Mike Gurevich is the Founder and Owner of M&A Brands, a restaurant group that includes Boston favorites such as Mike and Patty’s, Flourhouse, and Hot Box. Before diving into the restaurant industry, Mike was a real estate agent with an entrepreneurial spirit and a dream of opening his own business. After the success of Mike and Patty’s, he focused on successfully scaling his ideas into some of the most beloved mom-and-pop restaurant brands in Boston. Mike earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Endicott College.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Mike Gurevich’s story of transitioning to the restaurant industry
- The pros and cons of the restaurant business that entrepreneurs don’t talk about
- How to turn a successful concept into a profitable business
- Mike talks about Mike and Patty’s brand evolution over the years
- Recognizing and adapting to competitive industry trends
- Mike’s thoughts on standing out in a saturated market
In this episode…
In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen is joined by Mike Gurevich, Founder and Owner of M&A Brands. They discuss the challenges entrepreneurs face in the restaurant industry, how to scale a successful business idea, and the importance of recognizing competitive industry trends. Mike shares how he transitioned between industries, successful brand evolution, and making your business stand out in a saturated market.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Mike Gurevich on LinkedIn
- M&A Brands
- Mike and Patty’s
- Hot Box
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
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Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here co-host for the show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They have served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to SpotOn.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to Rise25.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike Gurevich is the founder and owner of M&A Brands, a boutique craft casual restaurant group, based in Boston, M&A Brands, concepts include the legendary Mike and Patty’s breakfast sandwich concept. Hey, Mike, thanks for joining me today. How are you?
Mike Gurevich 1:20
Hey, great. Thanks for having me. Chad. I appreciate your time. And thanks for having me on.
Chad Franzen 1:24
Yeah, thank you so much. Great to talk to you. Hey. So Mike and Patty’s location in Bay Village was started in 2008, you and your business partner became the new owners on New Year’s Eve of 2013, if I’m not mistaken, tell me how that came about.
Mike Gurevich 1:39
Yeah, so I was in the real estate space. And at that time, I think I was like, 26 or so. And I was kind of like young and hungry, but also young and dumb. And a lot of ways and at that time, like I said, I was a real estate agent. My partner, she was a, she had like her own permanent makeup salon, which is like, Beauty Segment, basically, you know, sort of both, you know, real estate agent is kind of a hybrid entrepreneur, thing where you work for yourself, you also have a broker. So, at the end of the day, her and I were really accustomed to working for ourselves. And we were very kind of idealistic and very kind of dreaming at that point. In our lives, we were very, you know, exploring what we wanted to do our the lifestyle that we wanted, and we at that point, we had been traveling a bit in the offseason, around the country and around the world a little bit. And, you know, we’re really always inspired by having great food traveling, and that that usually ended up being cafes, sandwich shops, just kind of your, your quicker, less formal, but really mind blowing food. Beer really just really enjoying that the kind of, I guess you could say, like, I want to put this in the right in the right words, kind of the Wanderlust, right of, of traveling to a place and walking into a door, and just being wowed by their offerings. something casual coffee shops, sandwich shop, just being kind of captivated and getting that euphoric kind of feeling from being Wow, this is really a special amazing place. And we decided that we wanted to potentially try to create something like that ourselves. So that was around your way before 2012. So get to 2011-2012, we start to have those conversations and having this kind of what I like to call refer now is like delusions of grandeur. And we decided that we would try to delve into the, into the, into the restaurant cafe space. And we had talked about starting our own concept and that that kind of developed a little bit. And then we came across an opportunity to purchase an existing concept that was called Mike and Patty’s, which was originally started 2008 by another gentleman named Mike, which is kind of a crazy story. And there’s obviously, you know, lots of Mike’s pretty popular name in the United States these days, or, you know, back around the time I was born, at least, and kind of felt that was serendipitous in a lot of ways. You know, it’s a funny story. But, you know, every time you know, a lot of times even today, somebody walked into one of my spaces and said, Oh, are you are you the Mike from Mike and Patty’s? And it’s like, well, yes, but no, but yes, it’s kind of like a funny, funny story and it fits kind of well, with my personality. You just kind of dislike you know, there’s always a little bit of a story or a little bit of a of a wordy anecdote to share with people and I think that that’s that’s kind of part of the fun of that, that Brandon that concept. So yeah.
Chad Franzen 5:02
So you that’s came about about nine a little bit more than nine years ago what? There’s a lot of things I could follow up on based on your answer there. Why? Why would you say that? Why would you call yourself? Well, young and dumb now looking back on it?
Mike Gurevich 5:16
Well, I think, you know, I had my background from, like, my, my major in college was Entrepreneurial Studies in Business Administration. That’s my focus in for my degree. And so I had and I had always been entrepreneurial. I always wanted to start my own business. And the reason why I say kind of young and dumb is because had I known now, or had I known even a fraction of what I know, now, I don’t know, if I would have done it, I probably would have, because I think was a good opportunity, I would have done things very differently. But I think a lot of people romanticize the restaurant business, rightfully so it is a really cool business, and everybody loves food. And there’s, it’s such a great way to connect with your community and with people and really bring joy out of joy into people’s lives and bring joy out of out of people that you know, somebody what’s gonna, what could possibly make somebody’s day more than you know that somebody’s having a bad day or somebody’s you know, come to the city to explore, and, you know, they need something to kind of, you know, obviously need something to eat, they want to, they want to, you know, have a cool experience, embrace something, and what better way to, you know, be able to do that then step into a kind of a cool concept of sandwich shop, breakfast, sandwiches, coffee, whatever that is. But to get to answer to your question, it’s an incredibly challenging business, the restaurant business is, you know, restaurants from full service all the way to casual that it’s, you know, I used to think about it and say, Oh, it’s such a hard business. And I, I kind of went was hard on myself and saying, oh, that’s just an excuse, or, you know, it’s really not that hard. When you take a when you step out, and I’ve had a good amount experience. Now, I have a lot of I have a great network of entrepreneurs from other industries, all types of walks of life investment, I’ve done some private investing, and had this exposure to all these different industries and careers and businesses. And I can now say with certainty that restaurants are incredibly difficult of a vertical and incredibly difficult business to manage. And, you know, for the margins and the reward, value proposition wise, it’s probably not worth it a lot of times, not to pop anybody’s bubbles. But that’s, that’s the truth. And that’s those are facts. And my delusions of grandeur are kind of idealistic, no at all mentality at the time. is kind of what got me into it in a certain way. So it’s, there’s pros and cons, you know, it’s been it’s been a long road, but at the end of the day, I no regrets. I love it. It’s a it’s a phenomenal, very rewarding business. And it’s a lot of fun, but it’s extremely challenging. It’s a very challenging business, especially for somebody. You know, I always tell people, I have like a startup mentality, my entrepreneurial kind of mentality and my discipline or kind of my, my approach is very startup. Like, and I think that is a difficult approach to take, because trying to look at scaling and outsourcing and, you know, having bringing on great people to help accomplish goals in a restaurant business is doable and possible. In fact, I think it’s it’s imperative. It’s imperative that that’s done. It’s very challenging, and it’s a lot harder to do those things than then than in other businesses.
Chad Franzen 9:03
Did you have much restaurant experience? I know you had a lot of you had an entrepreneurial spirit and a business background real estate. Did you have much restaurant experience leading up to that point?
Mike Gurevich 9:12
So I worked in a lot of cafes. Growing up I worked for my partner and I, we actually both worked at Panera Bread in Swanscombe Northshore. Boston, together when we were in high school, when we were like 15 and 16, which is kind of serendipitous. Also, the CEO and founder of Panera is one of my big inspirations and kind of somebody who I follow very fall Ron shakes kind of career and moves very closely. So like, you know, serendipitous right at the time I had no idea who he was, you know, I was 16 and just stubborn but you know, I had done that. I worked for Coca-Cola cafes. I worked at Wendy’s for a while. There’s probably some other little food places that I had worked at, you know, in high school and such, but those are the ones that stand out. And then my partner, Anya, she had worked for Legal Seafoods for a good amount of her time in, I think, senior in high school. And then all throughout college, she was a server and bartender for legals. She had worked for some other restaurants, so no restaurant management experience to answer your question.
Chad Franzen 10:27
So I’m sure you’re, you know, you’re probably a lot of people who say they’re young and dumb, or probably quite confident at the time. Was there anything that kind of like happened or a moment where you realize, like, maybe I need to, like, I need to adjust how I think or how I do things, considering the restaurant business and the, you know, the challenges that presents?
Mike Gurevich 10:48
Yeah, I mean, that’s still I still have a lot of those revelations today, I think, more so in the last two or three years, in terms of some some in relation to what happened during COVID, just in terms of trying to scale just in terms of trying to say, hey, look, we have this this successful concept. How do we scale this? How do we turn this into a real business that has some real, a real, you know, in terms of business metrics, you know, real valuation behind it, or a real, you know, real profit, real revenue, more than just a single location, kind of mom and pop? And that’s, you know, I think I have those revelations frequently. And I think it’s, it’s kind of an expert, exponential. It’s been exponential process, where I think there was some similar realizations or revelations at the beginning, that helped scale, the single location, and then kind of refining and kind of constantly learning those, those kind of learning those lessons, right, whatever you want to however you want to call it, and there’s been a good amount of them, let’s, let’s say failures, right, like, fail fast, fail often fail fast. And I think I do believe that, that leads to success. Just don’t, don’t don’t go out of business. Doing that, you know, fail, don’t completely fail, right? Fail, fail often fail fast. And I think that’s that those lead to those kinds of revelations or perspectives or lessons. sure if that answers your question.
Chad Franzen 12:24
Yeah, absolutely. That’s, that’s good advice. Hey, so So you’ve, you know, you kind of been in charge of the mic and Paddy’s brand for more than nine years now. How has it changed since you became the owner?
Mike Gurevich 12:36
Yeah, it’s a great question. You know, the concept, which was breakfast sandwiches, basically was basically like a diner and 150 square feet. A little bit of Canadian and American influence, that was kind of the initial concept. I think, for us, like we, we always want it to be that like breakfast sandwich concept. We kind of streamlined the concept for sure, like, when we first took over Mike and Patty’s in 2012, the previous owner, he had, I think it was something like 30 to 40 menu items he was running. This is like, you know, separate of like issues in the space in order to kind of actually execute on those menu items properly, that besides the fact that we just have way too many menu items. We removed things like hot dogs, which we love, there just wasn’t room on the menu for them. We removed sadly, we’ve kind of strayed our focus away from lunch sandwiches, predominantly, like we do lunch sandwiches, we have a few at every location, or at least one at every location, our bigger locations, we do three or four. It’s just been focusing on breakfast sandwiches, because that is our niche. And I think it’s something we do extremely well. And there’s a lot of other privileges and very well too. But I think that’s kind of like and it’s something I’m very passionate about in the devil. Always love breakfast. I’ve always loved bacon eggs, you know, bread really good bread really good. Really good. Coffee. So that’s kind of been we double down on focus on as far as that brand. And I think that it’s, it’s kind of changed from that kind of, you know, the, the the previous owner Mike and Patty’s, the previous Mike Fitzhenry. He is very, very smart guy, very, very interesting, fun guy had a really, you know, food genius had so many good ideas. And, you know, I think at times, it’s better to just try our best even if it’s not something we want to do, we just kind of like narrow it down and just focus on a few things. And you know, I have just as many ideas as he did, if not more. And that’s been like the hardest part is just kind of simplifying or kind of focusing on a few things at a time. So to answer your question, we spend a lot of time on, you know, getting the consistency of sandwiches down, coming up with new menu items as often as we can. That’s been a challenge of recently although it’s about to change And then the branding, like the branding has been a really a really big thing for us to focus on. And when I say branding, I don’t just mean the brand, like the logo and the kind of assets that we use in our marketing, although that is a big part of it. It’s also just who we are our values, what we stand for how we engage with our guests, how we engage our community, what we’re trying to provide them. And that’s kind of brought us to where we are now. And that’s something that I take really seriously. And I want to improve every day, like there’s lots of things that we still could improve on or do better, like, sometimes we still come up short on certain things, but that’s kind of my Northstars just kind of doing the best we can for our guests and, and continuing to improve on a daily basis. And you know, the brand, you know, that we do what we want to do what we say we want to, you know, be able to execute on what we market and how we communicate with our guests, and provide them with a great experience. And that’s a challenge. But we’re that’s what we do. And we’re trying to get better at it every day.
Chad Franzen 16:05
Yeah, a large part of the restaurant brand, you know, it’s beyond social media, or commercials or the sign or the logo or whatever, as you said, and some of it is you know, a lot of it’s just kind of be experienced, you have the vibe you get when you go in there. How would you describe that for Mike and Patty’s?
Mike Gurevich 16:20
You know, it’s interesting, our initial location and Bay Village and sort of there’s a train going by behind me but initial initial concept and Bay Village told me 150 square feet. It’s in this like historic district with these Gaslamp streetlights, so there’s like a, there’s like a vibe, it’s, you know, we’ve had up to nine seats in there over the years, but at this point, we just have a couple of stools in there, we weren’t doing any seating during COVID, there’s really not a lot of room in there, people come in to order, a lot of people order online refused to come in to order. And it’s kind of, you can eat in there, but you’re not gonna spend a lot of time in there. So the vibe is kind of, we have a little bit of kind of aesthetic. And we have the brand prominently displayed, we just, we just did digital menus in there for the first time. Some primary primary branding, it’s a historic district historic building. So you get that kind of, I call it like Charles Dickens London fog, kind of architecture going on kind of from traditional Boston brownstone, even though it’s not definitely a brownstone kind of vibe. But as far as our other locations, we’ve kind of created this little bit more refined vibe we do a lot of it’s kind of, you know, old, old and new together, you know, it’s like, it’s a, taking some of those design cues from our original spaces and original space and just kind of trying to, to brand align, like our design and the vibe with the, with the brand itself. And through the you know, we try to play you know, tries just good music playing, we try to have our, our teams, you know, kind of friendly and bubbly, and, you know, trying to guide people into the sandwiches and just trying to get a vibe of a place that when you walk in, you’re transformed a little bit into, into something that’s different. Kind of a, like, one of our timelines is like your tiny sandwich shop and all of our, all of our locations are pretty small. There’s some nuance to that, or some some kind of Asterix, but we try to kind of make it a cozy, cozy experience. What are your food, you can stay and eat it, you can eat it outside. And hopefully, you know, regardless of the of how casual it is, you’re having, like an amazing culinary experience. So we try to convey that in all of our locations. Just try to get that, that a little bit of the old with a lot of the new and just keep it fun and like,
Chad Franzen 18:58
Sure sounds good. Hey, so you, you had my capacities. And now you have expanded. You have the you have M&A Brands, including Hot Box and Flourhouse Bakery. What led you to expand your portfolio? I guess?
Mike Gurevich 19:14
Sure. Yeah. I think I think the industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years, I think, you know, we call we say we’re in a craft casual segment, you can say that, just kind of spurred by the fast casual growth, segment growth, you know, like places like Japan today and over the last, you know, 10 years, they’ve really exploded and come on pretty hard. And then, you know, all levels of players in that industry from franchises, national franchises, franchises, to kind of mom and pops. They’ve done a really good job locally, in numerous markets, ethnic concepts, trailers, trucks, you know, you have this really, you know, I would say and I want to take a step back as much credit as I give the whole day also give to probably somebody like Roy Choi. Everything was like Koji, like his, his his concept out of LA, you know, people like Danny Meyer, and, you know, obviously, like, I want to kind of touch on that. But also obviously countless, you know, mom-and-pop individual operators to that kind of initial segment has kind of blown up. And when we first bought my capacities, it was kind of we were more unique. And now there’s a lot of that. And that’s kind of that’s been, you know, how do we stand out? How do we how do we, how do we do this? And so what I realized is, people as much as they do, like familiarity and consistency, they also like, different things. And I like different things. And I think as kind of like a creator, I don’t know, as much as I want to take, do something really well and scale it. I want to try different things do different things. And when we started working on our second location in Somerville, which is concept called, well, it was in a market called bull market. And the landlord said, Hey, like, We love Mike and Patty’s, but we want every concept in this new development to be an original concept. And we’re anchored by a brewery and a wine bar. So we don’t really think breakfast is going to work. And we’re like, alright, well guess we gotta do something new anyways. And so we came up with something like micro local concept called Hot Box. It’s on North Shore roast beef north shore of Boston, you have like these like, roast beef sandwiches. And this in South Korea, this specific type of pizza called bar pizza, it’s kind of similar like a tavern pie. There’s also bar pizza, my jersey it’s kind of a unique concept. It’s cooked in Japan. And it’s really popular on the social Boston and, and now it’s kind of made its way into like the main part of Boston. So we decided to go with that concept. And pair it with the North Shore roast beef where you know, my partner on you and I were from the North Shore, we grew up with that specific sandwich. It’s a kind of like a warmed rare beef served on a typically a burger roll or like an onion roll. Heaping pile of warm but not hot, rare beef with this really specific barbecue sauce, some mayo and a slice of American cheese. And like we call it a roast beef three way and it’s, it’s really you can really only find it here in the Boston area. And like the North Shore, which is where again, where we’re from, grew up grew up in the Salem Lynn area for people that kind of are familiar with Boston. And that’s like a really, you know, another food that I’m really passionate about. And the central bar pizza was just kind of that juxtaposition of like something else, we didn’t want to just do roast beef, we didn’t think it would do. Well on its own. Most of the roast beef shops in the Boston area, they usually serve. Some of them serve pizza, some of them serve fried seafood, some of them do things like chicken fingers and salads and such, say tips. So we didn’t have the ability to do all that stuff. And we didn’t really want to do that same thing. So we kind of pair those two concepts together. And we were in this room, you know, the space that we that we designed was very small, as well as like 330 square feet. And we just assigned design this cool brand called Hot Box, you know, it’s like the space is kind of a Hot Box. And there’s like the whole cannabis connection. It’s another like, passionate industry that I’ve been involved with. So kind of use that concept in that in that kind of space to influence the way that we put that brand together. And that’s been a lot of fun. It’s still only at one location, definitely looking forward to expanding that, that locate that concept. different animal. Now, we also run Mike and Patty’s out that same space in Somerville since COVID, we were able to work with the landlord and have them utilize the space all day. And the the other concept you mentioned Flourhouse, we decided to acquire a bakery, who wanted to make their own bread and do some stuff to some pastries. And that’s been a tremendous undertaking. It’s been almost three years now like over two and a half years and that’s been a completely different experience and that one has a lot of reflection and interesting nuances to it so that’s that’s been a long hard road in itself. So we we created a new brand for the bakery like we we realized that Mike and Patty’s being this kind of it’s it’s not the brand that I would have created. I would have never named anything after myself or anything you know, it’s just you know, obviously it’s great and funny and a lot of ways but it’s it’s not the brand that I would have created so the brands that we create now and you know we’ve created a lot of them we will you know right now we we’ve done some pop ups with with unique brands that we’ve created and So we have other ones that are being developed now that are really fun and exciting. And there’ll be, I think they just get better and better as we as we go. But point being is, the brands that we create, we really want them to be reflections of ourselves want them to be fun, we want them to be you know, we want people to kind of see them and get kind of a little bit excited. And I think we’ve we’ve done that, especially with Hot Box, I think Hot Box is a phenomenal brand. Flourhouse, I think is an amazing brand as well. It’s kind of in this like hidden hidden part of of New England outside, but outside Boston has a lot of potential as well. And it’s just, it’s, it’s fun for us to do that. And I think back to like the original point of like just being differentiated doing different things. It’s what I get excited about. So like, as much as I focused on breakfast sandwiches, creating brands is, is something that’s what I’m really creating brands and concepts, including menus, and the food behind them is what I’m really passionate about. So really doing new things. That’s all material of serial entrepreneur and really like to create. It’s kind of my my way of, of art. Yeah, that’s great. And that’s how I express myself.[Continue to Page 2]