CH: When did you open your first restaurant? How did you know you were ready to own and not just work for someone else?
Jason Dady: We opened The Lodge in 2001; Bin 555 was next. I went to Dallas and cooked and thought I could do it on my own [in San Antonio]. Naively, thought we could do it. We thought this was an interesting market, where we could get roots started at a young age.
CH: What was the deal? How did you get the money? Do you have partners?
JD: I got a small business loan with my wife and brother.
CH: Tell me about your concepts?
JD: Bin 555 was the first place to get small plates; we opened Tre because you couldn't get fresh pasta. Now, we do 300 pounds of fresh pasta a week.
CH: How has the San Antonio market changed since you opened The Lodge?
JD: We changed this city. There was no wine bar. There was no place doing tasting menus. We need boundaries to keep being pushed. The growth that’s happened in the last five years is awesome, and it’s bringing in forward-thinking diners. The only downside there are so many places opening up. The labor pool is getting thinner. Cooking is the easy part.
CH: What are your top three tips for running successful restaurants?
1. Take care of your staff.
2. Watch the bottom line.
3. Understand that your job is to inspire people every day.
CH: Do you want to conquer the city or maintain your empire?
JD: I want to solidify our place as a restaurant group in San Antonio.
CH: What was a frustration in the early days?
JD: I’d say, don't have kids until you're established as a chef.
CH: Did you have a mentor for your development?
JD: As a chef, yes. But not really as a restaurateur. I look up to Danny Meyer.
CH: Was there a point when you grew too fast?
JD: It's easy when you become successful to tap on the breaks. What's made us successful is slow growth. My wife still does everything. She’s the accountant and business keeper; she also does marketing.
CH: How many opportunities do you review per month?
JD: We get pitched five times a week by people who want us to look into opportunities. If you start to listen, offers happen. But right now, we’re concentrated on wrapping up what we’ve done and shifting energy to upscale casual concepts. Guests are dining and they want to be inspired with a better value. People want to spend $25 per person and feel the same way they do when they spend $70 per person.