Restaurants have big costs and small margins. That's one of the reasons so many of them fail. Having an easy way to track the bottom line is just as important as offering a stellar menu and a welcoming atmosphere. Just ask Rick Montoya of Ox & Fin in Eugene, Oregon.
On paper the eatery has all the right components for success. A focus on preparing meat and seafood with Italian values in mind, means their ingredients are always fresh, often local, and unfailingly delicious. Montoya and his wife Betsy, the restaurant's general manager, hire every member of the waitstaff personally to make sure they have exceptional customer service skills. They've worked hard to create a space that is “cool but not pretentious.”
Still, 2014 marks the first year the restaurant has come close to breaking even. The reason for what Montoya calls “a remarkable turnaround” is an increased focus on running the business like a business – including paying more attention to the numbers. For that, Montoya has found LivePlan's Scoreboard feature incredibly valuable. “It's so easy to take a quick look at what's going on at the restaurant,” he says. “Since we started running on financial metrics we've done a lot better.”
Until six years ago Montoya's closest connection to the food industry was a dad who was a chef. “I have no skills from him whatsoever,” he notes. For nearly 20 years he worked for States Industries, a hardwood paneling manufacturing business owned by his step-mother's family. His position as Vice-President of Sales required him to travel most months out of the year, usually with company president (and his step-mother), Diane. Because she was a “real foodie”, she insisted on eating at the finest restaurants wherever they went. Over time Montoya developed a keen sense of what makes for a good restaurant.
Until six years ago Montoya’s closest connection to the food industry was a dad who was a chef.
Montoya left States Industries to start his own consulting firm in 2008. He wasn't traveling as much and finally had time to eat out and experience life in Eugene. He was at his favorite wine bar one night, enjoying time with friends and perhaps a little too much to drink, when he looked at an empty storefront and said, “I ought to open a restaurant over there.”
He wasn't serious, but the rumor mill took off. A couple of days later one of his wife's friends called and wanted to know when she could make a reservation at his restaurant. That was all it took to get the wheels turning. He had some money he wanted to invest in something, and a restaurant seemed like a good idea. He was introduced to a well-known local chef and started talking through some ideas.