Search Interviews:

Chad Franzen 14:32

So you mentioned obviously you also founded Call Your Mother Deli I believe in 2018. So that would have been two years after your first brick and mortar with Timber Pizza. How did you come up with that name?

Andrew Dana 14:47

Yes, sort of. So same like Timber. I can see the vision like the finished product. So growing up, my Jewish grandparents lived in Boca Raton, so we would go down there, you know, right pops of color. My grandparents were so fun. They love like going out and like so it was I knew I wanted it to be this like bright, fun, colorful restaurant that like didn’t take itself too seriously. And I think a lot of sort of delis and bagel shops. They all sort of have the same feel. It’s the white subway tiles. It’s the somebody’s last name. And so I was like, I just want this to be something totally different. And we struggled for a long time to come up with the name. We just like couldn’t figure it out. So one night, I was at my friend’s house, and I was like, what’s something funny, our Jewish grandmothers would have yelled at us and somebody said, You should eat something, put some meat on your bones. And then my friend’s sister said, Call Your Mother. And I was like, it was just like, fireworks went off. And I was like, Oh my God, that’s it. It’s fun. It’s memorable. It’s so like, quintessentially Jewish, but it also spans all cultures, right? So my wife, who’s the chef and business partner, she’s from Argentina, she instantly got it, her mom loves it. So I just checked all the boxes, and we went with it.

Chad Franzen 15:55

So you mentioned you wanted kind of a different vibe. What is the vibe then at Call Your Mother Deli?

Andrew Dana 16:01 

Yeah, it’s just I’d say super fun, super playful, super nostalgic, right. So you know, the latte that were coming out in the spring. So in a couple of weeks, we’re coming out with a Strawberry Pop Tart latte. So it’s like, all flavors that are reminiscent of our childhood. So if you grew up in the 90s, like so many of these flavors are for you. The playlists are from the 90s. Lots of like, classics with just like slight twist. So our bacon egg and cheese has spicy honey on it just like little choice to like amp stuff up. super nostalgic, super fun.

Chad Franzen 16:19

Who came up with…who’s coming up with all these ideas?

Andrew Dana 16:39

I mean, almost everything is, is my wife and I so you know, originally at the very beginning, my wife and I, all we do is sort of live the brand. So everybody’s always like, where do you find inspiration. And like we spend all day every day together? This is all we talk about this is it. You know, we now have 13 locations and have an incredible team. So now we have a culinary team and you know all this stuff. So it’s you know, now it’s a whole team effort. But in the beginning, it was just my wife and I helping with some recipes, her helping me in the front of house. So it’s sort of like the total team effort. 

Chad Franzen 17:14 

Is there one specific thing that you learned from doing the pizza business that you have taken with you now to Call Your Mother that you probably that, you know, like, Oh, if I hadn’t known that I wouldn’t nearly be as successful now with Call Your Mother as I would, as you know, I would be without it. 

Andrew Dana 17:30 

Yeah, I think some of that goes back to just like what I was talking about with like, how do you make great pizza is, you know, I think people here like use the best local products and like some people that can sort of like roll their eyes a little bit like Oh, but it’s so much easier to buy peaches from, you know, whatever the main broad liner is, but truly, when you’re sourcing, like the best ingredients, it is that big of a difference, right? Like the peach that you buy for 10 cents from your rod liner versus like the best local, right peach is the difference between like in holy shit experience, and like, Oh, that was pretty good. And so that’s been like, you know, we’ve tweaked a lot of stuff over the years. But one thing we’ve never cut corners on is quality of product and using the best seasonal products. So. 

Chad Franzen 18:16

So now between the two brands, how many locations do you have?

Andrew Dana 18:20

Now our trial level 16 or 17?

Chad Franzen 18:26

What is the biggest challenge that comes with? You know, obviously, you started from nothing, basically, and now you’re at 17 locations. What’s the biggest challenge now that you face now compared to then?

Andrew Dana 18:37

Yeah, I mean, so like, the first two years, Dani is my wife, we were in timber every single day. Like there was no chance we didn’t know exactly what was happening and could control every aspect and the same in the first couple years or Call Your Mother. Now that’s impossible, right? So like, the biggest challenge is, how do you maintain that magic? How do you continue to have great service and the best food. And it basically comes down to hiring incredible people, incentivizing them to want to grow and stay with you for a long time. And then creating just world class systems. Right. So you know, a good example is early on a Timber. We had a pizza that had like golden brown, sort of sauteed onions. And the rest of you said golden brown sauteed onions. Now you’re golden brown, very different than my golden brown. So we’re like, Oh, my God, we have to have a picture of exactly what golden brown is. So we have learned to remove all gray area, have great systems. Just don’t leave anything up for interpretation, and then hire sort of incredible people and incentivize them to want to stick around and help improve the brand.

Chad Franzen 19:41

What do you do? I was gonna ask you about your culture. What do you do to kind of keep people around incentivize them, is they’re kind of a characteristic you’re looking for when you hire great people?

Andrew Dana 19:52

Yeah, I mean, it sort of depends on the position. I think at its core, we just want to work to be fun every day. Like this is a restaurant you know, yes, we’re trying to grow a big business but we’re not like we’re not you know, curing cancer or anything like this should be fun every single day. So you know, a I think we pay above market but that doesn’t matter if you’re not having fun every single day, right? We try and throw sort of as many perks is we can that make sense. So free gym membership, we offer free language classes. And then we do this, like the 401K and health insurance and all that, which is not typical in restaurants. And then we just like try and create tons of growth opportunities. So, you know, a good example is we had a guy who was in our baking team, who then wanted to get into accounting and switched over to the accounting team. So we really, like, if there’s something here you want to do, and you’re gonna work hard, we’re gonna figure out how to sort of help you on your career path and make your dreams come true. So. But as I said, the number one thing is it has to be fun, if this is what you’re going to be doing five days a week, majority of your time, you gotta like, like, your co workers, you got to have fun, or else all the other perks don’t really matter.

Chad Franzen 21:01

As much as you mentioned, you got an MBA, your journey is a little different than a lot of people I talk to, you know, they started out as a busboy in high school or something, and then they just stayed in the restaurant industry. Well, what did you take away from that MBA that you might get helped your success so far that you might not have had if you hadn’t gotten that degree?

Andrew Dana 21:19 

Yeah, I think like hard skills, almost none. You know, I think, as I was saying earlier, I think it just gave me a confidence, right? Like I sort of going through college, I don’t know, they’re just like, there’s, I was never a great student. Let’s start there. So you’re always sort of on the backside of the class and not going to your homework, you can like sort of lose confidence. And in grad school, you know, kudos to Fordham. It’s not like a ton of like, homework, it’s more fun projects, and can you come up with a business? And so I think part of that I was just in my realm. And I just had this moment where I was like, I’m just as good as all of these people. So I think what grad school did was sort of give me my swagger back. And, you know, I did teach me how to read a p&l Better than I would have otherwise Sure. But like, I probably could have learned that on YouTube without going into all that student debt. And, you know, outside of that, there’s not like a ton of hard skills I learned, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I was in New York for two years and was getting inspired by the restaurant scene there. And then, you know, just get my confidence back. And here we are.

Chad Franzen 22:32

Yeah, just a couple more questions for you. What has been there ever, was there ever a point where you were like, I don’t think this is going to work out. In your journey is maybe towards the beginning, or were you always doing pretty well, and you were just doing your thing? 

Andrew Dana 22:47

You know, like, I’d say, year one, one, it was just the mobile business, it was hard to see how this could turn into like, a real career because we were grinding, like riding 80 hour weeks, and they’re just like, wasn’t enough revenue to make it like a real career. And so there was a couple of times in the first year, I was like, Jesus, like how are we going to turn this into like something where we can actually make real money. You know, and then the first year of actual restaurant, as I said, day one, either we have to make money today, or this is going to close, this is going to be the shortest opened restaurant of all time. And so there might have been like two days where like, oh, shit, like holding onto our chair, like, we need to, you know, hit sales. But then we’re like, pretty blessed for a long sort of stretch. Obviously, early pandemic, I thought it was going down the toilet, I remember standing outside my mom’s house me at the bottom of the steps her at the top, because you know, you wouldn’t go near anybody. And I’ll just saying, Well, you know, we had a good four year run, I guess I gotta go figure out something else to do. But after feeling sorry for ourselves for a couple of weeks, we sort of got back in the saddle. And and everything worked out.

Chad Franzen 23:57

As long as you mentioned that, how did the pandemic? Did it affect your business? Did it change your business? But are there still changes that you implemented as a result of it? How did that affect you? 

Andrew Dana  24:05 

Yeah, you know, it actually forced us to get much more efficient. So pre pandemic, we did no online ordering. We just for Call Your Mother as order in person. And that’s it. And that timber is order in person or call on the phone, old school style. And we thought we were sort of maxed out on throughput. And, you know, during COVID, if you didn’t take online orders, you were just going to die a painful death. So we said, Okay, we got to figure this out. And it forced us to get much more efficient made us realize that we could actually do way more throughput. And then as the world slowly you know, opened up and we were doing in person and online, we realized we could handle it. So it actually helped us realize we could do way more in sales without hurting sort of the product quality or the service. So you know, insane to say that one of the worst things ever was actually kind of good for our business in the long run, but it did force us to get much better and more efficient.

Chad Franzen 25:04

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry?

Andrew Dana 25:11

I you know, I think there’s like two main things is don’t run. What’s the process? Right? Like, I see so many people who they start a business and they want to fast forward to sitting in the C suite not grinding. And I think those first couple years, you just you have to grind, you have to be in it. I’d say a new business is like a newborn baby that needs constant love and attention, like maybe down the line, it can take care of itself a little bit. But at the beginning, don’t rush to be the boss and sit in the back office, like know, every single aspect of your business be superduper hands on, because nobody’s going to care as much as as you do. So that’s like the don’t rush the process is like really be in it. And then the other thing like, is just outwork people like, and that’s it. So when we started timber as a mobile truck, we started out of a food incubator. So there’s a bunch of other food trucks starting at the same time. And I would say every other food truck had more experienced chefs better funding, you know, all that stuff. But they didn’t work as hard as we did. They would say, oh, you know, I’m going to take this weekend off because I want to go to the beach, or I don’t want to work a double today, where we were just like, Okay, we’re gonna show up every single day for two years and good things will eventually start to happen. So don’t rush the process and just outwork everybody else, and you’ll be surprised what can happen. 

Chad Franzen 26:31

Nice, very nice. Hey, I have one more question for you. But first, how can people find out more about both places? Call Your Mother Deli and Timber Pizza Company?

Andrew Dana 26:39 

Yeah, I mean, Call Your Mother Deli. That’s our Instagram handle. All your mother is our website. Same TimberPizzaCO is our Instagram handle. And then Timber Pizza? Is our website. Get on our emailing list. Our Instagrams are pretty fun. Check us out in D.C. and then Call Your Mother. We’re also in Denver now. So we got three locations in Denver. Check us out. 

Chad Franzen 26:59

Oh, nice, very nice. So last question for you. When you are a customer at either one of those places, do you have like go to items?

Andrew Dana 27:08

For sure. So with Timber, it’s like I pizza every day for the first 90 days were open. And then I had to have a little sit down with myself. Easy, big guy. So I bet like every pizza on the menu has been my favorite at some point. But now I’m into like a very basic, I just like cheese pizza or margarita pizza. I like it very basic. So that’s kind of boring. And then on the on the bagel menu. There’s really two there’s the Grand Villa. So it’s a cinnamon raisin bagel, peanut butter jelly with homemade Peanut Butter Granola. So it’s like a big kids peanut butter and jelly with the crunch of the granola. It’s incredible. And then it fell more than a lunch mood. We have the grandezza which is basically a turkey melt with fresh mozzarella pesto and red. Red pepper relish.

Chad Franzen 27:55

Sounds pretty good. Sounds glorious. Hey, Andrew has been great to talk to you today. Thanks so much for all of your time, your thoughts, your insights, your stories, really appreciate it.

Andrew Dana 28:03

Thank you anytime.

Chad Franzen 28:05

So long, everybody

Outro 28:07

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