Lessons Learned From a Pandemic: pivots, culture, data and more

Michelin rated restaurateur, Josh Kopel of Preux and Proper in Los Angeles, recently joined the Wicked Tasty Podcast for a wide-ranging interview centered around pandemic pivots and the importance of running a culture first, data driven restaurant. This is a summary of the key points from the interview which can be heard in its entirety below or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

About Josh Kopel

Josh Kopel was forced to close his Michelin rated restaurant Preux and Proper during the coronavirus pandemic, filing for unemployment for the first time in his life at the age of 40 with a wife and child at home. Money at his business had always been tight despite having massive top line sales at his thriving downtown L.A. establishment. When COVID-19 hit the company could not afford the economic blow and was forced to close its doors for good in August 2020.

Josh set out to learn from his mistakes and by speaking with the industries brightest minds like Jon Taffer, Jet Tila and Andrew Zimmern on his show, the FULL COMP podcast.

Building a strong base

For anyone looking to open a new restaurant or concept, product market fit is the first task to tackle. Josh shares how important it is to make sure there is demand for your concept in the market you are planning to open.

“The most successful restaurants don’t get busy over time, they are busy from day one.”

In the podcast this conversation starts at 8:45

The new normal

2020 showed the importance of having a diversified revenue stream. Prior to COVID-19, most restaurants saw 85% or more of their revenue come from in-house dining. In the post-pandemic world, Josh sees a shift in the business model for restaurants. Restaurants will rely less on in-house dining and more on alternate revenue sources like grocery, parcooking, delivery, retail and virtual experiences.

“People want to support local restaurants, but they are not going to eat with you every single week. You got to give them a reason to come back.”

In the podcast this conversation starts at 14:25

The big lie

Many restauranteurs have been led to believe they operate different than any other industry, which Josh say is the big lie.

“When you look at the highest level of our industry, the ones who are outperforming everyone else, they’re business people. They love the culinary arts… but they’re running their businesses according to the same rules as Fortune 500 businesses run their businesses.”

In the podcast this concept starts at 22:35

Culture & creating core values

Running your restaurant or business according to a set of values allows leadership teams to guide their employees instead of manage their employees. Josh said he only hired based on his 6 core values and had regular check-ins with his staff to ensure everyone remained moving in the same direction.

"The difference between management and leadership is a destination."

In the podcast this concept starts at 24:20

Driving decisions with data

Data is king in 2021. Restauranteurs are sitting on troves of data and need to ensure they are using it effectively to ensure long-term success. Josh says the best operators are constantly obsessing over data.

"We must become data driven concepts, where we are looking at our data every single day."

In the podcast this concept starts at 32:10