Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Foreign Creatures

Snociety: Ending this Project of Ours

restaurantJessicaComment
Project1.jpg

March 30 will be our last day of owning a restaurant. Aaron and I are so grateful for this opportunity and for the support from our family and friends. And we are very very happy with this decision! It's almost bittersweet but more sweet. It's like 75% sweet (that's a boba joke).

There are so many things I still want to share and that will just have to be saved for later even after Snociety no longer exists. Our shop had a lease of 3 years, we have been here for a year and a half. We had to make a decision to renew the lease or just stop Snociety late last year since our lease ends this March. Here are 2 reasons (in very short explanation even though it's really not) why we have decided to close shop. In all of this, we don't regret owning a restaurant at all.

  1. Difficulty in the Future
    1. We've had to learn how to run a business in every aspect - financial, payroll, inventory, operations, management, marketing, and like everything else you would do in a company but just in a smaller scale. I enjoyed being the hr and being the boss but can I keep doing this for another year or 3 (per agreement based on lease)? Probably not considering our current lifestyle and future dreams.
    2. Increase in food/labor - fish prices are increasing and minimum wage is increasing ($15/hour by 2020). It's already hard enough to sustain what we have currently. I never raised the price on the food or drinks since we took over. As a consumer, I didn't like that move. So I tried my best to offset the cost elsewhere. Aaron and I were putting in over 80 hours a weeks combined at the shop while still having our other jobs. God has really given us strength to endure the labor. We needed to be there physically for financial reasons as explained in point 3.
    3. Fees everywhere - besides labor, food, and rent costs, there are so many costs that keep popping up everywhere! Workmen's comp, merchant costs, CC fees, LADWP, internet, business renewal tax, equipments, insurance, like how is this possible. The only way we make money is if people buy food/drinks. So a percentage of what you pay is divided among all the things I just listed and more. As a business owner, please consider that when you pay for your next meal. It's tough. Also, cash is everyone's best friend. Those CC fees kill.
    4. People - I've been hiding so many feelings inside. When a customer gets mad, I have to accept it. When an employee gets mad, I can't just say what I want to say. There are so many labor laws to follow and the "right" thing to say and do to not get in trouble. The government is on the employees side. I don't feel supported as an employer in California. That's right! Unsupported and no slack. Little Tokyo can be great at times but we've also had homeless people problems in our area. We didn't want to deal with that anymore.
  2. Time to Move On
    1. Owning a restaurant or shop is and was one of our dreams. Not necessarily poke but boba all the way. We feel grateful that we got to say we owned a restaurant in our lifetime. But this was never our dream. We took over the restaurant from someone else. We feel like we were continuing the previous owners' dream. We still got to live part of our dream but we would love to be able to have a shop more east, with a clean slate, with a better drink menu, and designed to how we want it to be. We were constricted by that here because of cost and time. We were already trying to learn how to run a business that we didn't feel like it was the right time to make it completely ours. I'm happy with our decision because it was the best thing we could do for ourselves.
    2. Family - we're still waiting on adoption and we hope we can have a child this year or the next. It's hard to say when, but it would be extremely difficult for us to have a child and own a restaurant at the same time. One of the main reasons why we wanted Snociety was to distract us while we waited to be matched with a baby. It certainly worked and we were very distracted. But our main goal is still to have a family and focus on that. Family is our main dream. A restaurant is not.

I've been counting down the days and I am thrilled to have done this project and to move on to something new. We've been asked what we are going to do after Snociety ends. We still have our normal jobs and we want to start a new project. But in the month of April and June we are going to rest, refocus, and do fun stuff! More on that to come.

Snociety: Weekly Schedule

restaurantJessicaComment
2017-11-17 13.05.17.jpg

Something I really want to share is how we run the business while doing everything else we do. Other than Snociety, the other biggest things on our plate are church-related things, Aaron's full-time job, my part-time job, and family/friend life. It took us a long time to figure out how to balance everything we do. There are definitely days when I feel like it's too much for us and when I feel like I just need to sit.

I learned that the best thing for my schedule is to allot time for each thing. I allot work hours for my part-time job, freelance work, relaxing, watching TV, and etc. A benefit is that I can concentrate on the task at hand without distractions. It also reduces my stress and helps me balance my time. You will see this clearly on Wednesdays when I schedule everything Snociety-related. I try to be strategic. So on Tuesdays I create a shopping list of all the food items to buy on Wednesday to last us until the following Wednesday.

Monday

  • Every other Monday I collect timecards

Tuesday

  • Make a shopping list of what I need to buy or what I need to ask our vendor to ship on Wednesday

Wednesday (Depending on what we need, I may or may not have to go to all the markets. This would be the order I do things as well. Geographically it makes sense too)

  • One West Bank - exchange money, get coins
  • Restaurant Depot - where I get most of our produce items
  • Chinese Market - where I get only a few of our produce items
  • NT Foods - where I get bulk items of paper products and drink ingredients
  • Costco/Costco Business - where I get most of our paper products, office supplies, and kitchen supplies
  • Input receipts to Quicken - after shopping in the morning I make note on each receipt on how much I spent in each category (food, paper products, office supplies, etc) then input it into Quicken. Organizing our finances is another big subject that deserves its own blog post.
  • Count cash money from the previous Wednesday to Tuesday - I count a weeks worth of money that we receive per day from the register and make sure the cash on hand matches the cash that Clover records. If it does not, then we have to go to our camera feed to see if anyone stole any money.
  • Input Cash to Quicken - after counting the cash sales, I input the amount into Quicken as one transaction
  • Input CC to Quicken - I go into Clover and input every days' credit card sales into a separate transaction. So that means I would input 7 deposited transactions every Wednesday into our checking account.
  • Input Chow Now to Quicken - this is our online ordering application. Every day we get a disbursement of our earnings and I would input the amount of sales into our Quicken on the days we get online sales.
  • Reconcile cash - after counting all our cash on hand, I make sure the cash I have in our safe, registers, and cash register drawer equal the amount of cash recorded in our Quicken account. It's always the best to make sure cash on hand matches the cash on record.
  • Put money in cash drawer - I put change into one of our locked drawers at the shop in case the registers are running low on smaller bills or coins. Every week I would exchange large bills in the drawer for smaller bills. On days other than Wednesdays, if the register is running low on smaller bills, I would exchange it for the small bills we have in the locked drawer.
  • Schedule - I try to schedule employees 2 weeks in advance. Some weeks it may be hard to schedule 2 weeks in advance because we're going thru transitions of new employees, holidays, and availability change. This is the day I use to make sure schedules are out and that our employees are good with their shifts.
  • Payroll - I do this every other week since our payroll is bi-weekly. I would count our employees hours and tips and then send it to our bookkeeper. She'll do her thing and send me the checks to print myself  when she's done; which is normally the day after.
  • Order from vendors - I would text a couple of our vendors for shipment of fish and other items on this day. Normally they would deliver the next day or on the coming Friday.
  • Shopping list - I double check if I'm missing any items that needs to be bought on Wednesdays. With over 200 items in our inventory, I can miss a few things on my Tuesday's shopping list.
  • Print invoices - we don't get many invoices via email because most of our invoices arrive when our vendors make the actual fish shipment. But some of our vendors will email us the paperwork.
  • Sauce - we have 6 sauces for our poke bowls. 5 of them I have to make and they are top secret. So this is the day I like to make it and then I have the employees help me bottle them. The yuzu sauce is my favorite to make because it's the easiest :)
2017-11-29 11.05.05.jpg

This photo doesn't do justice on how full my car could get.

Thursday

  • Nothing but monitoring the shop if I'm not there

Friday

  • Print schedule - 2 days is enough time for our employees to get back to me on their schedule. There are usually a couple of changes and shift changes but by Friday, I am ready to print the schedule to put on our office wall for all our employees to see.
  • Print payroll - when it's payroll time, I would print our employees' checks in the office and give it to them. This is their happy day and my sad day.
  • Put money in cash drawer - even though I do this Wednesday, I like to make sure our cash drawer is stocked in case we get super busy on the weekends and everyone pays in cash. **credit cards really sucks for employers...

Saturday

  • Nothing but monitoring the shop if I'm not there

Sunday

  • Farmer's Market - this is near our church so we go after our Sunday service. We like to get some of our produce (lemons, cucumber, etc) here because it's cheaper!
  • Restaurant Depot - we pick up rice here because it's near our church as well and because they have rice in stock. In the Pasadena location, they don't always have it. Plus, Aaron can help me lift the 50 lbs. bag of rice :)

More or less this is what my weekly schedule looks like. I try to do everything while Aaron is at his full-time job so when we do have time together, we don't have mounds of errands to run. I hope that was interesting to read and I hope you got a glimpse of how we run the shop!

Diamond Bar Center Wedding

design, weddingJessica1 Comment
James and Rachel Wedding Suite2.jpg

Rachel and I were roommates in college and I was so happy she asked me to design her and James' invites! Unlike all the other invitations I've done, they wanted all colors on their wedding stationery. Their wedding theme was basically the rainbow and I loved it. I did the watercolor effect and writing on my iPad then designed it on a 11x17 layout. The information and RSVP was included into one sheet with a tear off for the RSVP section. It was then folded into either a coral or blue envelope from Paper Source.

James-and-Rachel-Wedding-Suite8.jpg

When actually designing and prepping invitations, I rarely take progress photos. Although these photos don't say much, here are some "progress" photos. I loved how the colors turned out. I printed it on my Canon printer and used my industrial cutter to cut 100 pages at a time. I love the efficiency of it. Unfortunately, I have no photos of the folded invites.

James and Rachel Wedding Suite4.jpg
James and Rachel Wedding Suite5.JPG
James and Rachel Wedding Suite6.JPG

Here's what the first draft looked like when I sent it to the couple. It certainly gives off a different feeling huh?

James-and-Rachel-Wedding-Suite7.jpg
James and Rachel Wedding Suite3.jpg

Photography by Ivan Chen Photography

Snociety: Tools I Use to Run the Business

restaurantJessicaComment

It took us about 5 months to get a hold of running the administration side of Snociety and figuring out what works best for our business. It's important for us to stay on track of things and stay organized and the following tools help us do that!

POS (Point of sale) - Clover: We continued using Clover for our register system because the previous owner had used them as well. It was also easier to transfer the necessary finances and documents from the same company. We have 2 registers, 2 register printers, and 1 kitchen printer.

Loyalty Program - Digital Loyalty: We started off with Five Stars but decided this wasn't the best way to reward our customers. It cost us $300/month to use Five Stars and we didn't think it was good for us to spend that money on a loyalty program so we decided to switch to Digital Loyal Zoo. Our tier cost $64/month and it was already integrated into our POS. Customers will give us their phone number and their order would be attached to their account. I liked Digital Loyal Zoo because it automatically gave our customers points per every dollar they spent whereas Five Stars we had to manually put in their points. Another pro is that we were able to integrate our loyalty program with our online ordering system, ChowNow. It took awhile to let our customers know that their reward points were still available and have been transferred to our new reward system but overall, I am very pleased with our decision.

Finances - Quicken: We input all income and expenses that go from our checking and credit card accounts. We also use it to keep track our daily sales, how much we pay our vendors, keep track of payroll, and anything else dealing with money. This is also helpful to keep a record of where our money goes and to export a cash flow report at the end of the month. We use Quicken every day to track our personal expenses as well. This app is vital in running our business!

Scheduling - Home Base: I started off using Excel for scheduling but wanted something that was easier to access on the go and that was just easier overall. Home Base is also integrated with Clover so that was another pro. It took time getting used to scheduling employees with this program but it's a lot more user-friendly and it only takes me about 20 minutes to schedule employees now. After I finish the schedule, I text our employees their schedule for approval. After they approve or let us know their changes, the schedule is fixed. If they can't make their shift they'll have to find their own replacement. I try to schedule our employees 2 weeks in advance but it can be hard because employees are hired/quit/fired and availability changes very often.

Payroll - Google Excel: Our employees use a time punch card when their shift starts and ends. Every 2 weeks I'll input the time into Google Excel and then rewrite it in military time. I have a formula that will add up all the hours. Then I give that number to our bookkeeper who will then calculate the tax and whatever else she does. Then she'll send the payroll check to us and we'll print it on our own computer on special paper.

Payroll.jpg

Inventory - Microsoft Excel: At the end of every month I'll walk around our store and mark exactly how many of each item we have. For the fish, I have to weigh each piece for inventory to make sure our cost is correct. We have 230 items in our inventory so you can imagine how long it takes us to do inventory at the end of the month. One thing we try to do to avoid counting so much is just not buying so much items towards the end of the month. In order to do that, I have to observe our inventory trend and be smart on when to shop and how much to shop for. After I add up everything, I'll save out the sheet for my dad to calculate our inventory cost for the month.

Inventory.jpg

Announcements/News - Google Doc: We have about 8-10 employees at a time. Since we don't work every day and our employees' schedules vary, we have to find a way to communicate Snociety news and updates to our employees fast. So we found the best way to do that is to write them a letter and to print it and leave it in their punch card slot. If it's super important, we'll make sure to talk to each employee in person.

Website - Squarespace: We use Squarespace for our personal blog and we love it. It's easy to set up and their designs are modern and user-friendly.

Online Ordering - Chow Now: We've looked at many different online ordering systems and we chose Chow Now because they charge a set fee per month whereas other companies charge a percentage of your sale. We also liked how their online ordering system was easy to use and they even give us a free app on mobile devices for customers to order from. They used to have a delivery option via Uber but they are no longer on contract with them so that's a bummer for us.

These are all the main tools we use. Some other important tools we use include Swann View (video recording and live camera), Yelp, and Evernote. I hope this gives you a glimpse of what we use to run a business like ours. I say that because every business requires different tools. And depending on how broad of a business you are, the more tools you will use.

Hidden Oaks Wedding

design, weddingJessica1 Comment
17636883_10154349829131611_2034091414135572484_o.jpg

This wedding was at Hidden Oaks Retreat Center and it was so beautiful despite it raining the majority of the night. Terence and Elsie still looked so joyous and so happy. They wanted their invites to have an illustration of themselves and to look fun yet delicate.

Elsie-andTerence-Wedding-Suite.jpg
2017-04-03 23.42.02.jpg

Funny story...after I finished painting their big welcome signage (below), I realized I spelled "Terence's" name "Terrence". I just died at that point. So I threw a 2 minute fit, got over it, turned the paper over and redid the whole thing. LIFE.

2017-04-03 23.42.10.jpg
2017-04-03 23.43.12.jpg

My first lettering on a donut wall. No mess ups allowed here. I had to measure and space out their names and the "Donut for each other" text on the bottom before painting the white directly on the board.

2017-04-03 23.44.29.jpg

Photography by Image is Found

Snociety: FAQ

restaurantJessica2 Comments
 Photo by Ed and Al.

Photo by Ed and Al.

 Photo by Ed and Al.

Photo by Ed and Al.

It's been a year since we've started running Snociety and I can't believe it's been a year. We've started it not knowing a thing about running a food and drink shop and now it is part of our daily routine. It's still a huge challenge and we're still learning a lot. Here are some frequently asked questions since starting this business.

  1. Do you still drink boba? 
    • Short answer: Yes

    • Long answer: I believe every boba shop makes their boba differently. Some places make their boba chewier while other make their boba softer. At Snociety, we make our boba on the chewier side. However, my favorite boba is at Cha for Tea. They make their boba chewy but not as hard as ours. I want to know how they do it!

  2. How's business? 
    • Short answer: It's good. It's busy during weekday lunch and slower at night and weekends.

    • Long answer: It fluctuates and is hard to predict. Weekday lunch is where we get most of our business. Weekday nights are tougher. We're currently transitioning our hours and closing 1 hour earlier on weekdays to help offset the cost. When there are events in our area, we get more traffic. We're hidden so it's a bit harder for people to find us.

  3. Do you eat poke everyday?  
    • Short answer: No.

    • Long answer: The first couple of months I ate it almost every day. In the beginning, we had kitchen staff problems so I would be the kitchen staff for the day and would cut the fish (tuna, salmon, albacore, etc). After cutting so much fish I couldn't eat salmon anymore. It was only salmon though. It was so weird. But if I forced myself to eat salmon, it tasted so good! However, we ate ayce sushi at least 3x already. I think it's the idea of eating it at OUR shop that stops me from wanting to eat so much. I never got sick from eating it. I just don't like to eat raw fish as often as before. I can still eat our cooked fish (squid, baby octopus, shrimp) though.

  4. How do you like being a business owner?
    • Short answer: It's fun! Challenging but fun.

    • Long answer: I love owning a business. BUT problems never stop. When I think we got everything handled and smoothed out, something comes up. In another post I'll be sharing all the problems we've run into. That will be a fun post to read! I would love to keep owning a restaurant or some shop of sort. Owning a shop just naturally comes with so many problems. There's no running away from it, it's just something you have to face, suck it up, and power thru.

  5. How many employees do you have?
    • Short answer: We have 12. [that's a lot!] No, it's okay.

    • Long answer: We have about 4 or 5 employees who work during the daytime, and 3 employees who work at night. Considering that we open 7 days a week and everyone's schedule changes and there are call-offs, 12 (not including Aaron and I) is a good number of employees to have.

  6. You're not working today? Who's watching the shop?
    • Short answer: No, we have employees who are taking care of the shop.

    • Long answer: I am always working. Even if we are not physically at the shop, we are always monitoring the cameras, communicating with our employees, and monitoring the finances to see if it's busy or not. Even though we are a small business, we would not be able to run the business without employees. We would burn out easily and wouldn't be able to continue. I also allocate a day where I do all my grocery shopping, finances, payroll, scheduling, and admin stuff. I'll be sharing my weekly schedule in another blog post. So stay tuned for that.

If you have any other questions feel free to ask me. I love to talk about business. I don't freely talk about it in public because I don't think people are interested. There are so many details and challenges so I think the best way for me to share them is thru this blog.

Snociety: Introducing New Items

restaurantJessicaComment

It's fun to own a shop because I'm constantly thinking of ways to improve and thinking of new items to sell. Selling items is easier when you already have an establishment (since it's already legal for you to sell things) but I learned that there's more to it than just printing a new item on your menu. Here are 6 questions I ask myself before including a new item to our menu. 

  1. Is the item consistent with your current menu?
    If my shop mainly sells poke, that means I'm not going to sell steak, omelets, curry, or tapas...I'm going to sell something in the theme of Hawaiian. It needs to make sense. If it doesn't make sense, then customers are going to question the type of restaurant you are and the quality of your food.
  2. What do I need to make the item?
    It's important to list out all the ingredients you need to make the item. If it requires a lot of ingredients, is it worth it?
  3. How difficult is it to source the ingredients?
    Am I going to get the ingredients at one of my current vendors or one of the places I normally shop at? Or will I have to find a new source? If I find a new source, is it worth the trouble? Does my new vendor have a minimum shipping fee? If I currently carry the ingredients, then that's perfect.
  4. Where do I store the items?
    A big thing at our shop is storage. I have to shop twice a week for our produce items because of our limited storage. Is there storage space for the ingredients and for the new items? If not, does that mean I have to cut some inventory items and shop more than twice a week?
  5. How much does it cost us and how much do we charge?
    This is an important question. We have to calculate the ingredient cost and the labor cost (the amount of time to make the item x wage), and see how much our competitors are charging. Then we come up with a price. If both ingredient and labor costs are high, but your pricing is low because you want to stay competitive, then it's probably not a good idea to sell your item.
  6. How do I advertise?
    When we are ready to include the new item to our menu, we have to make sure our menu is updated on all platforms. That includes our physical handout menu, our stand up menu, our online ordering platform, and our website. To promote your item, try selling it as a promotional item. Like "buy 2, get 1 free". Once customers notice your item and start asking about it more often, then you can sell your item at a normal price. Just make sure you're still making a profit during your promotional offer.   

These questions applied to us when we started to sell spam musubis. They were consistent with our Hawaiian menu. We needed rice, furikake, spam, roasted seaweed sheets, sauce. Out of all the ingredients, we only needed to buy spam and roasted seaweed sheets and those items were found at our current vendors. Since the items were small, we found storage for it. Our kitchen staff would make it in the morning and once it was sold out, then that would be it for the day. We decided that it was profitable only if it was sold in limited quantity. We didn't sell our spam musubi on our online ordering platform because it was limited quantity a day but we did put it on all our other platforms.

We also did this for our poke shrimp tacos. We sold them for a couple of months but in the end it wasn't for us.. It made a profit and it tasted good, but it wasn't worth the trouble to make.

It's easy for people to suggest things for you to sell but you have to think is it worth it for you and for your business? You can think it's easy to sell a lot of items because you can make a bigger profit, but there's a lot of other things to factor in that people may not see. You don't want to overwhelm your customers with too many options to choose from. Stick with what you're good at and maybe think about selling items seasonally instead of permanently.