote I heard or something. I do firmly believe it, in order to slow down time, you have to create your new experiences because otherwise, if you’re doing the same thing every day, your brain kind of gets on autopilot.
And it’s very
forgettable. Right? I believe that in some aspect, I feel like consistency is good. But then if you can just make 1% shift within consistency. So you’re still consistent, still in the masculine, but then you’re finding creative ways to integrate that consistent thing that you’re doing. So you’re getting better at it or you’re getting optimizing it or whatever it is, you know, so, yeah.
like, and so we do like, I, you know, to have our food at certain times and having shelter had a lot of different things that need to be consistent. Yeah. What about like, I’m sure you get with a ton of these like common myths that you hear in cringe. It could be meditation. It could be in the other areas that you do, but anything that you just want to talk about that like, just kind of, you hear and you kind of
want to talk about, yeah.
So, you know, in Austin it’s really popular now, the hot bats or the hot the sauna and then the cold baths, you know, and, you know, I really feel like putting yourself in a position to be hot and cold. Can be really good for the nerve reset the nervous system sometimes, but doing that constantly doesn’t allow for gestation to happen.
So I really believe integration is being able to go from dissonance to resonance and finding consistency and being resonant. And I feel like right now in our spiritual community, in various plant medicine communities, it’s too much of the medicine. It’s too much of the. The, the party without the, the rest and the meditation and the, and the parts that require integration.
So I know it’s cool to take mushrooms and all these other things, but you know what we’re doing at third eyes, creating classes and spaces where people can integrate, you know, what they’ve learned from their journey and to really slow down, to speed up so that, you know, they have more focus and clarity.
They feel more fulfilled in their life. And I think that’s really important.
So let’s talk more about plant medicine. And I have very little knowledge in this area as in personal out knowledge, but I’m very interested in the area, right. So I’m actually just take it wherever you like it. You know what, what’s a very common questions that people have asked you, or what do you guys start with?
Like w w w
wherever we want to take it. So so in terms of health, just basically, I believe that when we’re healing, we have a lot of symptoms and when we heal too quickly, So when our body is, is doing something internally, that’s moving something too quickly. Energetically our physical body may not be able to handle it.
So you know, Plant medicine can, can be really good if let’s say you have a block that your consciousness can not overcome. Plant medicine can be helpful to help you change your state in order to move through something, you know, that can be potentially painful or traumatic or whatever it may be.
It could be even genetic that you have no idea about that you’re carrying, you know, so. Depending on what it is. There’s various different plant medicines. There’s things that open you up. There’s things that bring you in this things that is various things. So like ketamine is a disassociative. Iowasca is one of those things that can be very spirit.
It’s like a spirit molecule where it connects your soul to, you know, to the earth in a very, in a way that can be very disruptive. Can take a long time to integrate from. So that’s why I believe set and setting are super important. Let’s say you lose a partner of 20 years, you know, and you have a hard time processing it and your children are tired and you don’t have a lot of, you have a lot of time on your hands.
I asked them might be good for you, you know, but let’s say you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve got shit going on and you can’t take two months off for three months off to rest and do that. I will ask us not recommend it. I would potentially recommend maybe mushrooms, which has a quicker gestation time from recovery.
Because these are poisons in our body is going to react in a way that will heal in certain ways. If you’re, if you’re in the right space and you have the right time and you have the right dealers and support around you. So it’s really sentencing. And all these different medicines do different things.
Our Western world is becoming very open to that in our current timeframe, which is cool. However, there’s an extreme to everything, right? So. I really believe, you know, the person who’s procuring the medicine, the person who’s receiving the medicine have really good intentions is coming from a really grounded place.
And, and really decides, you know, this is what I want to do. What do you ask the right person? What they need, you know, and where do you see you kind
of the future of this? I mean, it seems like you said it, you know, the U S itself seemed like they’re becoming more and more open to some of these MDMs and stuff like that.
Where do you see
this? Yeah, like MDME are our sassafras. That’s like more of like, let’s say someone who’s been bitter for a long time, you know, it needs to find more love. It’s a good one for that. What I see it going is, do you know what spiral dynamics is? I do not know. Okay. So spiral dynamics is this, is this a.
Thought belief system in which there’s various types of consciousness that live in our planet right now that if you believe in spiral dynamics, this is the first time in our life where we have so much variety of consciousness. So there’s different groups and people and humans who live in a certain vibration live in a certain lifestyle that carry a certain vibration and consciousness.
That’s why there’s so much difference right now, this very much difference between our parents. Or grandparents and grandchildren, whatever it may be technology and various human or earth changes have created these separations. Not that it’s good or bad, but because of this new consciousness that’s coming, you know, we’re going to have a lot more evolution.
So I believe we’re going to evolve. And, and that’s what I see at our future being is being more evolved society. But with variance, you know, there’s still people in our world living primitively there’s people who are living very much in a technological AI world. So you see how there’s so much variance
and when you say kind of evolve or primitively.
I have, I think I got a pretty good idea what you’re saying, but are you saying basically at some people just won’t make it to the next kind of state that they should be in or they’re just going to live poorly or like, what do you mean?
See, I don’t believe in shooting, you know, are like shooting on me or anyone because everyone has their own life and purpose.
Right. So dogs going to be a dog and maybe next life there’ll be a human, I guess what you’re saying now. Yeah. So that’s the reincarnation aspect of how I believe. So if someone eats Doritos, smoke cigarettes, drinks, alcohol, they’re going to live out their life purpose to whatever it is. Or if you look at like a guy from SunLife organics who completely shifted his life and how now has these juicing places and yo you know, healthy things, people can make a shift, you know, and it’s not any.
Like forced to do. That’s an internal thing, you know? So I, I truly believe everyone’s, life’s purpose is their life’s purpose. And if they decide to upgrade their consciousness, that’s going to be a sovereign personal choice and then they’re going to do it. And then and it could be even a downgrade of consciousness.
very much so. Right. Yeah. And, and kind of that’s, it’s interesting. Cause that’s what. More where I, how I grew up as is believing a lot of those different things. And the religion that I grew up in was very much in the reincarnation of kind of moving your soul to the next journey next step, and try to move up.
C and then there is no hierarchy though. That’s where the sovereignty and the unity comes from because the dog and the, and the, and the, the very evolved person hold the same amount of power that creates the. The same godly energy that circulates in that dog is in that human too. That’s the only way we will be able to see them.
On this dimension. So what does success look like for you? So success for me, I’ve been around, you know, outwardly successful people and I’ve been around people who I never thought would be successful or is successful, but successful to me is feeling really good. And the being so nervous system is happy.
Physical body is happy. Sex life is intact and fruitful. Finances are, are good. Friendships are really strong. Community is strong. So I don’t want to be rich and lonely. I’m not going to be that guy. I don’t care about that. That’s not my end goal. My end goal is to be surrounded by loving, amazing trustful people who are creating in this world.
And, and, and it’s, there’s no like unseen unsaid competition. Creating beautiful creations together and sovereignty, you know, so success to me is being able to give to the world, you know, and, and create with the world. So, yeah.
So what do you think what are you proudest of that you’ve have you’ve accomplished.
So it’s, it’s an internal thing. That’s proud. I don’t, I can’t be proud of it to other people because it doesn’t make sense. But for me to overcome all the physical challenges and to be, you know, an athlete to be a a competitive pickleball player, it feels. Or even tennis player, whatever it is.
I felt like that could have never happened in my life, just from all the difficulties I had from just walking. So that to me is such a thing I’m very proud of. You know, I feel like that’s an accomplishment. Absolutely. Yeah.
Anything that we didn’t cover that
you would like to. So I did start a rejuvenation center in Costa Rica.
I started this thing called blue zones, rejuvenation. I had a tragic incident after I was working for my family’s business and I wasn’t in integrity and I wasn’t living my passion and I lost part of my finger. Oh, wow. I’d never noticed that. Yeah. So I lost part of my finger in a boating accident. I was wakesurfing and a rope got cutter on my arm and I pulled my hand back and it caught my finger and it completely changed my life.
Spirituality wasn’t on the back burner. It was like on the front burner and I was ready to follow my dreams and start third eye and do all the things before I started third, I started blue zones, which blue zones. I dunno if you know who Dan Bittner is. He’s probably a 10 time bestselling author of the blue zones book.
He was a national geographic photographer who made his name and did some amazing things. And. Places around the world that people lived over a hundred years consistently. And that’s what called blue zones. So I studied the blue zones. I got into it and I created a rejuvenation center in Costa Rica called Costa Rica called blue zones rejuvenation center.
So I left everything. I took all the money I had and I invested into this hotel and we converted into a center and we started doing these things and I just fell in love with Costa Rica and retreat. We got a season, this, this letter from a guy named Dan Bittner who wrote those books. And my partners were lawyers who did not want to change the name.
And I was like, I just want to do retreats. You know? So they were like adamant about it. I was like, you know what, I’m going back to Austin. And, and in that time, a gentleman gave me some investment to, to start making elixirs. So I started this whole business, just making it like. And in my retreats, I used to make these really awesome elixirs, cacao, elixirs, and golden milks and all these things to help people feel good in their body.
And that’s kinda how I started out. Third eye is really
interesting. And so is, is that retreats still there?
And no, they went. I was kind of the, the brain around the whole business. They went back to the hotel, but I did build a yoga teak, so they did get to
keep it, keep it. And do you still travel back to Costa
Or I haven’t. You know, I desire to go back, but other places that I desire to put some energy into, it’s so
hard. There’s so many amazing places in the world. I actually haven’t been to Costa Rica because my wife has been multiple times. We’ve been to Nicaragua. I had an amazing experience there and I loved it.
They’ve got good,
good cow there too. I’m sure they do. I’m
there, right? I mean, they’re right next to Costa Rica. One way that she described Nicaragua is it’s like Costa Rica, but like 20 years ago before it got so popular, The days it’s not near as popular because we, you know, we have a pretty negative commentation and of the area as Americans, but also it has had some political instability over the years.
There’s been a, there’s a million people from Canada. They’re like, they’re like, yeah, it took me 14 hours to get here. I’m like, yeah, I got here in six hours, you know, like, or, or five and, you know, from Austin, cause it’s straight south and pretty easy. And they just don’t have that negative connotation of the area.
And then there all the time, and there’s fantastic surfing. And you can say on Alma temp is this like volcano that you can stay on and right up on a horseback and just, and it’s cost nothing like literally nothing.
My friend has a property up. She owns a property that she, she doesn’t know if she’s gonna go back to but it’s crazy because you can own property there, very inexpensively.
And but there is a little bit of fear around the local war that’s happening there and you can lose it all. Yeah, yeah, for sure.
When we were there you know, we weren’t stupid. Didn’t do anything crazy, but we felt totally safe at the time and that obviously could be fluid, but we were, there was, and also it’s a touristy.
And the fact of the Nicaragua Nicaragua’s touristy, which is nothing like touristy places that are known to house travelers, just fine. Airbnb, places like that. So, yeah. And this is my last question. I end every podcast with this. How would you like to be remembered? Yeah.
Yeah, so in India they have this thing called
So someone who is heart giving, you know, someone who. Is able to give, you know, with less thought involved, you know, so obviously having good boundaries of what I need to do to take care of myself, but being able to give with a good heart and that’s something I feel like is really important. I love it.
Yeah. Well, Neil,
thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thank you for having me. Pleasure. Yeah,
that’s great. Cheers. Yeah. Cheers.
So the game plan is slow. Food fast, really what’s happening now is there’s a great race. all the smart brands of restaurants are converting to drive through converting, to take out models, converting to better menus, ignoring the digital side and the online side of business, especially for food and beverage, it would be to people’s detriment. So we’re going to build a primary smokehouse. That’s going to help us service at least five to 10 micro locations in San Diego and those locations will be based off of search results, not the location, location, location. And we’re going to go into places that typically are underserved.
I got Sean Walchef here with me on the Establishing your Empire podcast. Thank you for so much for joining me today. I’m excited to have you here. My first question is, you know, actually let’s give a little background about who you are and what you do, Darren. I appreciate you having me on, I am a barbecue media owner.
I own a single unit barbecue restaurant. We’ve become a media brand, in the hospitality space. I also have a podcast called digital hospitality. So. We are overly obsessed with digital storytelling and empowering business owners to learn how to do it for themselves. the same way we were able to grow our $300,000 business, 18 employees to 64 employees pre COVID.
3.3 million in sales as a single unit restaurant and sports bar. we also pivoted during COVID COVID, and now we’re operating three times more profitable than we ever have. We’re opening up a ghost kitchen. We’re documenting that process all along the other, all along the way. So business owners can learn how to do it.
the things that we’re doing successfully and our failures as well. but no, I’m really excited. I’ve been listening to your podcasts, before this show and, I, I knew we had a connection. I knew I liked how you roll and I love how you’re giving back to entrepreneurs. People that are curious. I mean, if we get down to the heart of the matter, Digital storytelling, whether it’s in video form, audio form, written word or images, we all decide what we do with our time.
We’re all at attention merchants. So what we do with our time, where we choose to get involved, read a book, follow up with an email, follow up with a direct message, send a tweet. we all get to pick that. What I love to pick is things that compel me and move me. And, that’s why we’re here on this podcast today.
talking during movies, I was on, your boy, it was podcast who was absolutely Jepsen. Yeah. Jason is I, I listened to his episode with you too. And that it it’s, it’s phenomenal to me. When you get into long form storytelling, how much you can learn about somebody that, you know, I mean, I know you and Jason know each other, but.
When I interview someone on digital hospitality that I grew up with, that’s building, you know, cloud beds. Adam Harris is the CEO. It’s the top tech hospitality. Software that’s available for the hotel industry. I mean, he’s just absolutely crushing it. but to sit down and interview him for the podcast, I learned stuff about him that I would never have learned in any other form, unless I sat down to do it for a podcast.
So grateful to have you on, grateful that I’m here on the show and, excited to, to hopefully get compel somebody that’s listening to this podcast to get involved. I mean, that’s ultimately the, the. The game is getting involved. Staying curious gets you here, get you listening to the podcast, but if you don’t actually follow up and send that email, send that tweet, ask for help.
then the magic doesn’t happen. It’s all about creating those OSHA internet moments. I, I mean, I love that. That’s a great way to start the podcast. My first real question is, and you kind of already answered it a little bit. Is. Why does, you know, restaurant owner, barbecue place get into, the digital hospitality, the podcasting business, the media business, right?
So we opened in 2008 at the height of the other economic recession, the big crash. And, it was me and one of my best friends from college, Corey Robinson, we were doing real estate, some residential commercial real estate beforehand. But we had an opportunity to take over an existing liquor license, full liquor, beer wine, and it was in a part of San Diego that most real estate professionals, most restaurant professionals would say, that’s not a place to go to.
It’s always location, location, location, and that’s pre digital, which we’ll get into later, but location, location, location for offline businesses for the traditional real estate model. Is about traffic, right? It’s about where’s high visibility, high traffic, but that also leads to high rent rates. We had an opportunity to open up in an underserved part of San Diego.
So East County, San Diego, about 15 minutes East of Petco park, downtown San Diego in a eclectic part of the town. You know, there’s industrial, there’s commercial, there’s rural, there’s tire shops, liquor stores, but there really isn’t a family friendly sports bar and that’s what we were trying to do. So we opened up.
In 2008 and we failed a lot. It was very hard to turn an existing breakfast business into a dinner business sports bar in a part of town where people just didn’t think about going out in the nighttime to go have a beer or to have dinner with their family. typically it’s just only been a breakfast business.
we turned into a barbecue restaurant about a year or two years in didn’t know, one thing about barbecue. The fact that a San Diego restaurant is talking about barbecue is talking about a slow smoking craft, barbecue cooking on old Hickory pits, doing barbecue the right way. I mean, I had to reach out to an expert and Jean was my expert.
He taught us. He helped us put on an amateur barbecue contest, which helped us raise money for local youth sports. And you know, this digital hospitality journey has been out of necessity, pure necessity to how do we market? How do we brand ourselves? So people give a shit about us. we’re a small business and in order to survive in order to pay payroll, in order to, you know, do the things that we want to do, people have to care, back to attention.
You know, they, they have to care. Obviously we have to have a great product and we have to kill it on hospitality. But the branding and marketing side really what happened from 2008, when we opened to now has been the growth of the smartphone. The iPhone came out in 2007. You know, that is not a long time.
The first iPhone 2007, we’re here now. It’s election day. It’s November 3rd. When we’re recording this podcast, it’s going to be available on demand. But I phone 12. We’re already at iPhone 12, but we take technology for granted, whether you are an iPhone user or an Android user, whether you like Facebook, you hate Facebook.
We take technology for granted and as an offline business, what we learned is that there’s customers online. So that’s the thesis of digital hospitality is every business needs to be digital. You need to be digital first. You need to understand that customers that are on those places, like Yelp, like Twitter, like next door, like Google, like Apple, like all these different things that happen.
If your business isn’t there, you’re essentially irrelevant. Like that’s the location, location, location that’s happening. And it’s in the digital space. So you’ve got to do it on both fronts. And I know it’s. Overwhelming at times. once you start getting deep, I know your background is in, actually helping businesses build their digital infrastructure.
And I can only imagine the conversations that you’ve had in the last 10 years, trying to convince businesses that this was coming. COVID is only sped up what we all knew was already happening and that’s that the internet is at a place of scale. but it also means that your business needs to be searchable.
When somebody is searching on Yelp, you need to be there. And I think there’s also a lot more to it than just getting the customer in the door with, with technology. There’s a lot of ways to make their experience a better experience. You know, I, I started to get excited about cause COVID is moving things forward very rapidly of like the simple thing of paying your bill, you know, digitally real quick.
So you don’t have the, the, the waiter doesn’t have to come back and forth three times. There’s going to be a lot of those things happening. Well, let’s, let’s go back a little bit. Why restaurants? You know, why did you get in the restaurant business in the first place? Because that’s not an easy business.
I’ve worked in restaurants plenty of times, especially growing up in college and high school. It’s not fun. So, I never, I never met my father. I’ve seen two pictures of my father. my mom had me when she was young and it was probably the biggest blessing in my life that she had me when she was young and my grandfather, her, her father.
Told her to move back to San Diego, to LA Jolla so that he could help raise me. And my grandfather was an immigrant. He was born in Bulgaria, in a village in 19, 19. He was born and destined to be a farmer. literally that was his life path. but there was an American that came to his village, by the name of Dr.
Haskell that established an agriculture school for children. So essentially he was teaching children and teaching the farmers education to help them farm better. But this gift that he gave to my grandfather was this love of learning. And this love of curiosity. And my grandfather just fell in love with the fact that there was a man who had a bicycle and no one else in the village had a bicycle.
Well, why did he have a bicycle? It was because he had an education. So he wanted to learn. He wanted to read, and he started reading every single book in the village, which led him down the path to go into the next village and asking for more books. he became the best student in his class, skipped a grade in Bulgaria and applied for medical school in, in Bulgaria.
He got rejected, even though he was the best in his class because of the power structure, because he didn’t have the money because he came from a village, he got rejected. So, what did he do? He went and he said, well, I’m still going to be a doctor. How can I become a doctor? There were great medical schools in Germany.
He didn’t know a word of German. He had somebody help him translate the application so that he could actually get in, apply to medical school in Germany. He applies to medical school in Germany, not knowing any German. So literally he was, I went through study German to study medicine and he did this all during world war II.
this was the basis. This is the patriarch. This is the person that raised me, in lawyer, in LA Jolla, in a privileged, background where I was very fortunate to have the best education that he could provide for me. I was the eldest of seven grandkids and, you know, my path was how can I do good in school to either become a medical doctor or become a, an attorney?
I studied for the LSATs and I didn’t do as well as I thought I should do. and I got rejected from all three law schools in San Diego. it was more devastating for me than it was probably, it was more devastating to tell him that I didn’t get in than it was for me to accept the rejection. I still have those rejection letters that are hanging right over on in front of my desk.
But that kind of just gets back to how did I get into hospitality? Where was my life path? We all go down these different paths. And you know, one of the things that I was fortunate, I was having this father figure, really towards the end of his life, wanting to share his story. he started, he was a medical doctor after he retired from being a medical doctor, he got into real estate development.
He, built an assisted care facility, built a con couple condominium complexes, single family, residential. but he built a restaurant that he leased out. And eventually when I was in eighth grade, we took over that restaurant. not as a place to make money, but a place to keep the kids working. he was old school that way.
So eighth grade on the weekends, I would go bus tables and wash dishes. something that I truly did not enjoy doing and resented and despised, because all my friends were playing sports. They were all going to the beach. They’re all doing their thing. But ultimately it was one of the greatest gifts that he could have given me, primarily because it taught me what hospitality is.
It taught me that when you’re at a place where people come and they gather, for all different types of reasons is whether it’s a celebration, whether it’s a celebration of life. whether it’s just another Monday, people come and they gather over food. And you can make that a memorable experience and that can be impactful for a family.
just in one part of the day. And I went to school, I thought I was going to take business classes. None of the business classes resonated with me. none of them made me more curious, made me want to get involved. Sociology did, in explaining sociology degree to my grandfather was a difficult conversation because how are you going to, what are you going to do with that?
but nonetheless, he still supported me and it got me to the point where I was doing commercial real estate with one of my closest friends from college. And we had an opportunity to take over this business, this business that I grew up in, we sold the property to another business, another development group, and they had a couple tenants that were doing a terrible job running the restaurant and, Corey and myself, we said, You know, let’s take this liquor license and build a sports entertainment, destination, family-friendly sports, entertainment, destination.
the place has always been great with breakfast. Didn’t have a dinner, didn’t have, a bar. and we said, why don’t we do it? And that led us down that entrepreneurial Oh, shit moment where you jump off the cliff and you try to figure out, well, how are we actually gonna make this thing work? Yeah.
Something real quick. I at. At 13 years old, I worked in a restaurant was where I first started. My whole family worked in this one restaurant that it was a family friend in Boston tables, dishwasher, move up to waiter right then cook. But, you know, it’s a whole different, you know, I think you came from it with a, you know, with it being your family ran.
I think there’s probably some, you know, romanticism about it, right. Of being able to serve people, food to people, what I’ve taken from it is the hospitality. How to talk to anyone like the sh very short conversations to make those Interestings, which helps when, especially when you’re like, you know, I’m married now, but when I was single, you’re pretty good at, you know, short conversations.
And, the other thing is, is now I enjoy cooking a lot. Right. it’s a little easier when you’re cooking for two people instead of 200, but so let’s, let’s talk about COVID, let’s dive in. Cause I think that’s probably something that you’ve talked about a lot, right. how were you guys hit? And obviously you did some pivots.
So let’s talk about what you guys did. What’s been successful and what’s actually been very difficult. Yeah. So, March 17th was the order from, governor Gavin Newsome, which was that we were going to have to shut down, indoor dining and only essential services, which was takeout or delivery, which is something that we are, we had already been planning for.
We had saw it, we saw the writing on the wall that, this thing was getting a little bit out of control and we need to do what we can to protect our own, which is our staff and our guests. And. It was the most difficult day on March 17th, a day. That’s typically filled with, St. Patty’s day celebration, March madness, a full bar, a full staff, green beer, filling out brackets, to go onto social media, go on Twitter, go on Facebook, go on Instagram.
And basically just ask the community for help. say that, you know, we had to lay off 29 employees, people that are family, people that we love. Servers bartenders back of the house. we kept a core staff of about 27 laid off 29 and, just basically went all in on what we were already doing, which is digital.
focusing on third-party delivery. We were already set up with door dash. We added grub hub and Uber eats. we started figuring out, how do we optimize our mobile first website? we got to the point where we decided that in order to build the digital business that we wanted, we needed a primary technology partner.
And we partnered with toast toast allowed us to create that mobile first site that allowed managers, and my team, my Cali BBQ media team to update content as needed as we saw fit. that wasn’t, we weren’t able to do that with Aloha, which was our point of sales system beforehand. So we kind of just, we went all in on this digital restaurant and we reduced our menu by 90%.
like I said, we already reduced our staff, but we’ve really focused on what do we do best and that’s barbecue. And we’d cook, slow, smoked barbecue. it takes time to cook barbecue. It takes expertise. It’s taken us 13 years to get to where we are to learn how to slow smoke ribs, cook brisket the right way.
cook cooked, pulled pork, how to make, you know, everything that we have as far as sides go from scratch and how to create a great experience when someone picks that up. And when it travels, you know, that’s a big piece of what’s happening is a lot of restaurants aren’t set up for to go. because of their menu offerings, we just made sure that we were going to give the best possible service, when somebody ordered through their phone, when they came to pick it up, how are we going to integrate the technology partners that we have to notify guests, that their order is ready, to make sure that when someone comes from Uber eats or third-party delivery, that they actually ordered from a different side of the restaurant.
So there was a different window for them to pick up, because. Let’s face it. When you’re dealing with digital sales, it’s hard to explain to somebody that’s physically in front of you that somebody else ordered before someone else, like when you’re, when you order something digitally, there’s no way to skip the line.
I mean, yes, you could bump the order technically, but we’re going to make it as it’s received. So when somebody comes and they order at the restaurant in person, and it takes a half an hour on a mother’s day, because there’s not many restaurants opened during mother’s day. It’s always the most busy day of the year, to see somebody from door dash, come and pick up the food and 15 minutes, explaining that to them.
Doesn’t make much sense, especially when people are hungry and they’re trying to feed mom and take care of mom. Boston seems like that’s a traffic flow that just keeps, keeps it open for the, for the new customers coming through. So, so it sounds like you are open physically. Now we are open still for delivery and, pickup only, we’re also doing cocktails to go, which was a regulatory relief from the department of alcoholic beverage control in California.
I’ve know a lot of other States did it as well. Yeah, they did it here in Texas. Do you think that’ll stay around? I hope so. We’re, we’re advocating for it. We’re going to do whatever we can to push on the media side and the partnership side. I know there’s a lot of incredible restaurants and bars that have been able to be successful to continue to sell alcohol and sell craft cocktails to go.
it’s something that I really hadn’t thought about until the law changed was how much people appreciate a properly made margarita and how great our bar staff are at preparing cocktails with, right. Proportions, right. Amount of ice, right. Amount of garnish, and just somebody else doing it for you. Or like, I don’t for the margarita.
I don’t have Margaret as often, but sometimes it won’t one. And I don’t want to buy all that stuff for one margarita for every seat, six weeks, you know, like, and, you know, especially during COVID there, it was just like, Literally just to not have to do the same thing. You’ve done 40 times. You know, I’m not a huge, I’m not into a lot of these sugary cocktails and stuff, but you know, if it’s a hot day and I might want one, you know, and it it’s been really nice to have that to go.
Cause it is sometimes the experience is the restaurant experience is a drink as well. Right? It’s not just the food, it’s usually the ambience, the drink and the, and the food. And sometimes it can obviously get the. The, in-person the way it feels to be there, but, you know, we can get at least two or three.
what about, so what do you feel like your next, I don’t know, three months, six months. One year where everyone take it, like what’s, what’s what’s the game plan. So the game plan is slow food fast. really what’s happening now is there’s a great race. That’s happened. I mean, digitally that’s been happening, but more specifically in the restaurant space, hospitality space, all the smart brands of restaurants are converting to drive through converting, to take out models, converting to better menus, Panera bread just announced that they have markets where they’re selling beer and wine, because they can do that to go.
They can do that for pickup. if you just look at, you know, if I look at my own buying habits, I have a son that’s three years old. I have a daughter that’s one. we just moved to a different part of San Diego. and during coronavirus we’ve been ordering more takeout than we ever have. you know, from local restaurants, from chain restaurants and seeing how are they doing their packaging?
How are they doing their menu items? these are all things that are going to change. people’s experience of how do I eat food? How do I get food? well, there will always be. Face-to-face like we will get through coronavirus and we’ll get to the point where we gather again and there’s groups and there’s events and there’s bars and there’s restaurants, but ignoring the digital side and the online side of business, especially for food and beverage.
It would be to people’s detriments. So everything that we’re doing is building the digital infrastructure. That’s going to help us not just sell more barbecue, cook more barbecue at a primary location. So we’re going to build a primary smokehouse. That’s going to help us service at least five to 10, micro locations in San Diego.
And those locations will be based off of search results, not the location, location, location, that traditional real estate. landlords commercial real estate brokers are going to pitch. we’re going to go into places that typically are underserved and we’re very confident in underserved markets because we’ve been able to do that for the last 13 years, on the backs of all these smartphone technology.
Yeah. Kind of sounds like the food truck to point out, right. That the thing that the food trucks did is they were able to change the locations, but also. Get into a spot that people wanted food and certain types of food, but you know, it didn’t have a, you know, either too expensive or, you know, could be underserved area or whatever it would be.
so, and I think you kinda already answered this a little bit. What Bella was going to ask is like, so what advice would you give somebody who wanted to open a restaurant now? Right. And I think it is, or it is what you’re, what you’re saying is like, you know, choosing. To look at digital first is interesting.
Right? Cause I don’t think that anybody would have been doing that a year ago. Correct. And I think that’s the most important thing is that a lot of the headlines are obviously a lot of the closures, a lot of the bankruptcies, a lot of the small businesses that are going out of business, but from what I see, I mean, it’s, you know, It’s what I think about every single day and night when I wake up in the morning when I go to sleep at night, but it’s how, not just restaurants and bars, but how are businesses in general, adapting to this offline world and the online world?
How are we creating digital hospitality? Because customer service is bullshit. I’m gonna just going to say that straight out is because customer service in the retail sense, it’s the reason why we care about restaurants. We care about bars is that it’s hospitality. We’re talking about how do you feel.
We talk about all the five senses. How do you anticipate needs? How do you know that somebody wants a refill on their ice tea before they ask for the refill? How do you know that we want to put the kids’ food in before? Because that way the parents don’t have to, you know, hear screaming kids. They actually can feed their kids because it went in as an appetizer.
Those are things that we teach our staff. Those are the things that we hire for. those are the things that digitally. Have been ignored traditionally. Now they’re more on the forefront. So what we talk about with digital hospitality is everyone’s been into a restaurant at some point and saw a sign that says, please see yourself.
That sign is literally a hospitality hack, so that please seat yourself, or please wait to be seated. The reason why a restaurant operator puts that sign out is because they want to reduce payroll during non-peak hours. So during non-peak hours, they’re not going to pay for someone to be at the front of the restaurant, or they’re going to pretend that a manager is going to cover the front of the restaurant.
We all know what happens when you walk into a restaurant, it says, please seat yourself. You feel empowered. Okay, great. Now I get to pick where I want to sit and you go and you sit there and what happens? You get shitty service, you get shitty hospitality and you get shitty service. Because the server is either on break the servers in a section that’s too big for them.
there’s a lot of different things that happen in this full service restaurant model that technology now is embracing. So what we talk about is when somebody opens up a restaurant, they spend so much time, so much money, so much effort, blood, sweat, tears to decorate every single room in that restaurant.
To paint the walls, to put tables, to put chairs, to make sure the music is right to make sure the menu is right. The, you know, the staff was wearing the right uniform. Well, what are they doing digitally? Because every single room, if you think of Facebook, if you think of Yelp, if you think of Twitter, if you think of next door, if you think of Google maps as a room in your restaurant are restaurant owners claiming those rooms and having somebody there available for the guests that are interacting there, chances are most of them aren’t.
The ones that are winning right now. Yes they are. And they get it. And that’s what excites me is that, as restaurant owners, we’re, you know, we, we have a special skill set of caring about people in ways that most traditional retail businesses don’t have to, the retail businesses will catch on the best brands that are winning right now.
Understand digital Haas, whether they call it digital hospitality or not, that’s what happens. Like, they’re not doing marketing in the sense of they’re advertising on commercials or radio or. Flyers, they’re creating something that’s so compelling that you and I, we share it on our Instagram feed. We share it on Twitter.
We talk about it. We post it on Facebook. Like the amount of the amount of interactions of me seeing somebody else’s Peloton bike. Before I convinced my wife that we’re going to buy a Peloton bike because we’re saving money since we’re not joining the gym right now, and we’re not paying for it and we’re going to pay it off.
And then now that I have a Peloton and I’m posting about Peloton and other people, I mean, I’m selling a Peloton bike. Why because they have an incredible business. It’s a hardware business, it’s a software business, it’s a lifestyle business. It’s a media business. It’s a technology business. That’s an incredible company.
Yeah. So, and I think a lot, what we’re seeing when you were talking about a lot of people closing down is, you know, you either have to evolve or die in the restaurant business, I think has been behind. A lot of other areas, like obviously tech businesses are they’re up and up on changing and pivoting.
What advice would you give somebody? Who’s had a, he had a restaurant for 30, 40 years and they’re struggling, you know, like what would be one thing they could do real quickly to try to get in more of this digital space, right. I mean, number, number one, you have to own your website. So the problem right now with digital marketing and social media marketing and internet marketing, and thinking about that is it’s very complicated and the languages that people use, they use specifically to make it more complicated to make you think, you know, the same way an attorney is going to start speaking and lawyer talk so that you think that, you know, you’re paying for something.
The more that we break down communication into, what is it and why is it important? Your website is what you own. Your website is your e-commerce platform. That’s how somebody is going to interact with your brand. That’s how all the search engines are going to find you. But if you’re creating content for your website in the form of audio, video, written word and images, and you’re updating that every single day and then distributed it for social, because social media is very important because that’s where everybody is.
But nonetheless, you can’t just rely on just Facebook. I mean, I can’t tell you how many restaurant owners they have that they’ll only post on Facebook and then Facebook they’ll talk shit about Yelp yet. All these people on Yelp are searching exactly for their business. And it’s a business page that they haven’t claimed for free.
Literally for $25 a month, they could feed you. Sure. The photos and make a sexy Yelp page, respond to Yelp reviews for something that, whether they do it or whether someone on their staff does it. These are the new job codes that are changing. It’s not just, I’m a server in the restaurant, or I’m a host or I’m a manager like no it’s offline and online.
You have to know how to update a photo. You have to know how to update your toast menu item. You have to know that that also has to be updated on Uber eats like there’s resources for people to find. And I think the biggest challenge is if you’re listening to the podcast, you’re curious, but now you need to get involved.
You need to get involved and you need to ask for help. there are so many people that are proficient, what you do as a company. I mean, I, the S the, the websites that you build are phenomenal. I couldn’t be more impressed. I don’t know if I’ve seen a better podcast website than yours. Anybody that’s listening to his podcasts, please go on his website and see, this is how you lay out content in a way that’s visually compelling.
I mean, I feel like I’m looking at, I was talking to Stover. Who’s my producer for Kelly BBQ media, and we. Talk about all the podcasts that I’m going on, but it’s an Apple experience. And back to the Pelotonia experiences, how is that experience? How are you showing up? You’re showing up by the look in the field.
And now whenever I’m talking to another podcast about their website, these people are spending time, effort to research guests to produce audio content, but. How are they presenting their guests and that content online that matters. So not all podcasters, probably 90% of them don’t care like you and I care about this work that we’re doing this interview that you and I are doing.
Well, and, sorry, sorry to interrupt. I always hate that. It’s always tough on the virtual, right. So though, you know, with my podcast websites, obviously I make websites, so there’s a certain pride there, but I also, I believe I always, I always have to think about like, what’s what do you want the customer experience to be when they come to the website?
And who are you making this for? So I actually made the website for the guests, meaning I want somebody that, you know, who doesn’t know who I am. To be excited too. If when I ask them to be on the show that they get excited to be on the show, or they’ll say yes, literally, that’s what I’m trying to do is get people to say yes.
So, and then that’s why the experience now it’s great also for a listener, but Alyssa is probably going to find me a little bit more through the channels, your Apple podcast, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook. And I hope to get them on the website so they can get more involved in more episodes and such. But, so that’s why it’s completely tailored.
Cause I know that a guest will like, Oh, I want to be on that website. Right. I want that big photo when it’s shared. I want that to look like that. and I think the same thing as a restaurant is you gotta think about like, what is your customer flow like and your own website? Like you said, you own that flow.
You own that process because you’re. You said a couple of other things, there are two of, you know, you spend all this time designing all your different rooms and, you know, making sure people go through this certain they walk a certain way. They pass the, you know, if you’re a high end restaurant, they would pass all the wines and stuff.
The same thing for your website. Think about that flow, how they go through it, how they’re going to feel right. and also what do you want them to do? Cause I see too many restaurant websites that just want to look pretty, but then like, I’m like, where’s your menu? How do I do a reservation? Like I don’t need to see, you know, don’t give me a big video that I can’t click on anything.
Right. You know, give me something like, let me do what I want to do right away. But anyway, I’ll let you continue. I forgot what I want you to interrupt. I’m happy that you’re do interrupt because that gets me. I mean, if there’s one book that I always recommend at StoryBrand by Donald Miller and he talks about if you confuse you lose.
So he talks specifically about the storytelling. But storytelling in a manner where we are attention merchants. So when you come to our website, we’re a BBQ media company. We for, we have a blog, we have a daily blog. We have a podcast, we have YouTube channel, but when you’re coming to our website, chances are you’re coming for barbecue.
So if you come to our mobile first website, if you go to Cali bbq.media, it says buy barbecue. That’s it. Like, there’s not about where we are. All the accolades, none of that. It’s by barbecue order for pickup order for delivery, free peach cobbler. If you sign up for our email and that’s it, if you want more, you can go podcast episodes.
That’s a different landing page. Blog is a different landing page, but don’t make it hard for people to do what you need them to do, which is we’re an e-commerce business right now. We’re driving. All of our sales, if not a majority of our sales, we’re doing some consulting work, but as a media company, we’re producing media content, like the journey for the person that’s coming to the restaurant.
That’s ordering barbecue here in San Diego. I’m trying to figure out how do I get barbecue? Barbecue sauce, all kinds of different barbecue products, drop, shipped to different parts of the world for all the people that are listening to our podcast. But that’s like inside for me, but back to, if you confuse, you lose, so make it sexy, make it easy and make it memorable if it’s memorable.
And if it’s easy, people will come back in the order again. Completely a great. So what, so, w let’s let’s pivot a little bit to your, your digital, business or whatever. Yeah. I mean, your digital experience, your digital business. What is your what’s, what’s the, what’s the game plan there? What’s the five-year goal for that company?
I mean, do you want that to be something where you’re helping in consulting for a large amount of people locally, internationally? Like what, what’s kind of some thoughts there? The biggest thing is I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, and I think, you know, one of the greatest gifts that I can give is to teach other people what Dr.
Haskell taught my grandfather. And that’s that, that curiosity, but also the action behind the curiosity. So teaching digital storytelling and breaking it down to having more access, because the more kids that learn how to read, the more kids are going to have opportunities outside of that village. The more people that understand that there’s this digital world, this game within the game that’s happening.
and that’s by producing content, you, you only produce content and we break it down. Like I said before, it’s audio, it’s video, it’s written words and it’s images. Like when you think about it like that, and you don’t think about the algorithm and how does Instagram work and how does Instagram stories work and what do I post on Tik TOK?
Or I don’t know what I’m supposed to post on LinkedIn, you know, as a restaurant or as a restaurant owner, or what’s the difference in the brand? Like the only reason we know about all that stuff is because we started a long time ago and every single day we went down that path of staying curious, but then getting involved and then asking for help.
And developing deeper relationships and consuming content of people that inspired us to do better by looking at what they did. So, you know, for the five-year goal is to continue to work with small business owners, medium-sized businesses to do consulting work, to really empower, not just CEOs to do it themselves, but to empower entire marketing teams.
Because the more teams that we talk to, you know, through the restaurant hospitality space and the tech space, Technology companies have grown so fast, but they need content too. They need content to help their sales team. So what kind of content are they producing? Are they just producing, you know, a photo for Instagram and then checking the box saying, Hey, we like, is that actually driving sales?
No, you need to create compelling content of another restaurant owner using this technology. That’s actually helping them and get it, make it in a way that’s shareable that some other restaurant owner goes, Hey, I was thinking about that. Maybe I should follow what’s some tips and tricks to create content.
What’s some stuff that you’ve, that’s helped you create some stuff. cause it’s always so hard, right? You get in front of the camera or for the computer writes out and then it’s like, ah, you know, what, what, what what’s helped you guys, create a content on a regular basis? I think number one is mindset.
number one is the fear and. Fear of getting out of your own way of posting online, I think is something that’s real. And we need to talk about, because you don’t need an iPhone to do it. You don’t need an Android to do it. Having a smartphone is really all you need, whether it’s an iPhone or Android, like you need to use the camera app.
And you need to go live, you know, record a video that’s less than a minute or take photos and then learn how to take more photos and learn how to take more videos, but not be afraid. What, what fascinates me is how many people are so passionate founders of what they do, what they’re creating, how they’re going to create it.
Having these team meetings, these board meetings, these executive meetings, talking about all these incredible ideas, but there’s no documentation of those ideas. You know, the amount of time before coronavirus that people would spend to go to conferences, the amount of money that they would spend to go to conferences to get great education, but to put their business in front of key clients, key demographics.
But nobody’s recording that content for podcasts, content for video content, for blog content, people are blogging every single day, except they’re blogging on Instagram. That’s it like? Why aren’t you blogging on your website first and then repurposing that on, on Instagram. People are blogging on Facebook.
They’re producing content for Facebook, but they’re not thinking about the internet. Like, Oh, we’ll actually have a brand and my brand needs to have a voice. And the founder is always the one that can tell the story of the best, you know, it’s we always want to outsource that story to somebody else. And my fear when we first started getting local media opportunities for TV and for radio was.
What if the, what if the host, what if the TV host, what if the anchor comes out to the backlot and they asked me a question about barbecue and I look like an idiot because I’m not the barbecue guy. Jean’s our barbecue guy. We learned how to do barbecue by learning from him. Do I know how to do barbecue?
Absolutely. But I’m not, I’m not the go-to guy. He’s the expert, but nobody knows the Kelly barbecue media story like I do. And once I got over that, You just learn, you do reps. I mean, it’s the same thing that you, if you watch master class or if you watch, I mean, any great person that’s done anything of significance.
they all do it by learning their craft and every single day, the more reps that you do, you know, Mamba mentality, Kobe Bryant is somebody that has had a profound impact on me and on the court. But it’s, it’s understanding that you have to do what no one else is willing to do. And that’s doing the work actually posting.
So let’s, let’s say that you get your mindset, right. And, and you you’ve, you’ve done it plenty of times. So you’re feeling decent. Is there any, like, do you create a content calendar or is there any things that you actually do kind of on a routine basis that would help people? So, yeah, that gets, so the real transition for us, what I like to say is.
We were doing digital marketing, meaning we were learning how to promote our own brand. We were learning how to use our smartphone to post on social media, doing digital marketing, talking about ourselves. Once we started doing digital media, it was not about ourselves. It was about. Everybody else. It was about the story.
It was about the podcast guest. It was about the village. It was about the charity. It was about the vendor relationship. It was about why we’re picking this product, why we’re using this product. So it became less about us. And it became more about why are we using the service? Why are we using this product?
And that becomes into document documenting, you know, you’re learning these skills and these tools and you realize, well, we have all these incredible partners that we love to do business with. But we’ve never even learned about their business or how did they grow their business? You know, how does a linen company get more restaurant clients?
I don’t know. Maybe I should have that conversation with my sales rep, with their regional manager, with their CEO, the podcast allowed us to do that. So the podcasts back to a content calendar, the podcast became our North star of content. We knew that every week, no matter what we were going to produce a podcast.
That podcast was going to be audio. First, later we added video, but then we added show notes, which became a blog. we have Ian Stonebrook from Austin that takes the show notes from the transcription from Trent. And we’ve repurposed that into a blog, but we wouldn’t have learn how to do this. If we weren’t focused on.
Being storytellers and being storytellers and learning and being practitioners understanding how do we do it and how do we learn how to do it better. And also, how do we ask for help? I mean, the amount of different people that we’ve leaned on that have made us better at Instagram, better at Facebook, better at creating videos for self cell phone videos, people that were podcasters going to podcast conferences, subscribing to email newsletters that gave us industry insight on why people are.
You know why podcasters are now producing video content and produce publishing and on YouTube? Well, it turns out a lot of people listen to podcasts on YouTube. That’s why and how have you measured success? Right. And I know that the media game is a little bit of longer tail, right? And you mentioned some numbers early on, but how has this actually affected your business?
Because I think somebody listening be like, great. I know I need to do that. No, I need to do that. But sometimes they actually, you know, if they hear how it’s actually changed your business or helped your business, maybe that will push them forward. Right. Well, I mean the, the number one thing I can tell you is our focus on digital has allowed us to pivot during coronavirus to operate three times more profitable than we ever have as a full service restaurant.
So if that doesn’t tell me all the facts that I need to know about digital, we never wanted to open up another full service restaurant because I knew it was going to cost me, you know, three quarters of a million, $1 million to go raise money, to go down to a very low margin result. Why? Because we invest in hospitality.
We spend a lot of money to make sure we don’t put that sign. Please see, please, please see yourself. We, the reason why we don’t use that sign very early on, we realized our restaurant was built in a way that. If someone came in, there’s so many rooms in the restaurant, they would just get ignored. So Eric, my general manager and I very early on said, we’re always going to pay for a host to be upfront.
We invested to have a host upfront. But that made us forward-thinking in hospitality that made us care about the, every single step of that consumer’s journey. That customer’s path through our restaurant, outside of our restaurant, how they park, how they’re greeted in the parking lot by our security or our parking support staff on fight night, you know, all of those things led us to offline treating our business one way, but then online understanding that that same thing needs to happen.
You take yourself back, you know, cause you were going to be, you’re gonna go and wanting to be a doctor and all that or lawyer or whatever it was apologies. But, go back to your high school days or even college. What, what, what advice would you give yourself back then that you know now? Right.
So the it’s funny, the, the, the best advice that I would give to myself is to listen to the signs. So listen to the things, those, Oh, shit moments where I remember God, it had to have been, I don’t know, sixth grade when the first teacher told me that I had to learn how to use a computer to type up a report, you know?
And I was like, I don’t need to do that. Like, I don’t need to learn how to type, like, no, you’re going to have to learn how to, like the computer’s not going anywhere. You’re going to need to learn how to type. So like, that’s like a first aha moment. And then, you know, you go further down the line of how quick technology has changed, just, you know, in my life, the more that I look at it and analyze it and go, Oh shit, you know?
Wow. I was already. I care about technology. I’m not a technologist. I’m not a, I don’t have an it background. I’m not an engineer. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m using it. I’m consuming it. And how is it impacting who I am and what I’m doing and what I’m consuming? there’s never been a time where we’re, we’re, we’re building on the backs of giants.
I mean, in the last 20 years, the companies, the last 30 years, the companies that have been built, I mean, we’re just in the beginning of this game. We’re so much opportunity has get, is going to get created. And especially with COVID with all the, you know, businesses closing, but there’s never been a time for content creators for people that are writers for people that are in photography, videographers, people that love to speak people that have good business ideas to share those ideas online.
And the problem is we’re all, we’re all obsessed with the viral video, right? You want to make the video and you want to go viral. And you think that that all the business is going to come because of that, you know, ocean spray tech talk video, that’s phenomenal. You know, ocean spray, Tik TOK video, if you haven’t seen it, you know, Google it and you’ll see all the best marketing brands, ad agencies, all talking this case study about why, what they’re doing, what ocean spray did with this tick TOK video, was so impactful.
But the point is. That’s just the start. They need to keep doing that. They need to keep leaning in. Like, that’s just one, one thing that happens. And if I look at my path all along the way throughout high school, throughout college, I mean, when we were running the restaurant, Adam Harris. Who I talked about before the CEO of cloud beds, you know, he ran a, a digital agency where he helped, restaurants, California restaurant association, people here in San Diego, you know, all the significant restaurant groups.
He helped them with their website. And I told him that I was trying to figure out a way to update our website for fight night. You know, if many pack yells fighting Floyd Mayweather, I need that updated on our website and I would email our webmaster and then he would email me back two days later and it wouldn’t be the right information or any what I would need to update it.
And like all that time I’m learning. I’m, I’m losing search engine optimization. So when somebody is searching for fight night in San Diego, they’re not going to find me on the first page because of my inability to update the content at speed. So, what did I do? I went to him. I said, well, how can you help me?
He goes, I’m going to teach you something. I’m going to teach you that any platform, no matter what it is, if it’s not easy enough for the end user to use themselves, it will not last. And it won’t exist. I’m going to put you on WordPress and I’m going to teach you how to update the website yourself, like an OSHA empowering moment where I go in somebody that has no computer background.
You know, back in whatever this was 2010, and he’s telling me, this is how you update the website. This is how you update the photo. This is how you update the caption. This is how you hyperlink, you know, the link to the tickets. Like that was part of my education in a way that I never thought as a restaurant owner, I would have to be learning how to do that.
But now that I know how to do it, 10 years later, I know a lot more. And I also know that I can’t learn it all. I need to have people like Kyle who’s part of our Kelly barbecue media team that actually has a company that builds webs. I need to lean on him because it’s all moving too fast. You know, it’s moving too fast.
One thing that’s great about that is you understood how it was. You have an understanding of the platform now, though, like you didn’t have to be an expert, but. Knowing 10% is Oh, mile from knowing 0%, right. Of how, how websites works and how to update them. And I’m a big fan of that. You know, let, let the web map, you know, the web team or whatever, and the closer you can get to your web team the better, but let them do the big stuff, but you gotta have somebody internally be able to do the basic updates, changing out a photo, throwing some texts up, doing a blog post cause those, and those are getting easier all the time.
So what’s one of your favorite memories of running your restaurant? it’s funny. I actually just posted today, a picture of my wife. So my wife went through naturalization process, my wife’s Bulgarian, and she became a us citizen in 2016. And 2016, we were heavily involved in a group called save our bolts, which was trying to keep our San Diego chargers here in San Diego, trying to work with local politicians, the mayor to pass a measure, a measure C which would help us fund through tourist taxes, a stadium in downtown San Diego so that the chargers would be able to play.
And stay here. we started a challenge called the San Diego love letter challenge, which was a hashtag, essentially asking charger fans, San Diego fans, NFL fans, to write a love letter to Dean Spanos and to, the mayor asked telling them why it’s important for them not to leave. we got a lot of local media traction, but more importantly is I was able to establish relationships with different charger fan groups.
So these diehard charger fan groups who we are one, we’re a chargers bar. We built the bar for charger fans, season ticket holder, you know, tailgating four hours before kickoff. And in the second date, I took my wife to a charger game so that she knew how crazy I was and how, you know, tailgating was a part of our life.
And. What we were able to do through the, save our bolts through these relationships with bolt pride and all these different other charger fan groups was essentially create a movement, you know, a movement on digital as well as in-person of why we cared about our team. the night of the election in 2016, most people know where they were, when Trump was elected.
and I don’t care what your politics are, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We know where we were and we were hosting a, save our bolts party, at our restaurant with over 300 charger fans with four local news stations with two news stations from Los Angeles, all covering the result of measure C, which we lost.
It was 43%, 43% voted. Yes. And the rest voted. No. So as everyone knows, it’s the Los Angeles chargers. We lost the team, but nonetheless, to have all of those fans there to be the one location. For two cities for San Diego and for Los Angeles where all the media was to cover this event. I mean, that was digital hospitality and its finest.
That was us participating in the story, being part of the story, doing, getting involved, even though, you know, what was our involvement like actually, can we actually. You know, convince the NFL. No, we can’t convince the NFL. Like that’s a game, that’s a game that’s so deep. And so, you know that we can’t impact, but we can also be part of the story.
It wasn’t, we didn’t sit on the sidelines and go, Oh, well, that’s, you know, that just happened. And what happened because of that, a lot of incredible things. We develop relationships with people at NFL network at ESPN on San Diego sports radio. we were able to cater for the chargers. I mean, literally get a check to pay, pay for barbecue, to feed Antonio Gates and Joey Bosa barbecue at this, that, the practice facility.
I mean, we would have donated that for free, but we actually got checks, you know, at least four different times, you know, over $25,000 in money from the NFL chargers and most. Small businesses, most barbecue restaurants. They don’t have a relationship with an NFL franchise. There’s only 32 of them. we were fortunate to put ourselves on the map and to do something of significance.
And we still to this day, I mean, we even have, San Diego fans that want us to close our restaurant because we continue to support the Los Angeles chargers. But. Well, what you’ve got to kind of love that, but you know, of course not, but you know, that’s, that’s a lot of fun. I love it. So what does success look like for you?
Success? Yes, for me, looks like, one of my favorite words is occupy and AGA pay is in Greek is unconditional love. getting back to who I am as a man, who I am as a husband, who I am as a father. who has M as a leader, as a friend, those are things that drive me every single day to be a little bit better, to work on digital storytelling.
And if I’m doing the things that I think I should be doing, which most people have told me and a lot of people along the way that I love and respect and admire told me, what the fuck are you doing? Why are you opening up a restaurant in spring Valley, 2008? You’re crazy. What barbecue restaurant. You can’t do that.
You can’t go all in on barbecue. That’s a terrible idea. Like what are you doing with the chargers? Save our bolts. Come on. You’re you look ridiculous. Why are you posting that on, on all these different social platforms, but now 13 years later, friends that I respect admire that are making significant amounts of money that have significant impact in different industries.
They’re asking us for digital storytelling advice. They’re asking us, how do they do a better, how can we work with their marketing teams to make it easier, make it more compelling? and that’s really exciting for me. And my last question I end every podcast with this is how would you like to be remembered?
Forever a friend, somebody that true friendship does win. It’s not always, yes. True friendship is when you’re willing to question somebody and you always want the best. So supporting somebody when their wagon is heavy, and helping them pull that wagon is very important, but also challenging them. I want people to remember me as somebody that.
When they talked to them, they remembered it. When we talked, it was inspirational. when we talked and made them think differently and hopefully that led to some sort of different action that made a positive impact, you know, on their life, on who they are as a husband or as a wife or as a father, as a mother.
And, you know, that’s a high standard. but I don’t think there’s really any other way. My grandfather gave me the greatest gift. Of all time and that’s this endless curiosity to know that, you know, no matter what work we’re doing, whether it’s in barbecue or hospitality or media or marketing, always be curious, knowing that what we know today, we’re not going to know tomorrow and we need to be a little bit better.
every single day, if we’re, if we’re a little bit better, we’re willing to ask for help. we’re willing to admit when we’re wrong. I think the world will be a better place if we all can do that. I love it. Well, Sean, thank you so much for being on the establishing your empire podcast. This is a great episode for restaurant owners, but also just for small business owners or somebody who wanting to get.
More in depth into the world that we currently live in. You know, you got to get digital. Otherwise it’s going to be a tough road. So I really appreciate you being on the shelf, Darren. I can’t can’t thank you enough. Sincerely. if anybody’s in San Diego and they listened to this podcast, you have a VIP tour.
If you hit me up. On any of the social channels. If you tweeted me, Sean P well-check, I’ll give you a VIP tour, free cobbler, a copy of my grandfather’s book. but yeah, it’s all about getting involved. So. You keep on. Sorry to cut you off again. You just keep talking about the cobbler. I, man, that gives me like fond memories of camping.
I was grew up a boy scout and we would make cobbler and this, you know, cast iron big old thing. And I’m like, ah, that might have to sit there and, break that back, you know, try to make one again. Well, once, once I figured out how to, how to deliver it, to the standards that we want, we’ll be mailing it out to you.
I’ll give you your beta beta testers to send it on my way. Cheers, Sean. Thank you so much. Appreciate you.