Flower Child

Each month with our monthly newsletter, Hot Button Issues, we do a community profile on a small business or a restaurant that follows our passions of health, fitness, and just small business in the community. This month it’s Flower Child and we're here with Kenny, the General Manager. We are excited about this interview today to know Flower Child a little more, get to know some small business tips that have made this team and this brand successful in a brand-new market in the United States. But also for the small business owners out there, what are some tips you can take for the future to learn from this. Enjoy the interview, and if you want to get to know more about our community page, check it out on the about us on our website. We interview a different company or a different person or a hero that we believe is really special, doing awesome things in the community each week. If you could nominate someone, let us know we'd love to interview. Check out the newsletter and enjoy this awesome interview.

Alright so, Kenny, tell us a little bit about why we're here today.

Well I guess I lucked out that you came in and tried some of our great food here at Flower Child and fell in love with it. You told me a little bit about your community outreach that you do with the law firm and I think that's pretty amazing that you do something like that, when really you probably don't have to. So it's pretty cool to have you guys come in, and want to sit down and talk to me, and learn a little bit more about what we do here at Flower Child.

Thanks man. Yeah, so I started coming here probably about a year and a half, two years ago, or about a year ago. Right when you first opened.

Sure, and we opened last March, so a little bit over a year.

Little over a year, and I remember, I came here with my dad the week that y'all were in training, and we've been here pretty much every month since. I can't think of a month that we haven't been over here, so this has been fantastic and it's great healthy food. So, what I want to know today is I want to kind of talk about Flower Child, from where did this idea come from?

So, we're part of Fox Restaurant Concepts and Sam Fox started Fox Restaurant Concepts back in the late 90s. Kind of started with one concept out there in Tucson, called Wildflower, it's still there. And over the years, he's developed a number of great concepts, True Foods Kitchen being one of them. True foods was part of Fox restaurant concepts until last October and it was sold off. I think in that process, amongst a bunch of other concepts that Sam's developing, True Foods kind of spun off into this Flower Child brand. Obviously, True Foods is a little bit different than us, little bit more of a sit down, full service restaurant, where Flower Child just kind of fills the niche of people wanting to eat healthy but in a fast pace, grab and go environment, pretty much. So that's where Flower Child really kind of fills that void and it's been a really big success over the last four years, five years since they built the first Flower Child, off the top of my head I don't know exactly when the first one was built. This past year, Flower Child was recognized by Nation's Restaurant News as the hot new concept for the year, so we received that award and people love us, man. It's really kind of cool to be part of a brand that people love your food, they love the concept. Again, here in Dallas, we've been really fortunate to do very well and be very successful. I have families coming in here that live in different parts of the city fighting each other for where the next Flower Child location is gonna be.

And there is gonna be a potential second one in DFW?  

From what they say, I have yet to see exactly where they're gonna put it. So, if I had that information I'd definitely share it with you, because there's a lot of people anticipating where it’s going to be. I think in the next three, four years, you'll probably see several more of these throughout DFW. I think that they could probably put one downtown, we could put one in Plano-Frisco area, we could put one probably in the South Lake, Grape Vine area, North Dallas could sustain one as well. Dallas has been good to us and we could continue to build these out, probably six of them in the area and probably not cannibalize each other’s' sales.

Definitely. I was amazed as you were that we came here at what? Two o'clock? And this place is packed.

Still going.

So tell us a little bit about the layout and why you opened up the kitchen, so that the community can see what's going on back there, tell us a little bit about that.

I think what it's really about is, we don't have anything to hide. I think that's really what's all about eating great food is, so many restaurants that it's behind, they call it back of the house for a reason, because it's kind of hidden behind the scenes and they don't want you to see it. For us, we don't have anything to hide. In this building here at Flower Child, we don't have a freezer, we don't have a fryer, and we don't have a microwave. Its food prepped fresh every day, that's kind of one of the cool things about the prep island that we showcase a lot of our prep crew, because that's the hard work that goes in to really making this brand successful and making us successful on a day to day basis. It's the prep team and the crew that we have that come in here that really kind of bust their butts for us and make it all happen. As I was telling you earlier before we jumped on camera, we're getting fresh produce in seven days a week, it's pretty large produce orders and we're prepping daily and making it happen. We're roasting veggies, our prep team's here at 6:30 in the morning and we open at 11. A lot of time that food that we're prepping that morning is pretty much being consumed that day. So there's not really too much stuff that you're gonna see here in Flower Child that's sitting on the shelf for two, three, even four days.

That's awesome. Really organic stuff and vegan, you can kind of hit a lot of different niche food tastes but also allergies, tell us a little bit about that.

So, food allergies obviously are a big deal and have become more prevalent over the last probably 20 years or so. Obviously, gluten-free, gluten intolerance is a big deal, nut allergies, beyond that even preference of dietary things. Some people are trying to do the whole 30 diet, that one is kind of a new one as well. Obviously, veganism, vegetarianism is gaining popularity. So, I think for us, and really for the guests that have all these, whether it be an allergy or a dietary preference, whatever it may be. I think all too often in the restaurant business, I've been in the business for about 25 years now, at one time people like that were almost viewed as kind of a burden. They would come in and if you were a vegetarian, you may get some raw veggies on a plate. It just seemed like they weren't really getting good food and really being taken care of in a hospitable way. I think that's what Flower Child does is embrace those people and embrace that, and as long as you let us know what restrictions you have, we'll work around it to the best of our ability. It may take a few extra minutes to make it happen for you, to get it exactly right, but we're willing to do it as long as you're willing to kind of give us the opportunity and wait it out, we'll make it happen.

And you're one of the few restaurants that really doesn't rely on a bar to make it.

No, we do sell a little bit of beer and wine here, that's probably 1% of our sales a week, everything else is all food. That's where that prep team and that kitchen team really comes into play. I think a lot of restaurateurs that'll come in and kind of see just the sheer amount of people we have working think, "Wow, how are you guys sustaining this labor?" Well we have to have it to process all the fresh veggies, and produce, and fruits, and everything that would kind of go into our menu. It just takes time to make it happen. Luckily for us, like I said, I mean we've been really fortunate with the sales we do here in Dallas, that help not only sustain the business itself but still sustain all of our staff as well, because I mean we employ quite a few people and without them we wouldn't be where we are, and it allows us to put money in their pockets as well and give back a little bit.

Yep. Well that's awesome because I'm the same way with how we run our law firm. We're team based and we're community based, and one of the big things that I keep hearing from you is team. I want to know for small business owners out there, for people that want to be employed by a great team environment, what's the trick for y'all? What do you look for in hiring? Tell us about some of your team.

I think hiring is always tough, and there's no exact science to it. I think when you're hiring people, I'm just looking to hire a good individual. I don't worry too much about your experience, of course great experience is a plus. I just want to have a good feeling when I'm sitting across the table from somebody. Are they a good person? I think we all kind of have that initial vibe as we meet with people in our daily lives. That you meet somebody and you just have a good vibe about somebody, and you're like, "I could see myself hanging with this individual," or, "I could see myself working alongside them," and as I interview people and kind of talking to my managers about interviews, it's all about the feel. This is inevitably somebody that's gonna be working with you and working beside you. I think that's one thing at Flower Child, even being the general manager, of course I'm responsible for the financial part of it all, but really, I just enjoy getting out here and being part of the team. I'm not above doing anything that any of my staff are doing. I'm out here busing tables, and running food, and talking to guests, and if I need to do something to the restroom to keep it clean, I'm gonna do that as well. That's all part of building a good team, kind of leading by example so to say. That's really kind of what we do here. It's a lead by example deal, we've got the management team here, it's myself and three other front of the house managers, and then the chef team, we have an executive chef and three sous chefs under him. So, it definitely takes some man power to really keep this business running, but we've got kind of a well-rounded team with people from all walks of life, all different ages to really kind of get in here and make it happen. It's really all about just trying, again, just hiring good people that want to extend good hospitality and come in here and take pride in the food that we serve, and the service that we give and have fun with it.

That's awesome. That's really great, and the second thing that I hear you keep saying is system. We're really big on systems in how we run our law firm, and it was based off my dad. And how my dad put his small business together and, it's a team approach and, it's a systematic way of doing things where you build leaders within the role, and it sounds like you've got a system here. So, for people that don't know restaurants and don't know how this operates, tell us about your system.

Well, I think, again we're fortunate, taking it back to what they call the big kitchen, that's our corporate office with Fox restaurant concepts out there in Scottsdale. They created some really good systems that they use, not only at Flower Child, but kind of across all their brands. They're reinventing the wheel restaurant wise. It's good comprehensive systems, checklists, we have systems in place, as we talked about hiring, we've got systems in place for ordering, training, they're all system based. To go further in depth with systems would be a matter of which system do you want to know about? To give you an idea, we have systems in place for our line check every day. A company we use, Ecosurance, as our internal health department checkup to make sure that we're very much in compliance when the real health department comes in. But these are things we're doing twice a day, so we have to go through a checklist. We’re going through all of our food, temping it, tasting it, making sure that it's up to our standards about twice a day. That way we know that the food going out to the guests is the way we want it to be. And that way we know the consistency is there, so if you come in on a Monday and have a skinny cob salad and then come in on that following Saturday, ideally, it's virtually the same salad laying in front of you.

That's great. What's your favorite meal here?

I just talked about skinny cob salad, so that's probably my favorite. I'm a blue cheese lover, I know a lot of people don't love it. We do a really good Smokey blue cheese vinaigrette that's fantastic, so that's probably my favorite, but catch me tomorrow and I'll tell you something different. The food is great.

That's great. I love the kale salad with chicken. That's my go to every time I come in.

A lot of people love it, that white cheddar vinaigrette that people love.

Yeah, it's amazing, so can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How'd you end up here? A, in the Dallas area but B, at Flower Child where it seems like what Flower Child represents with a community based approach and an open kitchen and just the open personality, seems to really blend with what I've gotten to know from you.

Yeah. Well, I mean I told you earlier I wound up in Dallas via New Orleans, I'm a New Orleans guy born there and then move backed there for college, and then wound up in Dallas by chance because my sister was living in the area. Since then, my brother now lives here, my folks live here, so the whole family's in Dallas now and I've just been in the restaurant business, I've always loved it. I knew I was good at it. As far as landing here at Flower Child, a former colleague of mine a few years back, I used to run the rosters up at Shophood Legacy in Plano, and at that point the guy that I was working with and for there, he was my regional director and we had a great relationship, and in time we both moved on to our own areas. Then we kept in contact and he joined up with the Flower Child brand, a couple years back. When they were looking for somebody here in Dallas, he reached out to me and said, “Look man, I know you're a great operator are you interested?” And luckily everything fell into place and it's been fun. I mean, it's a fun brand to work for. Like I said, it's a great team to be a part of and to be kind of the leader of that team, it's a privilege.

What is a big difference that you've seen between, maybe some of the other businesses you've worked for and coming into Flower Child? And obviously, you've got a different excitement about it and a different feel. What do you think a big lesson learned from a small business owner that we could learn from your navigating that process?

Sure, there's a number of things, I think first off, I can really take pride in the product that we're putting out here. I think that's a big deal. Especially in restaurants, I think there are places that you can go and you can work for and maybe make some good money, but in the end, do you feel good about the product that you're serving? You're coming in on a day to day basis, here again, it's all prep fresh, it's great food. Sam Fox all the way down through all the brands. My director of operations, Danny Postings, he's amazing. Our Chef here in the building he's great as well, so it's just good people. It's just good people that are all being very supportive of not only you and you running the business, but just supportive of you as a person as well. They really want to get to know you and the cool thing is, is no matter what, if I have a question that I don't know, I can pick up the phone and call somebody and on the other end, somebody's anxious to help me. It's never looked at as a negative of, what do you need, you don't know what you're doing? Everybody from the top down wants to see you succeed and wants to see the location succeed.

That's awesome. So, what is, from a growing pain standpoint or sort of with restaurants, y'all have the ebb and flow of being really busy at times and being slow at others, that's a balancing act. So, what are some of the growing pain issues you saw since you've been here. I know you've been at this one for six months, but y'all have only been open for a little over a year, so I remember when it first started, versus where y'all are at now. What are some changes y'all have had to make in order to keep up with the business?

I think the biggest thing is hiring. I think it's definitely a challenge just to hire restaurant personnel in Dallas there's just so many new restaurants popping up. That is really drives up wages, which is something that we all have to deal with in the market, but I think it's just finding good people. I think that's the biggest challenge here. I mean, luckily, we're blessed with a good staff but we're always looking for more. I think the other big challenge for us is just the sustained volume that we have. For us, we're fortunate to do the sales we do, but literally, it just keeps getting busier. It's hard to believe that it is, so it's just a matter of continuing to adjust those schedules and adjust your ordering because in the end, we don't want to run out of food, and we've got to have enough people in here to make it all happen on a day to day basis, to keep it going tomorrow. So, I think those are the biggest challenges, just kind of staying on top of it and doing your best to stay ahead and really, we talked about team earlier, I think it's just a team mentality of how do we do that. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that, as a general manager I have all the answers. I tend to be pretty open minded, and I'll take advice or at least suggestion from anybody. I think anybody can have good ideas. I think in this business, probably in any business, once you think that you know it all, you're pretty much on your way down. I think you need to have an open mind because somebody else can have a great idea that you put into practice and say, "Alright, well I'm glad we did that. That was a great idea." And hey, there's times we come out with ideas, and we'll put it into practice, and it doesn't work, so we'll scrap it or we'll tweak it and keep trying different things until we find something that we like, and that works.

So from a marketing standpoint, obviously Flower Child was an established a brand before it came to Dallas, but it was new in Dallas. So how did y'all get going in the market here at first? Obviously, you have a lot of repeat business now, but how did you get going at first?

I think it's just trying to get out and get ahead of it. I think it's as simple as once you're kind of opening the doors, trying to get out in the community, and be a part of offsite events. Whether it be a 5K run or any things you can do to kind of get your name out there. Earlier this week, for example, we did an event over at Southwest Airlines. They do their deck parties over there, I think once a week this time of year. One of the departments was doing a little food festival over there, so we went over there and just brought samples. We didn't bring a ton of food over there but we brought our avocado hummus and some of our blue decree bittersweet brownies and they loved it. We're in a spot, maybe ten minutes from their headquarters. We see a lot of Southwest employees already, which we're fortunate for. There was a ton of them that had never heard of us and never been here. So, it's just a matter of trying to get out and build awareness. Make people aware of kind of what you do, give them a sample of it, as much as possible, if by doing that. I know here at Flower Child, if we can get people in the door, if we can get you in once, you're gonna come back.

Yeah, that's the same approach that we have with our firm, is we know that people are generally gonna like us once they get to know us. And they get in, and we do good work, and we've got a team, and we've got systems in place. It's just a matter of getting out there and getting out in the community. If you have any last piece of advice for small business owners, just got a few last questions. Small business owners, what would you give them for starting an awesome business like Flower Child?

I would just say build a great team. I think that's the biggest thing. Build a great team, kind of think it through, we talked about systems a little bit, kind of create some systems, have an open mind and be open to suggestion. I think most importantly is once you kind of get the doors open, listen to your clientele or listen to your guests. I think they're gonna point you in the right direction, they are the people that if they're giving suggestion, they already like you. They just want to like you more, and by listening to their suggestions and being open to it, just like we talked about here at Flower Child. Catering to the different dietary needs and allergies that maybe other brands or other companies or other restaurants never did, has built some loyalty in those guests because they know that we're not gonna give them a hard time. They can come back in here, and we're gonna make it happen for them, and because of that we're on their radar, as far as at least being one dining option out there where they know that they can come in and not feel kind of like the oddball because maybe they have this gluten intolerance or maybe they're a vegan. We want to embrace that and say yes.

That's awesome. Well, last message for all the Flower Child fans like me and people that are gonna be coming in here after seeing this, what do you want to tell them?

I just want to say thank you. I mean I know, again, we've had a lot of success here at this location in Dallas, it's just a matter of time before you start seeing one, two, maybe three more locations pop up. Fox does a great job of sight selection, so it's just a matter of once they settle on a spot here, you'll see another Flower Child pop up somewhere. Until then, if you're here at this Inwood location pop in, you see me running around, say hello.

That's great, thanks Kenny I really appreciate it, man.

Hey, my pleasure, really nice to meet you, thanks for coming out. Thanks for taking the time.

 

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