Monday, October 11, 2010

Building A Brand

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet." -- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Coming up with a name for our restaurant was much more difficult than we thought. We had lots of ideas but were afraid to commit to something. After all a restaurant's name says a lot about it... or does it? When looking at names of other prominent fast-casual restaurants, I struggled to find any that stood out as exceptionally deep or meaningful. Chipotle is a type of jalapeño pepper used in Mexican cuisine. Così comes from the Mozart opera Così Fan Tutte, which was a favorite of the founder. Who knows what Pei Wei, Quiznos, or Qdoba even mean? While the name seemed important, we quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to make or break our concept.

Still we wanted to come up with something unique, exciting, and relevant to our cuisine. A preliminary decision we made was to exclude the word Kabob from the name. Even though kabobs are going to be the core product, we didn't want to limit the scope of the menu. We also didn't want the name to scream Middle Eastern. We shot down lots of ideas before getting to Saffron Grill. Kabob Kafe, Tahini, Kismat, Skewers, Kaboom -- sorry Azam :) We also did a competitive analysis to make sure we were differentiating ourselves from our key competitors - Roti Mediterranean Grill, Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, Pita Pit, Maoz Vegetarian, etc. Ultimately we liked Saffron, a suggestion from our friend Wren, and added the Grill to highlight the healthiness of our product. Saffron is a rare spice often used in Persian cuisine and is generally associated with high-quality, premium foods. Yet it comes from all over the world much like kabobs so it seemed like a great fit.

There was just one problem. The name Saffron Grill is not as unique as we had hoped. A quick Google search unveils several restaurants by the same name and similar variations. Most of them are sit-down Indian restaurants offering fine dining. We knew we had to come up with something a bit edgier to build the right brand, not to mention a unique name for which we could secure national trademark registration. After several brainstorming sessions we came up with something we are really excited about. We worked with our graphic designer to knock down a logo that represents the concept. Some of you may remember the preliminary draft (pictured above) from the survey you took a few months back. Well today, we're proud to present a preview of the new name and logo to you all today... introducing Zaffron! What do you think?


Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Dream Deferred

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” --Anonymous

Hey folks – first off, sorry it’s been so long since we’ve published a post. There has been a lot going on personally and professionally but we promise to do a better job of keeping you guys in the loop moving forward.

So August, 13th was my last day in Boston. That’s right, as planned I left my old firm to move down to Philadelphia to officially immerse myself in this next phase of the journey. For those keeping track the plan was to leave Advent and then hopefully in a couple of months be up and running with our first store on Temple University’s campus… well that was the plan. Unfortunately, as I’ve come to learn the hard way, seldom do things go according to plan :)

A bit of history, on June 8th we signed the lease for an awesome retail spot on Temple’s campus. Signing that 50-page legal agreement that I had spent countless hours reviewing was exhilarating and terrifying. We were prepared to take the next step. Unfortunately as it turns out, the landlord had different plans. As you may remember from the last post, the spot is an existing restaurant and we were assured delivery of the space within 30 days. A month passed and we were told that the eviction process was taking more time than expected but that we would get the space very soon. We waited patiently but a month later the landlord finally conceded that they weren’t going to give us the space. It turns out the tenant had cured their lease by paying up the money they owed and our lease was void.

I was devastated to say the least. I received this news one week before I was leaving Advent to move down to Philly full-time. Imagine the worst setback you’ve ever faced… you probably cried… well that’s how I felt. I’m a man so it’s hard to confess in a public forum that I cried, but I’ll admit there were a few tears running down my cheeks after that phone call. When you’re starting a business all you have is your hope, dreams and aspirations. Every time I closed my eyes I dreamed of our first store at that space… I imagined being the next big thing on Temple’s campus and Saffron Grill becoming the go-to spot for students. In a heartbeat the dream vanished.

I learned a lot from this experience. For one, I realized that you can’t trust everyone in the real estate business. I should have realized that something was off when the landlord never sent me a countersigned copy of the lease document nor cashed in my security deposit! I also learned that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. As soon as we had signed this lease, we stopped searching for other properties assuming everything would work out just fine. This set our timeline back a few months as we had to start from scratch… again.

Nevertheless, I knew I had to continue to push forward and get over this hurdle. I held onto my faith that everything happens for a reason and channeled all my energy towards finding a new space. Time was of the essence now that I was leaving the Advent payroll. My broker and I have since been on the prowl and soon enough we’re going to make something happen!