Thursday, September 6, 2012

The $35k Brunch

In my previous blog posts, I wrote all about my early years as a restaurant owner and my financial struggles and desperate measures to try and make a buck. I told you about how I redefined the restaurant and turned things around.  One of my tactics to bring in revenue was to do brunch. This proved to be unsuccessful in regards to bringing in a plethora of new customers but it was a success in a totally unexpected way.

Brunch brought in two guests who quickly became weekly regulars. Most Sundays on their walk back from church, “Mr and Mrs. X” would stop in for brunch. On most Sundays they were the only ones who stopped in for brunch. They seemed like a very kind couple and were always very upbeat and positive.

I became close enough with this couple -- or maybe I just so badly wanted someone to be honest with. When they asked how things were going, I started openly telling them the truth. Each week they would come back, sit in an empty dining room and I would give them more details about our financial struggle.

What happened next was one of the kindest gestures of stupidity I have ever encountered. Mr. X stopped in one day and told me that he and Mrs. X were going to give us a loan. He told me to get together a list of the most pressing debts. He had no idea the journey he was about to embark on and everyone (I mean everyone) told him he was eFFn’ nuts to even considered helping us out. It was a total pay it forward move, they knew the immense risk and, for whatever reason, they had more faith in us than anyone else. They believed we were a sincere couple who would work hard to get them their money back and they really wanted help.  During a recent conversation, Mr. X said he was just tired of hearing my weekly whimpering at his breakfast table. But, I don’t believe this.

After going back and forth with a list of the most pressing financial issues and keeping a bunch of skeletons hidden in the closet, he gave me a check for $35,000 and an interest-only loan agreement. Over the years he has worked with us when we couldn’t pay the interest payment and even loaned us additional monies as those skeletons came out of the closet.  Like proud parents, Mr. & Mrs. X love showing off the place to friends and family

Over the last few years we were able to start paying principle and interest and slowly have reduced the loan. Looking back I feel this kind gesture was instrumental in my success today. Not because it kept the lights on, lawsuits at bay and the taxes paid. But also because of the generosity and trust this couple put in my wife and me and our vision. Failing was not an option; I could not and would not let these people down. I still work hard every day, with this loan in mind, and I will forever be indebted to this couple…long after the principle and interest is paid off.


  1. Do you think Mr. and Mrs. X were crazy? Have you paid it forward or had someone pay it forward for you?

  2. Dear Chef John. I came across your blog by chance, but I found it amusing, passionate and honest. I own an Italian restaurant in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. I think you can only appreciate the hard work involved when you have walked the walk. We have a successful restaurant, but you always feel that you are just one step away from failure. I think it is amazing that this couple invested in you, but to be honest your passion shines through, so I am not surprised. My son and I run the restaurant so it is a family business, but my husband who is an engineer helps out when he can. I must admit he is an unwilling victim and I sometimes wonder why his stays with us. The highs and lows of the restaurant trade is magnified twice over and sometimes we all feel overwhelmed, but it is those special moments that carry us through. The celebrations, the joy we see on peoples faces, the make-ups and break-ups that happen in front of your very eyes. It is really a living soap opera and an addictive mix.

    1. Goeordie couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for reading and commenting. ~ Chef John

  3. Chef John, What a heartwarming story. Its a pleasure to read of the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. X extended to you. A refreshing reminder that there are caring people in the world with good souls and positive intentions. I will be eating at your restaurant for the first time Thursday night for dinner and look forward to the experience! Allison

  4. WOW! That is pretty incredible - not many people walk around with a mentality to pay it forward.

    When you hear this kind of story you almost expect a happy ending. The sincerity of the slow but coming happy ending is great. Would love to see a follow-up post on this.

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