Andy Trattner

January 21, 2022

El Gordo Sano Is Dead

I joined Sukkha Wasi to help organize and grow the business. After a successful first month, average revenue went from $200 to $500 per week. We achieved profitability, but we also discovered limits inherent to our team and the local market.

What would be the best path to $1000? Perhaps we could set up shop in a more central location, exporting the most lucrative parts of our menu and opening for more hours. I decided to back one of our employees in spearheading the new venture and committed $10k to the project.

We spent just over half the budget renting a great location and converting the back patio into an enclosed kitchen, furnishing the dining area, and installing industrial equipment. We drafted a solid menu and crafted a launch strategy. I put up a website with logo design help from my artistic sister.

Then, this past Saturday, my business partner came to work deliriously intoxicated. His behavior traumatized another team member, and I had to ask him to leave. All at once, in a surprising and drama-filled morning, our working relationship was over. 

I've spent the past week reflecting on what happened. Here are some of the biggest lessons learned:

  1. For these restaurants, I am not the passion engine. Maya genuinely loves preparing kimchi and serving folks tea. She has a mission to spread joy and Korean culture with every interaction. For el Gordo Sano, my partner was the one bringing his chef's spirit to the table. In both these businesses, my role has been supportive, administrative. I enjoy working in meatspace and concretely serving customers, and I love eating food as well as brainstorming menu options, but in the long term I aspire to become a Seth Godin rather than a Danny Meyer.

  2. It takes time to discover good partnership fit. I soon found that my business partner had a knack for getting ripped off by locals, despite being a native Spanish speaker. I should have foreseen his irresponsibility after a wild night of partying last month left him unreachable, his phone in the accidental care of a confused friend. He appeared at work three hours late, out of the blue, contritely claiming this was an embarrassing first that would never be repeated. Just like with my girlfriend last year, I should have spent 3-6 months minimally trialing the relationship before prematurely overcommitting. 

  3. The negative outcome mainly speaks to poor execution. I wouldn't have to scrap the project if I had assumed more ownership and managed my partner more tightly. Or if I had mitigated risk properly and been prepared with plan B, "Andy runs restaurant solo." I spent the last week wrestling with the fact that a great opportunity still exists to create a thriving business in the location we rented, but ultimately my lack of passion decides against this particular dip.

  4. Focus, keep betting, and raise the stakes. I'm exceedingly fortunate to be able to write off this loss and dive into the next project with a clean slate. I'll continue to help at Sukkha Wasi for a couple days each week, but my creative energy will be mainly deployed outside of the food service industry. I feel much more strongly now that if I'm going to spend significant resources on a business opportunity, it needs to have much higher potential upside.

About Andy Trattner