Loud banging on the door, a blue light flashing in the driveway, and shouts of “N.Y.P.D.!”
“Sergeant Pepper-oni with your pizza, perps.”
“New York Pizza Delivers” is one of my earliest conceptualizations — a decadeslong creative burn. It evolved in response to a shortage of great New York-style pizza options — my “life sentence” since fleeing my home state over 35 years ago.
I remain committed to ultimately launching the “right” next restaurant brand — now more than ever — as our workforce seemingly changes at the speed of light. But the “Kool-Aid” being consumed by politicians asserting that systemic economic disparity will be solved by further burdening small restaurants is a column for another day.
Back to that delicious pizza, with its accompanying bright orange get-out-of-bad-pizza-jail-free ‘citation’ (coupon) and a badge for the kids. A location strategy? Place each unit near a super successful, thicker-crust Sal’s Pizza. Sal would love that! Maybe he’d even want to partner-up. This cheesy concept got all but tossed after driving in southern Florida and happening upon “my” N.Y.P.D. logo and “New York Pizza Deli” … a creative “titch” from my own. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.
Restaurant conceptualization keeps me awake, wakes me up at 4 a.m., and consumes this churning mind. Twitchy lips and fingers directing an invisible band, calculating, while friends and family look on with concern. I have entertained and bored them forever.
While perpetually evolving my two current restaurants, I have spent maybe that entire time envisioning the next, thus far failing to move beyond the business plan, the “big picture,” and theoretical thematic menus — while having visited dozens of potential sites. The search continues.
Originally inspired by Manhattan’s uber-funky and now defunct Avenue A Sushi, my “Wok and Roll” concept suffered a similar fate. Someone else executed an actual version with that very name years ago. My Asian-esque sushi-meets-rock-and-roll mojo would have featured low lights, pop nudes on the walls, and staff wearing sleek blue jeans and designer T-shirts. Adios, kimonos!
Not to be confused with “Adios, Pantalones,” a clever Cobblestones margarita inspired by a former beloved employee. Nicki had a tricky relationship with Jose Cuervo back in the day. The ensuing vision for a tequila and taco kiosk was renamed “Jose Taco Loco” — fun, creative tacos paired with muchas tropicales tequila drinks. This one, too, remains archived — unfinished, unfunded, unfulfilled.
“I’m going to challenge you, Scott” said RealFood owner and charismatic consultant Ed Doyle during a recent phone conference. “Stop writing menus.” Ken, our director of operations, smiled in agreement. He, my hyper-focused “yang,” implored: “Gotta narrow it down, man.” (I have hired both to apply the discipline that eludes me — to get that pie delivered!)
I agreed to their premise, mumbling my understanding and consent. But on the inside I suppressed the anxiety that often accompanies painful self-awareness. The nature of things. Birds fly. Fish swim. (Have I mentioned my “Top of the Line” concept for the new train station?)
Ed: “I’d like us to focus on the operational model and delivering the excellence you seek with reduced staffing.” (Mr. Potato Head and Love Me Tender are my ideas for side-by-side Salisbury Beach kiosks, consolidating fixed costs and management!)
Ken: “Let’s start with the ideal number of employees and some payroll projections.” (Cornerstone, Millstone, Stones Kitchen.)
Ten years have gone by since we opened our last concept. My number one smartest and hardest critic says, “Why don’t we just open another Moonstones?” Psh. Too easy. What fun is that! A brand new concept provides brand new problems to solve. My M.O. Beyond location, lease and finding new managers to grow with our brand, new design, fresh recipes and new service innovations need to be strategized.
Ken wants to see a pro forma. (Cure on Main, Skinny Vinny’s,
5 and Dine.) Ed has an investor and distribution plan. (Red Dot, Kith and Kin, Scotty’s Big Deck … I woke up like this.)
“Hey guys, what do you want me to focus on?”
“Scotty, you find investors.” (Stones Tavern, Stones Social, Stones Social Kitchen and Tavern …)
If you’re reading this, unafraid, thinking, “What fun!” … if you have money for investment with better than average returns … if you fancy progressive pie-in-the-sky restaurant themes without jumping into the dish room anytime soon …
Let’s meet up, get a Sal’s pizza and talk it over. Reach out at Splath@moonstones110.com. I’ll be up.
Scott Plath, along with his wife Kathleen, owns Cobblestones of Lowell and moonstones, in Chelmsford, Mass. Scott possesses a deep well of humorous and insightful stories, which are available on this website.