There’s something to be said about a restaurant that has a ram with gold-antlered M16 rifles as a watchful gatekeeper when you enter.
A few words you could say are bold, unique, trendy, and energetic. But it wasn’t any of those words that came to mind when we walked through Manhattan Seattle’s doors. With a wave of energetic calm that bursts before the storm, we knew the word we were looking for – change.
Like a captain adjusting the sails, general manager, Rick Story, was steadfast when he spoke of the evolution of Manhattan Seattle in his short 10 months coming up through the ranks as a front-of-house manager.
“Now is not the time for status quo. We understand that we constantly need to evolve to stay on trend.”
To ride the wave of trends happening inside bars and restaurants in Capitol Hill, Manhattan ramped up their bar program to accommodate a new trend of carefully crafted cocktails. They are implementing homemade infusions, one-of-a-kind syrups, and signature libations to their current bar offerings. Also being added to the menu – a head chef who is revamping Manhattan’s current delicacies to better fit the “foodie” palette without peppering in all the pretension.
Besides evolving into one of the trendiest restaurants in the neighborhood, the most important point of focus for Rick has been increasing the level of service provided to Manhattan’s diners.
“What I’ve tried to do since I’ve been here is to change the level of service – especially in the Capitol Hill market. That’s something that has changed considerably since I walked through the door.”
As Rick pointed out, with change comes challenges.
“When your company changes management and leadership, you get handed a bunch of things that you didn’t realize were going on.” Some of the mess Rick was looking to clean up came in the way of improving operations, new kitchen equipment, and growing the restaurant. In order to clean up as intelligently as possible, there are a few routes Rick could have gone.
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When small business owners are looking for funding to help grow their business, the first option they look into is putting expenses on a corporate credit card. However, in the case of Manhattan this would have incurred high interest debt for them and this wasn’t something Rick wanted to do.
“I think you have to limit the amount of credit that you’ve got outstanding at any given time in a restaurant, especially considering that restaurants generally function on a 5 percent profit margin. If that is entirely taken up with interest on your company credit card, you’ve gotten yourself in a world of trouble.”
The second option would be to apply for a SBA loan. This option also wasn’t quite right for Manhattan who only needed minimal funding. And lastly, they could seek funding from an outside source. But, Rick didn’t want to sully the vision he had for the future of Manhattan from someone who wasn’t as invested as he.
One thing small business owners don’t realize is that they always have another option. And that option was an opportunity Rick took and ran with.
When Manhattan did go through a company change, they reached out to Gravity Payments – a merchant services provider who make it easy and simple for independent businesses to accept credit card payments – to enroll in their Working Capital program.
Gravity’s Working Capital program isn’t a loan. It’s an investment made into a business which eliminates the messy process of applying for a bank loan or incurring high interest debt on a corporate credit card. It has been extremely beneficial for restaurants that typically function on tight profit margins.
“The former business partners, who designed and initially managed the restaurant, left a little bit of a mess. With a mess like that you’ve got to clean it up as intelligently as possible, and Gravity’s been a part of that.”
Another benefit to the program is that there is no minimum amount required to be eligible to apply. For example, Manhattan has been able to use the Working Capital program for payroll expenses for a slower month to replacing kitchen equipment that suddenly stopped working.
“When something like a fryer goes out and you haven’t budgeted for it, it can destroy your capital expenses fund. It can destroy your strategic reserve. And for Gravity to have a program like Working Capital is ideal for us.”
Although Gravity was there to lend a helping hand when called upon, Manhattan Seattle was the one who rose to the call of duty when action was required.
And a front row seat to all the action? That ram. He’s seen a period of frenzy, a wave of calm, and a vision for the future. It was hard to say goodbye that day, not because of the pork belly Mac and Cheese wafting out from the kitchen, but because it was hard to leave a setting of inspiration and excitement.
After parting ways with Rick and the ram, a new word came to our minds as we walked out Manhattan’s doors that day and through a sunny, bustling Capitol Hill neighborhood – evolution.