Opening a restaurant is one of the most foolish business endeavors a person could ever make, at least based on the statistics.
About 60% of all restaurants will fail within their very first year of opening, and 80% fail within the first five years. With a failure rate like that, it’s all the more impressive that Andrea Ciavardini has opened 11 restaurants so far — and counting.
Ciavardini, who now serves as general manager and managing partner of the popular downtown Italian restaurant Jianna, is using that experience to start a somewhat different venture. Alongside Jianna Chef and Owner Michael Kramer, the duo have just launched TBG Hospitality Group, a new restaurant consulting services agency, which they will run in addition to Jianna.
“I’ve been told many times over the years from people that they think our job is cool, being in the restaurant industry,” Ciavardini said. “But people don’t really realize what really goes on behind the scenes, the long hours, the days when you get in at 10 in the morning and don’t leave until 11 at night.”
Some restaurants will fail due to obvious reasons, the fault of an owner who dove into the venture without proper experience or preparation.
“People enter into it thinking it’s going to be fun, I’ll get to feed my friends, have parties, blah blah blah,” Kramer said. “But you got to treat it as a business every day. Try to have fun, sure. Drink some wine. Try different foods. Meet great people. But at the end of the day, it’s still a business.”
While incompetent owners account for some percentage of restaurant failures, far more establishments will fail simply due to the sheer pressure of the business, according to Ciavardini and Kramer.
“We both get phone calls all the time from random people in the industry, not just here in Greenville but across the Southeast, asking for advice on something as small as how we keep inventory numbers, how much the servers tip out the bar staff — small things, but also big things, too,” Ciavardini said.
That’s what they aim to alleviate through TBG Hospitality Group (the name stands for “tomatoes, basil and garlic,” the three primary ingredients in Jianna’s signature pasta dish). The venture will prepare new and existing hospitality concepts for success, while catering its services to each individual owner’s core philosophy, values and goals.
The obvious comparison is the reality TV trend of successful chefs giving major makeovers to failing restaurants, but in practice TBG Hospitality Group is more nuanced — and far less bombastic.
To make a more food-centric comparison, the hospitality group offers both full-service and a’la carte options.
“It could be something small, like having us design your menu or help with the interior space,” Ciavardini said. “We can assist with things like what oven to get, for example. Or writing up a wine list. Or maybe you might want to open up your accounting books and get help with that.”
Because the hospitality group is backed up by the Jianna team, the Jianna staff can also be utilized. Servers can help with staff training. The bar manager Drew Breen can help with cocktail creations. Travel options are available to visit restaurants outside of the Greenville market. All options are “on the table,” literally and figuratively, Ciavardini said.
“Understanding the nitty gritty details is very important and key,” she said. “The goal is to be able to offer a broad perspective along with handling the day to day aspects that keep the business running.”