Friday, November 28, 2008

What's in a name?

What's in a name? Well for a retail establishment , I'm going to call it very important. During the taste testing someone asked, "What are you going to name this place?" I replied "Lake's Kitchen."

For me, I know who Lake is. She's my Mom and everything that that embodies. So if someone were to say to me, that place is like Lake's Kitchen, I can picture what the place would look like, I know the smells, and I already have expectations of what the food will taste like. My point being, other than my family and some friends, no one else will know what Lake's Kitchen is and that is exactly the point that my friends made to me.

When they heard the name, Lake's Kitchen, they thought of a diner, like Mama's Cafe here in Houston. We tossed some names around like Lake's My Thai, which I liked for awhile. I also considered Lake's Rice Bowl, as there is a place in Bakersfield called something similar and it works for them. In the end, Lake's My Thai sounded too gimicky for me and Lake's Rice Bowl was too narrow of a name for me. Obviously, "Lake" will be part of the name.

I agreed with my friends in that I needed to be more specific with the name of the place and at the same time I didn't want to limit my self too much. As you can see, I am 99% sure I will be going with, "Lake's Kitchen: A Thai Eatery". The 1% unsure, is because one has to stay flexible in business; change is the only constant. That sounds all knowledgable, wise and sage-like. Heh, I didn't make that up so, I must have read that somewhere.

Here are some of the other names I was thinking of:
  • Lake's: A Thai Kitchen -this one is still in the running
  • Lake's Kitchen: A Thai Cafe - I decided I didn't care for the word "Cafe". Cafe and Thai doesn't seem to go together.
  • Lake's: A Thai Cafe
  • Lake's My Thai - too gimicky
I ended up really liking the word "Eatery". For the foodie in me, it conjures up a place that is authentic, has home cooking and is family owned. I imagine recipes that have been handed down through generations, so much so, that there are no recipes. The cooks in the family just know how to make them. This is exactly how it is when my Mom cooks. No recipes or books, just my Mom, a sharp knife, a heating element and food.

In addition to that, Eatery, doesn't limit me on what should go on a menu. I do plan to introduce a few other dishes that my Mom has cooked. Maybe on a limited basis, maybe as a permanent menu item. Hopefully, when someone reads, Lake's Kitchen: A Thai Eatery, it will correctly set their expectations.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Market Research

My Mom was in town over the last 10 days. While she was here, I had her teach me how to make the items that I will eventually be selling. In addition to that, I had a bunch of friends over to do a taste test. I didn't tell anyone that this was a taste test or that I planned to start a business selling these dishes.

We cooked standard white rice. The way my Mom has always cooked it and of course the way I like it. The rise is moist unlike most of the dry rice you get at a Chinese food place. I'm not saying the dryer rice is bad, it is just different.

Next we cooked spicy chicken, then spicy ham and then spicy Pak Boong (Chinese Spinach). We didn't cook the spring rolls until my friends arrived, we wanted them to be crispy.

As far as I could tell, everyone really liked the food. Everyone that was present can handle spicy so none of them thought the food was too spicy. My plan was to offer both a mild and a spicy version anyway. I wasn't sure how well the Pak Boong would do, but it rounded of the dish well. The (not so) surprising hit was were the spring rolls.

I had an open discussion with my Mom and a couple of the friends that lingered. I asked their thoughts and what they thought of the whole idea and also for advice. The discussion mostly centered about what the "meal" i.e. the meal deal, would be and how much it should cost.

My initial plan was to have the meal be rice topped with meat and a drink for $7 and that's it. After the discussion and with the way I served the meal to my friends I think I will go with this:

Rice topped with either (chicken or ham) and pak boong will be the rice bowl. This will be $6.50 including tax. Customers can make it a "meal deal" by getting a drink (canned soda or bottle of water) and a spring roll and it will be $8.00 including tax. I think this is a fair price and we talked about the food costs and the numbers seem to "line up" i.e. covers costs and nets a profit.

There was also talk of a vegetarian version, but I'll hold off on that because I want to keep this thing as simple as possible. I know it is a niche market and when it happens, the vegetarians will be some of my most loyal customers.

Like I've said in my other posts too, this will be a boot strap operation, starting very small at a flea market "weekend only" venture. I have plenty more work to do, like deciding on which equipment I want to buy vs. what I need, I STILL need to check out the venues, but I've found some good information on 3 different places, plus I need to cook these dishes myself and find out how much I can actually have prepared before they are cooked. I think all of the prep work will be key when I first start selling these rice bowls.

I've also decided that I will take the jump and actually DO instead of just plan and talk about it in March. The last weekend in March will be my dead line to BE at venue selling my rice bowls.