We had the good fortune of connecting with Jason Graman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jason, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
Tenacity and Adaptability have helped me overcome and face many challenges in my career. While many moments in leadership you find that you have to embody quick decision making skills that show your strength and knowledge to your team. You also have to demonstrate the ability to adapt to fluid moments that require a completely different set of objective decision making. The willingness to learn is part of this process, not giving up and adjusting to new sets of data points.
When we first launched our Brand, we had a name that was too cute and cheeky, we launched as B. Frank & Relish (and we were not trying to be a hotdog joint). We wanted a Brand that engaged and created conversation. We had a difficult time gaining traction with this name. The Brand had evolved from the early days of development on paper and once we opened the doors we did not come full circle with making sure the Brand Name connected to the Brand Experience. Eighteen months later and our willingness to adapt, we changed the name to Fork & Fire (nothing else changed about the concept changed). Instantly, the tone and tenor of the Brand resonated with Guests and within a few weeks we were exceeding prior revenues by more than 125%. The ability to adapt to the Guests feedback and to objectively say, this is not working was a catalyst to the necessary change that the Brand needed.
What should our readers know about your business?
Fork & Fire is a casual boutique restaurant that focuses intensely on the protein; grilling over a real wood-fired grill and finding the absolute best proteins available in the industry. In our services format, we like to dance just below fine-dining, in what we call “fine-causal”. Our menu is approachable for the entire family, founded in a principle of appealing strongly to the female demographic, as we believe the women in our lives make the best decisions when it comes to eating healthy. Our revenue rivals some of the industry’s elite at over $1,100 annualized revenue per square foot. We developed a cocktail that truly changed our position in the market place and puts a spin on a classic drink. It has helped to position us in the top 40 restaurants in Plano for Alcohol Revenue, while we are also the smallest restaurant in this class at just 2,230 square feet.
The TequilaTini is the drink we developed, where we grill an orange on our 650 degree grill combine fresh squeezed lime, a splash of agave and choice of over 50+ tequilas. The drink is served in a martini glass with large block of ice and accompanied by a sidecar shaker. The TequilaTini demonstrates our approach to the Brand Experience; it touches on unique, quality, visual and audio experience and the Guest’s interaction with the shaking of the sidecar shaker.
Of course launching a new Brand is no small undertaking. We had our challenges in the first eighteen months. Most notable was the staffing. We are located in the center of a massive population growth, here in Plano, Texas just down the street from where Toyota, Northwestern Mutual, Fedex Office, Chase and many other companies have recently relocated. With the rapid influx came about 70 new restaurants within a one mile radius, all within 18 months of each other, with huge development projects from Jerry Jone’s Star Complex to Legacy West. Opening in 2018, prior to Covid, this put a strain on the talent-pool for both the kitchen and server staff. The greatest lesson I learned from this painful staffing process was the inherit need to find quality staff over quantity. It sounds simple enough, but harder in practice. The secret that I will tell you– is, it can rest in just one person to make this critical pivot. I call it the Dom-factor, because of one employee named Dom who helped me make a critical pivot in my business. The Dom-factor can be anyone. And you just need one. The quality that you must find in at least one of your employees is someone who cares and someone who reflects the vision of your Brand. If you empower this individual with the ability to assist you, the odds are they will. And from that moment Dom attracted other Dom’s and so our staffing began to grow, in quantity and quality.
From this place we were able to focus on the Brand and its values. For about two months we saw substantial growth and then a few months later we would be hit by Covid, at the peek of our resurrection. The next chapter was another recovery struggle with Covid and all the challenges of staffing and supply chain issues, but the irony and silver lining for us was we had already learned how to survive in chaos and we had already learned how to overcome adversity– and so the fight carried on and that is why Tenacity and Adaptability are so crucial to a Brand’s survival. Rising out of Covid the Brand continued to excel as we saw growth that has taken us to where we are now.
Fork & Fire is as much a part of my struggles in life as it is my struggles in business and I think the Brand now reflects and embodies that vigor– that fight. Fork & Fire.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Plano, Texas. The Burbs of Dallas. Where the big chains used to rule the land and have left a lasting impression on the local palate which, thankfully, is slowing changing to explore the new and emerging restaurant choices. In some ways I think, west Plano is the epicenter for the restaurant explosion that will define the restaurant landscape here in Dallas for the next few decades.
This is where I live and the places I enjoy. Coming from Los Angeles I constantly seek out unique and inspiring cuisine, mostly, sushi or asian influenced. Yutaka Sushi Bistro is one of the best in Dallas. Tei-An another amazing restaurant in Dallas. Back to the burbs and it is Kyodai. While most people who have never visited Dallas would think this is the barbecue capital of the world, I think the barbecue culture here is too diverse to represent any one style. Barbecue here in Dallas is more about the smoke than the sauce. Places like Pecan Lodge and Hard Eight lead the pack of must go to places. While Dallas proper is where you find the inspiring new flavors and influences from Austin and the West Coast, the burbs are starting to change their palate alignment to newer inspiring flavors.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A few people who have either influenced my growth or directly helped me achieve my goals.
Greg Goyne, an account manager at a Brand Agency we were once using gave me a book that told the stories of some of the most iconic Brand’s and the relevance to their “Brand Promise”. This was my first formal introduction to the concept of a Brand being an individual being; of sorts, with a voice, a texture and a promise that delivered on a culture. From this point I started looking at the holistic meaning of a Brand and the principles it sets out to influence or deliver upon.
Craig Faggen and Ivan Faggen, who along with helping me launch Fork & Fire; both inspired me with their work ethic, business mindset and sharp sense of directing and understanding business challenges in real time.