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Cliff Bramble: A Culinary Adventure through Italy

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Noble Fin Owner Talks Food and Travel with Rico Figliolini

In this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, host Rico Figliolini sits down with Cliff Bramble, restauranteur, and owner of Hungry Hospitality, a restaurant, and hotel consulting firm. He has just gotten back from a delicious trip to Italy, and he shares his experience with some of the great, Italian food he enjoyed eating there. Cliff and Rico talk bistecca, proscuitto, paninis, and pizza, and Cliff also shares how he planned and maximized his trip. Enjoy the episode, and maybe have a snack nearby, because you’ll definitely be hungry by the end of this episode!

“There’s a lot of asking people, a lot of asking the locals, and if you go into Florence or even Rome and you see people with their menus in their hand and they’re trying to flag you in, that’s probably not the one to go to. You want to ask a local, ‘Hey, where do the locals hang out?’”

Cliff Bramble, Noble fin
Mercato Centrale
Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy

“And at one point we were standing up looking at – she said, two million dollars worth of proscuitto above our heads. And it was pretty cool. And so we went in there, we were fortunate – we tried the black hoof proscuitto, which they slice more on the Spanish style – only about two or three inches at a time. And then we tried the twenty-four month and thirty-six month. And I will tell you – they melted – they melted in our mouths. It was really good.”

Cliff Bramble

Transcript of the podcast:

Rico [00:00]: Hey everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, Peachtree Corners Life and Peachtree Corners Magazine. We have a really good guest – we’re gonna get into a conversation today with Cliff Bramble from Noble Fin.

Cliff [00:11]: Hi everybody. Thanks for having me.

Rico [00:14] : Yes – this is going to be fantastic. He’s been to a place that I’ve been to, but the continent that he went, and part of the country, but not in the same as him, so we’re gonna talk about that in a few minutes, but ahead of that, I just want to thank a few people – a few sponsors that we have.

So Atlanta Tech Park first, because Atlanta Tech Park here in Peachtree Corners is our sponsor with this podcast room, where we’re doing this out of. It’s an accelerator. One of our other sponsors, Prototype Prime, is an incubator. So when you get to that start-up space and your startup and you get grown a little bit more, you come to a place like this. Lots of workshops here, driven by a lot of talented people, a lot of office space, event spaces, while right down the block is Anderby Brewery, I think it’s called? And there’s a bunch of places – and this road that we’re on, actually, is the autonomous track that’s going to be featured at the Smart City Expo, who by the way, we are a media sponsor for. And that’s happening in September – September 11th, 12th, and 13th. Smart City Expo – that’s actually based out of Barcelona, it’s the world expo. This is the first North American expo that’s happening. We’re a media sponsor for them. And the city here will have the first and probably only off-site demo from that expo showing people this track, the abilities of what they use here, how this track in timeless fashion and smart technology can be a great use for a lot of different companies. So that’s that.

And one last mention is Gwinnett Medical Center. I gotta say – they are a new sponsor. They’re entering Peachtree Corners now – in fact, today, when we’re taping this, is their grand opening day. and if you want to learn more about their services offered at GMC Primary Care and Specialty Center at Peachtree Corners, you need to visit GwinnettMedicalCenter.org/PTC. Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way – a mouthful – we’re – let’s get into sort of the meat of it, the meat and potatoes, but not the potatoes, right?

Cliff [02:21]: Lots of meat.

Rico [02:23]: So this is a culinary adventure. Cliff owns Noble Fin restaurant, and he owns a company called Hungry Hospitality, which is a consulting firm.

Cliff [02:33]: Yes, restaurant and hotel consulting firm.

Rico [02:36]: So you help other businesses – I mean, you have a successful restaurant here in Peachtree Corners, and you help other businesses?

Cliff [02:43]: Well, yeah, I help other businesses, I do a lot of different things, from human resources to financials – there’s a lot of avenues in a restaurant that people need help or guidance with, so I try to help them out using my forty years of experience, so, hopefully I can help someone.

Rico [03:01]: Excellent. But the topic today, of course, is close and dear to my heart cause I love food. The doctor tells me I need to stop eating so much pasta, but, you’ve been to Italy lately.

Cliff [03:09]: I have. I have, and I will tell you – we had the fortunate experience of being able to eat at a lot of different areas throughout Rome and Florence and Cinque Terre – we went all the way down to Amalfi and Positano and Praiano, so we were very fortunate to eat a lot of different areas in a lot of different areas and experience a lot of the different culinary delights throughout Italy.

Rico [03:36]: That is cool. And that is a place I would love to go – the Amalfi coast is supposed to be beautiful.

Cliff [03:41]: The Amalfi coast is fantastic, but when you go there, you better wear sneakers. There’s a lot of stairs. If they tell you there’s twenty stairs, there’s two hundred.

Rico [03:49]: Really? Wow.

Cliff [03:52]: Oh yeah. There’s a lot of stairs, and they have – they’ve been there probably two hundred years.

Rico [03:56]: Yeah, and I saw one of the videos you posted to Instagram. You said “be careful” and I saw this car whizzing by.

Cliff [04:03]: Oh yeah, so in Amalfi and Positano and Praiano, there’s really a two lane street, and on that two lane street, there’s little white – six inch of white stripe on the left hand and right hand side of the street. So you have six inches to really stay on the right and left hand side before those cars whiz by. And, um, you could be in a little tiny car coming by or a little moped or vespa coming by, or you could have a big Sita bus. It’s s-i-t-a bus, it’s a local bus, and they whiz by pretty quickly, so you have to pay attention.

Rico [04:35]: No you’ve – so where was the first – the first actually the picture we have. I gotta show this, we’ll show that first picture. This is – this was the Bistecca?

Cliff [04:46]: Oh, the Bistecca Florentina, yes. So in Florence, everybody is – well a lot of people were in Florence – you’re going to have a Bistecca Florentina. And, interestingly enough, they have them cooking from gas, coal and also wood in different areas over there, and this one restaurant that I went into – I think you probably see the pictures up there now.

Rico [05:10]: It’s a little late – I don’t see it on this.

Cliff [05:14]: Yeah, so, you know, the picture will be coming up. But interestingly enough is – the cool part is that they will slice the steak for you, the one that you want, and they’re going to cook it right over there. We went and we said, “Hey, as a family, we have to go and at least try one of these.” And I will tell you, it was a great experience. Very succulent, very moist, nice and salty. It was a great adventure.

Rico [05:38]: So you just picked out which one you want in that picture?

Cliff [05:41] : Yeah. Ours was a big old ribeye, and, so as much as there’s a lot of flavor in it, some people say, “Hey, I’m a filet person,” but the ribeye that we had there – it was awesome. And the way they cook it – it’s, you know, Florence is known for the Bistecca Florentina.

Rico [05:56]: You know, and how do you find Italian restaurants? Restaurants outside the US anyway – how do you find?

Cliff [06:03]: It’s tough because there’s so many of them, but, you know, there’s a lot of asking people, a lot of asking the locals, and if you go into Florence or even Rome and you see people with their menus in their hand and they’re trying to flag you in, that’s probably not the one to go to. You want to ask a local, “Hey, where do the locals hang out?” And I did find one place in Florence beside the Bistecca or the steak one – it was a little tiny place that seated about fifteen people, and then I had the best lasagna I’ve ever had for six euros. It was the best lasagna. And we tried to go back there at nighttime, but we could not find the place because it was in a little alley, and nobody was around.

Rico [06:43]: Oh, that’s funny. It’s like these moving places. Must feel like Harry Potter – the walls close.

Cliff [06:47]: Well, it was so hot there, we just wanted to be somewhere between walls so the sun wasn’t coming in. But you ask a lot of local people and just cross your fingers that they – that they know.

Rico [06:58]: You know, that’s cool. And those small places – obviously fifteen seat place – you wonder how they make any money.

Cliff [07:03]: You know, I was wondering that myself. And you know, there’s a lot of places throughout all of Italy, and they’re only under fifty seats. So in America, we have these large restaurants that have a hundred and fifty seats, and over there there’s no question – I thought the same thing. I’m like, “Wow, they have to serve a lot of people here.” Either that or they’re not paying much rent.

Rico [07:23]: Yeah well – I know in Sicily, where my wife comes from, that some of the places we went to – they own the building. They live upstairs, maybe. And they just open a – its been in the family for a hundred years.

Cliff [07:35]: Yeah, that’s awesome. And I met a – actually, somebody who’s exactly what you’re saying. And she was in Manarola. And I went to her place probably three or four times in the morning, and then I – she had this Mac Daddy espresso machine. It was like, you know, and I said “Man, that machine has gotta go for fifteen, twenty thousand dollars.” She goes, “eighteen thousand euros.” And so I spoke with her, and she said, “Hey, this is my family’s house, and we’ve had this for fifty years.” And same thing, exactly what you’re saying. So it was cool. She was a very nice person.

Rico [08:07]: The next one that we have is the panini. The panini photo. Tell us – so everyone knows paninis here, I think. If you go out a lot, you might get a panini at, I don’t know, Atlanta Bread Company.

Cliff [08:21]: Oh yeah.

Rico [08:22]: But is that a panini?

Cliff [08:24]: Well, you know what, it’s different. You know how they always say, “Tastes different in Italy?” You know, the paninis there – there’s a lot of them that are counter. So you walk up to the counter and the paninis are there. And basically the nice part is, they’re with fresh bread that is just coming out of that little oven, because the ovens are behind them. And they have slices of proscuitto, proscuiito cotto, or they also have – one of my best paninis that I had over there was proscuitto and brie. So it was a proscuitto on a nice focaccia, and then they took a nice slice piece of brie, about five inches long, and they put it on there. But then they toasted it on the panini press.

Rico [09:01]: I’ve got to try that.

Cliff [09:03]: I will tell you what – that was, like, four euros. You know, the best deal you can get.

Rico [09:07]: What’s the conversion rate right now?

Cliff [09:09]: It’s twenty cents less. So it was about four dollars and sixty cents.

Rico [09:12]: That’s cheap.

Cliff [09:12]: It was inexpensive and you get a great sandwich. So the paninis – a lot of people will go to Italy and say, “Hey, I don’t know where I’m gonna go, what am I going to eat?” But if you’re going through the train stations or the bus stations or even some of the food malls, you’re gonna see that there’s all types of places that you can just walk up to and say, “I’ll take the buffalo mozzarella and the tomato.” You know?

Rico [09:34]: Right, right. It’s nothing like, if you live in New York, you get the hot dog stands in the corner. So you don’t find no paninis.

Cliff [09:40]: Yeah, yeah, You’ll find – you’ll probably find the paninis, but they’re gonna charge you fifteen dollars for it. So in Italy, I will tell you – you can eat pretty inexpensively at these places and have some pretty good food.

Rico [09:51]: Healthy food too, I mean, compared to what you see in street food here sometimes.

Cliff [09:55]: Yes. As a matter of fact, it’s interesting – I don’t think we had one fried item all the – as I think about it, we have – I mean granted we had pizza. we had to have some pizza. But you know, in America, yeah there’s no question. It’s different.

Rico [10:08]: Yeah. It’s, uh, yeah. And, you know, I think – I don’t know. Part of, I think also, food, and maybe we’re getting close to it, is that there’s a lot of free range or more like farm to table over there. Because they’re so close to so many places, right?

Cliff [10:22]: Yeah, they’re definitely – it’s regional. A lot of regional places, so. I will tell you, when you go around different parts of Italy and you eat at different areas, a lot of the times, I said, “Man, in America, we’re on the right track because we’re doing a lot of the same items.” But I will tell you – they taste a lot better over there.

Rico [10:39]: Yeah, well no doubt. I gotta believe that just being out there – the air – wine?

Cliff [10:46]: The wine’s always good. I mean – the wine, every region has their own wine. If you’re in Florence, you know, granted it’s in Tuscany. So you have a bunch of different Tuscan wines. However, if you go to the little tiny place in Amalfi, they have their own wines, and it’s an Amalfi wine. So everyone – different area, regional – they do have specific wines for the regions.

Rico [11:06]: Now that’s interesting. Did you ever try rice balls out there?

Cliff [11:11]: The arancini? Actually, yes. We did have one arancini, it was really good. But, I will tell you, the arancini that we get here in America are about – maybe about three inches, two and a half inches. They were five and six inches over there. So you could have a happy meal. If you ordered two arancini, the rice balls, you would have been pretty full.

Rico [11:30]: Yeah, I miss those things. So, let’s see. Going on, we have the Mercato Centrale.

Cliff [11:37]: Mercato Centrale was actually in Florence. And, you know, interestingly enough, it was really hot there. It was 103 degrees and we were trying to find somewhere to be inside. So we sat well right, right down by the Duomo, and so the Mercato Centrale is pretty well known in that area. And it’s basically a food hall, you know, American style food hall, you know, venue hall. But this place here had everything under the sun from – you know, you could get chicken. You could get biscotti. You could get, um, any type of gelato, coffee, pizzas all over the place. Truffles – they had black truffles over there. I mean, on one of the pizzas – they were shaved on one of the pizzas. But the image that you’ll see – I will tell you. This place was really big, and it was jam packed with people. And it was a cool place. You could get it – you could go from stall to stall to stall, and it was a lot of fun in there.

Rico [12:32]: Is there any place here in the States that comes close to that experience?

Cliff [12:36]: Well, you know what, with all the food halls going up, you look at Krog street market – Krog street market, they’ve done a great job with them. They’ve done a really nice job with that place over there, and, you know, are they modeled after some of these places in Europe? They could be because, they really could be. But at the same – I think they started earlier than we did in America. But there’s – you know, you go to Thaniel Hall – same exact thing. And even in Chicago, they just opened up a really big food hall. But there’s two and three under works here, and there’s a new one that’s going to be going up in Athens in the next year, which is going to take up a whole building over there. So it’ll be interesting.

Rico [13:13]: Even one of them at here, outside the perimeter up here would be nice, huh?

Cliff [13:17]: Yeah.

Rico [13:18]: Not enough people, maybe.

Cliff [13:20]: Yeah, we need a few more people. And a bike line, you know, a line with ten thousand people on it every day. Like the bell line!

Rico [13:26]: Actually, I was saying, when I went to Pawn City Market, I thought that was close to some degree, you know.

Cliff [13:32]: Absolutely. Because Pawn City Market, there’s so much going on down there, and all – they have two floors of all food and now on top of them, they’ve got all of the big tech companies going on and the new Kroger that just is opening at the big building that’s going right next to it, and all the tech companies that are moving over there. So Pawn City Market is definitely a great little spot. Yeah.

Rico [13:53]: I think once they do the apartment complex up in Town Center, there might be three hundred people.

Cliff [13:59]: Yeah, maybe.

Rico [14:01]: But in regards, yeah, it’s tough out there. But um, so, Italy. And you’ve been to Florence and you’ve been Amalfi. What’s the pizza margherita?

Cliff [14:11]: Pizza margherita. So we ended up in Naples. Naples was really –

Rico [14:15]: How’d you like Naples?

Cliff [14:17]: You know, Naples was really nice. I have to tell you – we stayed in this place called Hotel Bellini, which was – when I made the reservation they had warned us, “Hey, this is a sketchy area, don’t be afraid of you see graffiti.” And I’m like, “ahh, I’m used to that,” you know? So we ended up staying at this one place, and it was really in the middle of all the different shopping areas around there. And so we went to this place called Sorbelo – I – there’s two really, really great places for pizza. There’s a lot of places. But there’s number one and number two. We ended up going this place – I believe it was called Sorbelo Pizza. But the cool part is, you’re walking down the road and there’s restaurant after restaurant going everywhere, and you know, you’ve got the Italian center that actually looks like a little red chili. In Naples, that’s where they came from. But, so we went to the Sorbelo Pizza, but you go put your name in to the guy who’s standing outside across the street, and he’ll call you – across the street because there’s fifty people in front of you or behind you. And it’s like a little machine. So basically, he’ll tell you, “Hey I’m going to call your name and number in Italian.” So you have to pay attention. And also, you have to understand exactly a little of what he’s saying. So he called our number and we went into the Sorbelo pizza, and the cool part is – they have these two big ovens that are – they use a combination of gas and also wood. But when you order that pizza, it’s to your table in four or five minutes. And they – this place had a dumbwaiter that – actually, the pizza was made down below, they’d put it in the dumbwaiter, it came up top, and they deliver it right to your table. And they actually have another one in New York City, but the pizza there – Naples is known for the pizza margherita. And I will tell you – the pizza there was really good. And it’s pretty big. The difference is, there’s so many five or six euros compared to in America, where the same pizza would be twenty-six or twenty-seven dollars.

Rico [16:12]: Yes, yes.

Cliff [16:13]: So a little different. But the pizza’s the best.

Rico [16:15]: Yeah, yeah, you know – people always wonder about that. I mean, you know, even I think about that. You know, you talk about Europe and you talk about how expensive it is to live there because gas is expensive.

Cliff [16:25]: Oh yeah, gas was not – they sell it by the liter. Two bucks a liter.

Rico [16:27]: So over here that would be, like, eight – eight dollars. So, but, food’s cheap?

Cliff [16:33]: The food – I will tell you – I personally found, being in the restaurant business, I found that the food was very inexpensive. When you go out for lunch for four people and you spend forty euros, which is, like, fifty dollars, and you have a pretty good meal –

Rico [16:48]: For four people?

Cliff [16:49]: Four people. So, and even all of the – if you went there tomorrow, I would say, “Hey Rico, you can go get a panini with proscuitto on it and brie for lunch, and maybe get a pizza for dinner, and you’re going to spend twelve euros. And if you want a bottle of water – most of the bottles of water are two euros, maybe three euros at the most.”

Rico [17:06]: Really? Over here you have to pay way more for that. And those are big bottles, they’re not the little ones?

Cliff [17:10]: Yeah. Everybody in Italy – no matter where you go – you’re gonna be ordering bottled water.

Rico [17:16]: Did you find that when you stayed – so did you book on AirBnb or anything like that?

Cliff [17:21]: Two of them were – uh, let’s see. I think one of them was an AirBnb in Cinque Terre, and that was awesome. The guy was really cool – his name was Paolo. And he was really cool. He met us at the bottom of the stairs, and I knew afterwards why he met us at the bottom. Because there was, like, four hundred and fifty stairs to go up.

Rico [17:41]: And you had to carry all of your bags up that way?

Cliff [17:44]: Yeah. He helped us. And he said, “Man, these are heavy.”

Rico [17:47]: Well, you’re out there for ten days, I’m sure. The kids didn’t bring five pairs of shoes, I hope.

Cliff [17:54]: No. But that AirBnb was a nice place. And the air conditioning worked. You know, in America, we have air conditioning. In Italy, they have air conditioning, but it’s their style of air conditioning. And at the AirBnb that we stayed at, it was really nice. The guy – it was a nice place, and he was a really nice guy.

Rico [18:11]: How long did you stay there?

Cliff [18:12]: Two nights.

Rico [18:13]: That’s not so bad for the flight of stairs.

Cliff [18:15]: It wasn’t that bad, because we overlooked, I think it’s the Tyrrhenian Sea? And we got to – you know, what we needed to eat was a lot of different espresso that we had. We had espressos, and, we had more espressos and cappuccinos than we wanted to, but it was fun, you know? Ate a lot of different food.

Rico [18:34]: There’s no point in sleeping when you’re in Italy.

Cliff [18:36]: No, we had to get up early.

Rico [18:39]: And you didn’t do bus tours, right? This was, like, you did your own thing.

Cliff [18:42]: Yeah, we did our own thing. We set it up, and, we took – I bet you we did twenty, twenty-five hours of setting it up. So we would land in one area, and we would take the thing that’s called the Frecciarossa train. The red train. And we would take that to wherever we needed to go. And one part – we did land in Salerno where we had to take the boat over to Positano. Which was really cool, because you get to see all of the coast all the way up the fifteen, twenty minute right. And we were supposed to have – we had a taxicab waiting for us with our name on it for the family. And we missed that one. We missed that one by an hour because we went up eight hundred stairs instead of going up the seventy stair level. That was a challenge, but, we figured, you know – but we set it all up and, you know, we spent twenty, twenty-five hours getting it together. It worked out really well.

Rico [19:36]: Yeah, you know travel, it changes, it’s just the general bookings and everything.

Cliff [19:39]: We booked all of our own stuff, and, you know, a few people have asked me, “Hey, you know, how come you didn’t use a travel agency?” And we’ve been there a couple of times. But we really know where we wanted to go. And the difference, I think, with what we did compared to some of our friends who went there with travel agencies and with tours – the tour guide will take you to Florence and you’re there for two hours and, okay now it’s time to go to the next place. So we stayed and we kind of felt like we were living in there and living like the locals.

Rico [20:07]: Yeah, and that’s better, I think

Cliff [20:09]: It was fun. And you know, I will tell you – I would definitely – I would do it tomorrow.

Rico [20:12]: Yeah I’d do it tomorrow too if I could. I need your itinerary.

Cliff [20:19]: I’ll give it to you! It’s a long one.

Rico [20:21]: I’ll duplicate that one. Um, figs. Now, I have a beautiful fig tree in the back, but these figs from Italy – these figs are beautiful!

Cliff [20:30]: So the figs in Italy – you know, the figs in Italy – the trees are ten, twelve feet. And without a question. And the leaves – when I was walking up in one area, it was in – it was in Cinque Terre, where I was walking up this big alley going up to the BnB. And I’m looking, and I can see these giant lemons that are on the trees. And then right next to it, they have the fig trees. And these figs – they’re probably three, four inches wide. And they’re all green, and I will tell you what – we had a couple of them. They were awesome. And sweet and tasty – I mean – you could just pick them right off the tree. Just like anywhere else, but it’s an Italian fig, and it’s almost like a small baseball. So, I have some in my backyard, but they’re only the size of quarter.

Rico [21:18]: Oh wow, that is small. Mine – yeah ours are a little bigger than that. Yeah, ours are probably a good two-inches – an inch and a half to two inches wide. But that was, like I mentioned before, before we started doing this, there was a clipping from an Italian fig tree. So that was why. But, you know, with the American soil, American air – maybe something’s different.

Cliff [21:40]: Well, I don’t know. But I will tell you – a lot of my relatives many years ago when I was growing up, they would go to Italy and they’d come back with a little piece of a tree. And they know how to take that tree, put it in water, and let it grow a little bit. And then they’d plant it, and next thing you know, it was growing in our backyard.

Rico [21:57]: My father was the one with the green thumb. Yeah, cause this thing traveled from Italy to California and to us eventually by a few years. But now it’s been there twenty years.

Cliff [22:08]: Italian fig tree.

Rico [22:09]: Yeah, lovely. Sweet, sweet stuff. Yeah. And I don’t know what people – can you cook with figs? I don’t know. Or is it just – with some fruits you can.

Cliff [22:18]: Yeah, I mean, you can. I mean, but there’s a lot of people – a lot of chefs definitely take them, slice it in half, they’ll put a little goat cheese on them, or they’ll put a little honey on it as well. And just eat them the way they are. Yeah.

Rico [22:30]: And then the cotta cheese. Uh, proscuitto’s a salty meat.

Cliff [22:35]: Proscuitto. We – I’ll tell you what. The proscuitto – we were fortunate. We went to Parma. And Parma is – if you don’t or are not familiar with Parma – Parma is in the middle of the country of Italy. And we were coming from the coast – northern coast. So we rented a car. And that was the only car that we rented for almost a day. And, you know, when you’re driving through the hills of Italy, you’re – you’re going – they’re not hills, they’re mountains. So that particular day it was 105 degrees, and we were dying to get where we going in the middle of Parma, and we really didn’t know where we were going, but we finally got to this proscuitto ham factory. And the really nice part was, the people were really nice. They waited for us – instead of getting there at 12, we got there at 1. And she still was nice enough to take us to this ham factory. And the ham factory – it’s called Rosa DiAngelo. And basically, they have hogs that live in the wild. And so the black hogs, which in America, you don’t see a lot of them being imported, especially for the proscuitto. They are from Spain, but – so she – they have the white hogs and the black hogs. And the black hoofs and the white hoofs. But she took us to where they, um, in their facility, where they brined everything and they took the pepper and they put it all over it. And at one point we were standing up looking at – she said, two million dollars worth of proscuitto above our heads. And it was pretty cool. And so we went in there, we were fortunate – we tried the black hoof proscuitto, which they slice more on the Spanish style – only about two or three inches at a time. And then we tried the twenty-four month and thirty-six month. And I will tell you – they melted – they melted in our mouths. It was really good.

Rico [24:28]: I love proscuitto. You know, most people just think of proscuitto as these thin slices. They don’t see the whole – the leg, which is what was hanging above your head.

Cliff [24:39]: Oh yeah, they were hanging above our heads. They actually sell – this company and themselves – they only sell the legs themselves. They did sell them. And they were from 750 euros to 1500 euros. And, but this company did not import or export anything into America. They were – it was interesting. They would sell those to the local people, but in order to – their business is really in slices. So they slice it all, and they put them in these packages and they sell them all over Italy.

Rico [25:09]: Yeah, I’m not surprised. I mean, when you get Public’s and you get the proscuitto that – the little slices – you look – if you get eight slices in a little pack for, like, ten dollars –

Cliff [25:18]: And you want paper thin – you know, sometimes when you go to Public’s – we always laugh about it. But, you know, my family – we’ve had holiday discussions over a deli in the South, compared to going to a deli in the North. And hey, I want my proscuitto really really thin, and there’s a reason for it, you know.

Rico [25:35]: It’s the texture is what it’s supposed to be. It’s amazing. Well, I don’t know about you. Well, I’m first generation American. So my parents came from Italy. So in New York, there used to be a place in a train station that had live animals. I’d go with my mom. I was little. I was ten, twelve years old. I’d go with my mom, she’d pick up the chickens or the rooster she’d want. Whatever, like the rabbit – my dad would eat rabbit. And they’d take those little, beautiful animals that we would say, “Oh mom, look, beautiful!” They’d take them to the back, and they’d come out all packaged and wrapped up in paper.

Cliff [26:15]: It’s fresh!

Rico [26:16]: But, it was, you know, it’s a different, I don’t know. Just, it’s not like Purdue, that’s for sure. It’s a different food print.

Cliff [26:26]: Yeah, there’s a lot of chicken here in Georgia, but at the same time, it – you know, there’s still places that you can find that – I don’t think there’s much in America, but maybe at Buford highway you can find more places. But at the same time, in Italy, I will tell you – there were two or three places that you could actually go. One place was in Naples, actually, come to think about it. When you look at the store, it was all fresh fish. So there was octopus in the little tiny water bin that had air going into it. And you would order a cone of calamari. So they would take it – as soon as you order it, they take it, they chop it right up, they fry it, they stick it right in a cone, and here you go.

Rico [27:01]: From fresh the fresh water?

Cliff [27:03]: Right from the water. That was pretty cool.

Rico [27:05]: Did you order them?

Cliff [27:07]: My wife did. She liked it, but she only ate half of it. I don’t know why, but maybe it was a little thick.

Rico [27:13]: Yeah, you like the little ones. The little ones are better, right? Well, you know, you’ve – it’s cool to be able to go to Italy. And, you know, to all the parts outside the US. Because really, food is so much different.

Cliff [27:27]: It really is. And I will tell you – you know, they always say, “espresso tastes better in Italy. Cappuccino tastes better in Italy.” And one thing I found out why the espresso tastes a little better was – in America, we have a little packet that’s about two inches of sugar. And in Italy, I found out that the package of sugar are about four inches and they’re filled with sugar. So each one of those sugars that I put into my espresso was really equated to four sugars here in America. And no wonder it was so good!

Rico [27:55]: And you can’t have sugar in real good espresso. It should be drank with no sugar.

Cliff [28:00]: Well we – well you know, we had a lot of – even my son, he had his first cappuccino in, I think it was some place in Florence. And it was funny. I had a good expression on his face of three little – he went to taste it. And the third one was, “This is pretty good.”

Rico [28:16]: Yeah. My first son was like that. And the in-laws, when they lived with us. They passed away, but, they would give him an espresso when he was, like, six years old. They put the sugar in it, and then they put milk. So he had this much espresso and that much milk. But he – he grew up with espresso.

Cliff [28:34]: They would teach – were training him.

Rico [28:35]: Yeah. Just like they do in Italy. In – what was the drinking age in Italy?

Cliff [28:41]: Eighteen. Yeah. So my daughter was very lucky. We were in one place and she said, “I’m eighteen so I get to order wine.” And she ordered wine, so she had a good time, too.

Rico [28:53]: She ordered responsibly.

Cliff [28:55]: She did order responsibly. And over there, it’s, you know, it’s a whole different world. It’s a lot of fun. You can drink your way through Italy, you can eat your way through Italy, or you can just travel and have a great time.

Rico [29:07]: You were doing a bit of Bourdain at the –

Cliff [29:11]: Yeah. Yeah, he’s a little more creative than I. He goes a little more creative with eating some of those items. It was – I don’t know if I would have eaten the grasshoppers. There were some areas that we went to where we could have gotten food like that, but –

Rico [29:24]: Did you see other, I mean, you know people don’t think of ethnic – are there ethnic neighborhoods of foods in Italy? Think, Italian food, right? But did you see other types of ethnic foods?

Cliff [29:35]: In Italy?

Rico [29:36]: Besides McDonalds.

Cliff [29:37]: I really didn’t. Even in the train stations it was all a lot of the same items. The, like, in Florence for example, at 7 AM, the mozzarella trucks are driving all over the place. They’re going from place to place, handing out and delivering the mozzarella. And then they have the pastry trucks. And a lot of the places that you go to throughout the daytime, they have a lot of the same pastries. And they all come from one or two of the different companies. And they’re out delivering all the time. But as far as different types of food – I have to tell you, I wasn’t looking for it.

Rico [30:11]: Chinese food, Hawaiian food, no?

Cliff [30:12]: There was, no, there was a Chinese restaurant that we went by at one point and there were a few people in there. But we weren’t looking for that.

Rico [30:21]: Yeah, of course not. But it’s interesting to see if other places have that. Cool. So, we are – we went through – I wish I had more of the pictures, actually, online. But we can share it because there were a lot more pictures. So what I’m going to do – I’m going to post show notes to this, so when you go to my website, LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com, you’ll see a gallery of some other pictures that Cliff shared with us.

Cliff [30:46]: Absolutely.

Rico [30:47]: Of the proscuittos – I think we have the proscuittos hanging.

Cliff [30:50]: Yes, yes.

Rico [30:51]: We had that. So we had other pictures as well. So, and, I shared the link to Noble Fin, which is where you can visit. Because August 5th is oyster day.

Cliff [31:00]: National oyster day is this Monday. But I’m gonna tell you – I’ll give everybody – just because you’re listening to this. If you come in Saturday, we’re gonna do national oyster day on Saturday. Dollar oyster. It’s called Rock n’roll, Rockefeller, our raw oysters, from 4-7 at the bar. But last year, on national oyster day, I think we went through twenty five hundred oysters in four hours.

Rico [31:22]: So, last time I had oysters was in Manhattan back at, two decades ago. Yeah. Oysters and whiskey, I think.

Cliff [31:32]: Every oyster – we had a gentleman who brought his ten year old son in a couple weeks ago. And he, interestingly, he said “Hey, he eats oysters.” And what the little kid did was smell it first, and then he ate it, which was very, very smart. Because, some people, if you don’t smell it first – every one we open, we have to smell it. But for this kid, he was very smart, he smelled it first. You want to make sure it’s perfect.

Rico [32:01]: I think every little kid wants – yeah they smell, “Does this smell good?” before they eat it.

Cliff [32:07]: They know if it’s not good.

Rico [32:09]: So would there be anything different you’d do? That you didn’t for – if you went back again? Anything different that you’d share that you would do, that you learned along the way?

Cliff [32:18]: Sometimes – when we went to Rome for a day and a half. And I think that was plenty. Florence – we always like to stay at Florence a little longer, cause Florence is so beautiful, and we got to see a lot of different things over there. We didn’t go to Venice this time – we had been there previously. But, you know, more importantly is, if you go through little AirBnbs and you find the nice ones, or the small hotels, because the places that we stayed in all had probably under forty rooms, maybe even under thirty. But you get to know a lot of the people. So, you know, I like to say – say, if we do anything different, we would probably stay in Manarola or Cinque Terre. One region, more days. Amalfi – we were there for four nights – four or five. That was pretty cool, I mean, it’s a beautiful area. So, if you don’t want a touristy trap place where you’re going from place to place every single night, you know what? Stay in some places in some areas two or three nights instead of one. Or maybe four nights. And take day trips to different places.

Rico [33:28]: How’d you do the day trips? Was that, like, did they have Uber type of rides?

Cliff [33:31]: They didn’t have Uber. For example, in Amalfi, we stayed in a place called Praiano, which is south of Positano and north of Amalfi. So they have the little bus called the Sita bus. And it’s not little, it’s a big old bus. And that bus was only one dollar eighty in euros, for example. And you could take it thirty, forty miles. The challenge is, during the summertime, there’s a lot of people on it. So we took a lot of – we lived like the locals. Just jumped on that little bus and waited.

Rico [34:04]: Okay. Sounds cool. We’ve been here with Cliff Bramble, owner of Noble Fin and Hungry Hospitality, sharing his advice on restaurants and all sorts of business aspects of the restaurant business, which is a difficult business, I’m sure.

Cliff [34:22]: It is. It is. Restaurant business is a tough business no matter where you go. It’s a tough business. You’re trying to please everybody and trying to make sure everyone’s having a good time, and that’s the goal.

Rico [34:34]: Yeah. Cool. Cliff, thanks. Appreciate you coming out.

Cliff [34:38]: Thanks for having me.

Rico [34:39]: We’ve been here. Check out my Facebook page that you’re on if you’re watching this. Or you maybe watching this on Youtube or some of the other channels. But the website is LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. You’ll find links, show notes, more pictures from this. I’ll be posting to Facebook as well. And again, I want to thank Gwinnett Medical Center for being a sponsor of this show, and some of the podcasts we do, including Capitalist Sage, which is twice a month. So thank you guys, appreciate you being with us.

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Business

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of the Restaurant Business

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Capitalist Sage podcast

Clifford Bramble, author of “Within Our Walls” an “inspirational story for the restaurant industry,” and the founder and owner of Hungry Hospitality joins Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini to talk about the current state and the future of the restaurant business. Recorded socially safe from the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia

Website: ​https://www.hungryhospitality.com
Social Media: @HungryHospitality

“No matter what industry you’re in, you have to learn and do the job before you actually become an owner of the job. Or the owner of the business. So if somebody wants to get into the chef position, they have to learn how to cook. If somebody wants to learn how to do the business side, they have to learn the front of the house stuff. So it’s really important that they still have to be working for somebody to learn from somebody. They can do it in school, but they’re going to learn a lot more on property, inside a restaurant.”

CLiff Bramble

Where to find the topic, timestamp:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:49] – About Cliff
[00:03:35] – Why Restaurants?
[00:07:22] – First impressions of COVID
[00:09:19] – Doing Things Differently
[00:14:07] – Finding the Right Information
[00:17:52] – Reopening
[00:18:57] – Looking to the Future
[00:25:21] – Restaurant Real Estate
[00:29:20] – Getting into the Restaurant Business
[00:31:12] – Closing

Cliff Bramble joined us on our video chat podcast.

Podcast Transcript:

Karl: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Capitalist Sage Podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors, and my cohost is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets, Digital Marketing and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners Magazine. How’re you doing Rico?

Rico: [00:00:47] Hey, Karl. Good. Thanks.

Karl: [00:00:49] Well, why don’t you tell us a little bit about our sponsors today?

Rico: [00:00:52] Sure. Let’s go right into it. Our lead sponsor I want to thank is Hargray Fiber. They’re a major company in the Southeast that handles fiber optics, internet connection at the speeds you need. And also because they handle, because they’re right in the community, they’re not your cable guy, right. You could call them up, they’ll be right out there. They’re very attentive to their client’s needs. Whether you’re a small business or you’re a large enterprise business, whether your employees are working from home or home and office, they’re providing all the smart office tools that you need to be able to do the work that your company needs to be able to get sales done. So check them out, they’re HargrayFiber.com. Or you can go to Hargray.com/Business and check them out because they have a thousand dollar Visa gift card going, promotion. And you may be one of those if you hook up with them. So check them out. Thank you to Hargray Fiber.

Karl: [00:01:49] Thank you. Thank you Hargray for continuing to sponsor all of the podcasts here. Today I’m excited to bring back a guest that joined us when we started this, if you remember. Cliff Bramble, founder and owner of Hungry Hospitality here in Gwinnett County. He’s here to talk a little bit about his perspective and experience and thoughts on business, small business in particular restaurant. 2020, it’s been a tough year for so many businesses. And in particular, you’ll see a lot of restaurant business being impacted. But I’ll tell you, being able to understand the history and what makes things work, is a great conversation to just show how we could support small business and maybe even talk a little bit about what it’s gonna look like post COVID. So Cliff how’re you doing today?

Cliff: [00:02:41] I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on.

Karl: [00:02:43] Well, many people might already know you and so on, but I’d love for you to share your background with folks so they can understand the many, many things that you’ve done in your career.

Cliff: [00:02:55] Absolutely. So, I live in Peachtree Corners. So I’m around here quite frequently. I was, I had the Nobel Fin going for quite some time until COVID came in. So I’ve been in the restaurant business for many years. I cofounded Rathmines Restaurants many years ago. And in the meantime, after that, ended up opening up Noble Fin. And now I just started a new company called Hungry Hospitality because, Noble Fin, I had to close it. Which isn’t a good thing, but we had to do what we had to do to start with COVID. But being in the restaurant
business and also real estate and also investing, I’ve been working with businesses for many years and I really enjoy it. It’s always a fun thing to do.

Karl: [00:03:35] Well, that’s what we’re here to talk to is the small business owners. We know it could be lonely owning your small business and having others to be able to share ideas with talk, to get ideas from, we know is very helpful. And so, why don’t we jump right in? And I’m curious when you did all your experience in a restaurant, what are some of the things that attracted you and many people to the restaurant business? From a business perspective, why do you think people get into that?

Cliff: [00:04:03] Well, you know, there’s a lot of glory in restaurants. A lot of people love to be in it. There’s, you know, there’s many people that will say, Hey, I’d love to open a restaurant. I don’t know about right now, but over the years they always have. But there’s always a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of adrenaline that’s going on. You know, there’s that. You’re around some nice people all the time. You’re around people all the time. And some people think it’s just an excitement thing all the time. You’re always excited. There’s always something going on. And although there is, you still have to run the business, with the HR and the hiring and all the other aspects that go into it. But the restaurant industry, it will come back. It’s having a challenge right now, but it will come back and there’ll be just as many people in it.

Karl: [00:04:44] Yeah. Over the years, I think one of the things is I always associate restaurant with creating memories. People get engaged, they have family feasts, birthdays, mother’s day, father’s day. And no matter what is happening in the economy or the world, people are going to want to celebrate with other people. They’re going to do it over food. And so we know that that’s going to sustain over the long term. What are some of the things that people, when you think about restaurants, they don’t know about the restaurant industry that you think they should for folks that have been in it for awhile?

Cliff: [00:05:18] Well, a lot of people may, again, people think it’s a fun industry. You, number one, you have to be there when you open up a restaurant, you really have to be there most of the time, especially if you’re independent. If you’re working with five and six other restaurant groups or you own it, and you have the luxury of hiring people because you’re a very profitable organization, you will have less time within the restaurant and more time operating the company because somebody still has to run the company. But the options are, is that people don’t see the hard work, the sacrifices that go into owning a restaurant. If it’s your kid’s birthday and you own a restaurant and you’re opening and it’s Friday night, you probably have to be there. It just depends on what people’s version and definition of fun and excitement is, but there’s a lot of hard work that you have to be there all the time.

Rico: [00:06:09] You know, I remember when we did a podcast, not too long ago, about your travels to Italy. Yeah, that was fun. I mean, you shared some pictures. You talked about the food and all that. Do you miss any of that? Do you miss being, you know, I know it’s only been a
little while. You know, but sometimes I feel like people leave a business and it doesn’t take long for them to miss it. Like a few days even.

Cliff: [00:06:34] Yeah. It’s interesting. You mentioned that if somebody asked me that the other day, just yesterday and he said, Well, are you going to get back into it? And I said, listen, I’ve been doing this for about almost 40 years. And, I’d love to say that I want to jump right into it, but I have to tell you I’m having a good time not being in it right now. So, you know, what you do realize is all of a sudden you realize all those things that you really couldn’t do over the years and you missed, all of a sudden they’re back at you. But you do miss the, you know, the fun of the excitement on a nightly basis, meeting all the different people. Because you do meet a lot of people in the restaurants and you have a lot of friends in the restaurants or acquaintances. But the other thing you miss is you miss the good food. So we cook at home all the time now.

Karl: [00:07:22] I’m curious when all, COVID-19 started to happen, where did you first hear that something was happening? How soon did you hear something was happening? What was your first thoughts and reaction to that?

Cliff: [00:07:35] Well, I’m involved in investments and financial side as well. And I’ve been, I started watching it in December to be honest. And, so in December I really watched it and in January I became obsessed with it. To a point where, I was up at three 30 in the morning, reading news from other countries, from that all the way to the East or the West, wherever it was. That was already happening and I was watching it. So for the month of January, I watched it and I read. I read a lot of information about it and I kind of warned a few friends of mine. I said, you know, if this comes over here, restaurant wise, we may end up having a big problem. Now I didn’t know how big of a problem it was, but watching it escalate, I took a lot of screenshots basically when the John Hopkins first started tracking. It had, there was two people. I have a screenshot with two people in the United States have it. And then it continued to go up and up and up. So, you know for me, I started watching it in January really, really, more so than December. But when I had over at Noble Fin, I did tell my staff in January. I advised them I said, listen guys, if this comes over here, it’s going to affect everybody. So start saving your money. And actually quite a few of them thanked me later on. And they said, man, I can’t believe that. But we did save our money and thank you very much. So I watched a lot of it in January. And then obviously in February when it started to pick up, you know, it just continued. I think the financial markets, in my opinion, kind of ignored it in January. You know, just paying attention to it, wondering what was going to happen on the hospitality side. It took a mind of its own and obviously where we are now today.

Karl: [00:09:19] Yeah. I remembered you actually being one of the first ones to talk about it and, you know, we were chatting and you were starting to do that early March, late February, early March. But I don’t know that people really understood how long this would be around. And we all didn’t know enough information about how we responded and how many. There was a time there were country that had a spike and then they got it under control and everyone thought that that’s what happens. But decisions and choices and behaviors and all these things played in.
And we’re a big country with a lot of complexity to it. 50 States, a lot of different approaches to tackling it. So, when you knew that it was going to impact your business, I know there are things you can do generally. Is there anything looking back, you’d advise the restaurant industry as a whole or people that are leading large in the food and beverage space, things that a year ago, you know, hindsight’s always 2020. Things that a year ago, things that could be done to prepare, if something like this were to happen. What would be some of the things in the food and beverage space that good business people could do? Could have done?

Cliff: [00:10:38] Well, one of the most important parts really for me, was making sure you had enough cash flow in a situation like this or any emergency situation. And, you know, I’ve worked with my accountant and it’s very interesting. Making sure that you have enough cashflow for three or four months. And most people in the, you know, we’re all in the same boat. Most people in the United States only have two or three months worth of a fund saved. In a restaurant the same exact thing. You do have to treat it as a business because that’s exactly what it is first. The fun of the restaurant has to come second. But having the cash in bank and making sure that you have enough for an emergency situation, honestly, it helped me tremendously this time. Now obviously you can not predict what’s going to happen how far along this is going to go. But, there still are, you know, we’re still in the pandemic. There’s still restaurants that are having challenges, especially in different segments. So you know, when it comes down to it, in my opinion, no matter what business you’re in you always have to plan two, three, four, five months worth of cashflow to make sure that you have that. Because when you need it and you don’t have it, you can’t get it.

Rico: [00:11:46] Let me ask you something. You know, I don’t think the restaurant business. Is immune to things, right? They’re listeria outbreaks, the salmonella outbreaks. Those are common. Every day there’s always a recall somewhere in the country for something. Especially romaine lettuce. Well, romaine lettuce from Arizona, I guess, or wherever it comes from. It’s like that one place, you know. So you have all that going on and then you have the pandemic on top of that because you have the normal stuff like that. So do you see this coming back? I mean, they’re talking about it coming back again. You know should restaurants are planning out for this type of thing beyond the money? You know, how do you plan the health wise? How do you keep things clean? And not that you know, a pandemic this may not matter, I guess the cleanliness. But how do you, what do you see there?

Cliff: [00:12:42] Well, I wish I had a crystal ball. I really do, but you know, restaurants in general are clean. You know, we clean them all the time. You have a cleaning crew or you have an outside company who comes in and cleans it. So it just, it really depends, but you still have to remain diligent on what you’re doing and you have to continue to train your staff.That’s there and make sure the management is on guard. Make sure that everybody’s paying attention. Because it, you know, what happened to me over at Noble Fin is really the reason why I ended up closing the first time in March was because somebody walked in. And then they had a party of 10, but they came from out of town. They called up two days later and they said, Hey, by the way, I think I may have COVID. You may have to tell your staff. So that was a real big
eyeopener for me when I’m dealing with hotel guests from the Marriott locally here, and, you know, the international companies that are around Peachtree Corners and Gwinnett. That was a big eyeopener. So you know, keep being diligent about listening and watching what’s going on and listening to your staff because your staff will tell you a lot of what’s going on. But more importantly, you have to continue to remain diligent and be clean and make sure you’re paying attention to everything around you. You can’t just be paying attention to your four walls within that restaurant. You have to be paying attention to what’s going on in the business world as well, because it does affect restaurants.

Karl: [00:14:07] That’s a good point. Early on information was flowing from so many sources to help guide you on restaurant safety and protocol. What was the right source to listen to? How do you figure out who to pay attention to?

Cliff: [00:14:24] That goes right about now too, we’re still trying to figure it out. You know what? The Georgia restaurant association has a great page on COVID. So, you know, any restaurant, or individual, or an employee of a restaurant or hospitality field, they can go onto the Georgia restaurant association webpage. And they have a great COVID, it’s a webpage with all types of resources on it. So that was something that I really paid attention to because they were very keen on keeping that up to date on a daily basis. Even though every day something came out differently. They were very good at keeping their website up.

Rico: [00:15:01] What did you, did you find useful the other resources that the association provided? I mean, obviously the restaurant industry is different than other industries because of the employees. And just the nature of sustainability and all that product. When it came to the Cares Act, to PPP, to loans, to payroll. You know, when business is not happening, was that any of that useful to you? I mean, I know you did a lot for your employees. God knows. I think anyone that lives in Peachtree Corners knows that Cliff Bramble, Noble Fin. You guys really, you really employed your employees as long as you could.

Karl: [00:15:39] And the community.

Cliff: [00:15:41] We did. We did. I honestly, I mean, we did pay attention. You know, when the Cares Act came out, I was very much aware of that coming out four or five weeks ahead of time with my fingers crossed because I told my staff the same exact thing. Hey guys, this is, if this comes in, I’ll be able to help you guys for this much longer. And to be perfectly honest, I mean, I kept a lot of the staff on. I couldn’t, I think 26 staff members on for the nine weeks that we were closed and they got their paycheck. You know, and that was important to me because we opened back up, everyone of those employees was back there to work. Which is a great feeling. So, you know, so yes. The other items that were out there and the people that, you know, friends of mine in the business world also. You know, from my banker to my accountant, we were all kind of talking about the same exact thing. So, we all help each other. And, there was a lot of guys in the restaurant business that I spoke with as well. We had a few, what do they call the zoom meetings, right? We had a few of them. Which were pretty cool because everybody
really helped each other. And I think that’s what the industry is really needing right now, is people to help each other being in the same industry.

Rico: [00:16:50] Well, was it a little scary at one point when they were sort of changing the rules of the game a little bit? Like you had to spend it all in eight weeks and then you could spend it in 24 weeks. Maybe some of it’s forgiven, maybe not some of it, that formula was changing. Was any of that scary?

Cliff: [00:17:07] You know what scary could be a word, but confusing is more of the word. There’s no question about it. I mean, you try to become an expert at this stuff because you know, you’re learning about it, but you’re trying to learn as much as possible. And, I have several, you know, several email friends that would send me information. Hey, this is what’s going on. My banker would send me information. I would go to treasury.org. I would go to all the different government websites and pull down the latest information. But man, confusing is the word, because, you know, one day you go, wow, this is fantastic. And next day you’re up and down. And honestly, you know, you think you lose sleep when you have a restaurant? Go through COVID and own a restaurant, you’ll really be losing sleep. And that’s probably with any business too.

Karl: [00:17:52] Right. I wondered when you reopened and people started coming back, what were some of the, you know, the response the community gave as people started going back out to restaurants and as you walked around town? What was your general sense and feel on how people felt about it?

Cliff: [00:18:10] You know, we opened back up May 25th. It was eight weeks after we had first closed. And I think we were one of the earlier ones that we opened up. And I felt that at that time it was probably a good time because I didn’t know how long this was going to continue. But the people who came in, I have to tell you, we had a very, very supportive clientele and a lot of the people who had frequented the restaurant over the years, they were the first one’s back. Yes, there were some people that came in with masks. Yes, at the very beginning. But we did everything that we possibly could to make the people feel comfortable. But when it comes down to it, you know, the people who came in, they were very supportive. They were very happy that the restaurant was back open. They enjoyed the food and they came back a couple of times. But as the confusion set in, you saw less and less of them.

Karl: [00:18:57] Yeah, yeah. I know people are happy now. If you fast forward to today, restaurants are open and people are going out to eat. Yes, the world’s changed a little bit, there’s a little bit more spacing and so on. But I’m looking in the future, there’s a short term where, you know, until, vaccines are available and so on. We’re going to school dealing with this, we’re working dealing with this, we’re living our lives dealing with this. What do you think the restaurant industry is going to look like over the near short term? And I’m going to ask you, what do you think it’s going to look like a little bit further on? How does this change how
business owners approach food service, delivery, in dining experience. How do you think this could change it? And any of them for the better?

Cliff: [00:19:42] You know, the restaurant industry, I think right now is changing on a daily basis. But, you know, we’ve gone through a lot of different changes in the last six months. Let’s face it. We went from being like, for example, you got quick service, you got full service, you have fine dining, you have fast food. And what happened for me, for example, was you know, we went through the whole process of, okay, let’s see if we can continue with the sale. So we started to-go stuff immediately. And then from there you started selling stuff online and then people started ordering it online. But now you go into the future and all that stuff is still happening. Where there’s a lot of people eating outside. But let’s face it, it’s 95 degrees outside. At nighttime it’s fine. I know a couple of places that they set up their patio and outdoor front, and they look really, really cool. And people do dine in them. But the future-wise, I mean, you’re looking at home delivery. You’re looking at more chefs cooking at home, chefs from restaurants maybe doing meal preps. And that’s already happening. You know, and there’s also a lot of virtual cooking classes as well that’s going on. Where chefs or restaurant owners are doing the virtual cooking classes from their kitchen or they’re doing a zoom cooking class, basically. So the nice part is, is it’s working and people are going with it. What’s going on in a year from now? I don’t know. I mean, there may be some consolidation, but there’s also a lot of companies out there with some pretty deep pockets. That are looking for good brands to purchase with great locations because the restaurant industry, it’s not going anywhere. It will consolidate, it will change, but it’s going to come back. Sooner or later it will come back. But we are dependent on the hotels, just like hotels are dependent on us. And I know in Peachtree Corners there’s still one, at least one hotel that I know of that is not open. But this is people in this area, the less traveling we do, it does provide a challenge for what’s going to happen now or in the future as well.

Karl: [00:21:38] I’m curious. In New York I saw some areas of New York city shut down the streets and allow the restaurants to go out into the streets, where they get the advantage of spacing and they’re able to deliver a different experience. But also, do you think there’s a future and figuring out a way to leverage outdoor space and eating for the short term. And then I’m sure, you know, over time and it’ll go in there. Have you seen any innovations in that area?

Cliff: [00:22:10] You know, most of the cities and the towns have really eased the restrictions on the outdoor dining. I know Peachtree Corners has, so that has helped tremendously. You know, it’s really up to the building departments up to the coding and also how long this is going to continue. Hopefully there’s a vaccine where we can all say, okay, in six months, eight months, this is all done. And people are back dining in air conditioning, rather than sitting in 95 degrees.

Karl: [00:22:33] Yeah.

Rico: [00:22:33] Well, you know, I think that this has shown us though that this could happen again, right? I mean, this is just, this can happen again. And it doesn’t take long, right?
Transatlantic flights. I mean, by the time anyone really knew what was going on. We were already deep into it, you know what I mean? You were able to see it coming, maybe so were other people, but obviously some people ignored it. And it came and slapped us in the face. It was really bad in Italy and Greece and some of the other countries in Europe. But like you were saying things change, right? Yeah, I think there’s more ghost kitchens going on now.

Cliff: [00:23:09] Absolutely.

Rico: [00:23:10] Right. And to explain that to some people that don’t know what a ghost kitchen is.

Karl: [00:23:14] What is a ghost kitchen?

Cliff: [00:23:15] Well you know, there’s a place called Prep Atlanta over by Spaghetti Junction. They have, I don’t know how many, I’d like to say there’s about 75 to 100 different, 100 square feet. Some are 80 square feet kitchens. And I’ve been in two of them. One of my old chef has a food truck and he took me into one of his places and man it was pretty cool. But basically they’re doing all the prep there and then they basically will deliver it to somebody else. I know Elon Musk’s brother is heavily involved. He raised about, only about $500 million to start these virtual kitchens around the United States. So the virtual kitchen, it could be something where you have a restaurant where Noble Fin used to be, for example, and have four or five different kitchens only in there. And basically you order everything online and you just go pick it up. So it remains to be seen, but I think that that virtual kitchen definitely has a huge lifespan coming up to it.

Rico: [00:24:11] If you see what’s going on with like Domino’s pizza, right. The pizza industry is really good at this. There were set because most of their stuff is delivered anyway, right? So Domino’s is no, I think it’s Domino’s right. There’s no sit in, it’s all delivery, right? It’s all curbside or pick up or delivery. You’re seeing more of like what you said. And I’m seeing companies that are doing four different brands within a ghost kitchen. Like they own the whole thing, but they’re doing it for, so that pizzeria, mexican, chinese. They own all four brands let’s say and they’re in some hole in the wall place that’s conditioned for a kitchen and they’re selling right?

Cliff: [00:24:50] Delivery only.

Rico: [00:24:51] Yeah. And then, like you said, your chef started a food truck, right? So I’m seeing more of that.

Cliff: [00:24:58] And I’ll tell you, what’s interesting. He goes to neighborhoods too. He goes to different neighborhoods where, when all of a sudden when, you know, this whole COVID came in. Obviously the business parks had disappeared. Or the people, the parks are there, but the people weren’t. So he ended up going to neighborhoods where they would call him and they have 40, 50 people there and he’d serve them on like a Tuesday night.

Karl: [00:25:21] Yeah. We saw a few of those. Those are good. We ordered dinner, when they would pick neighborhoods from different restaurants, we thought that was fabulous. I’ve got a question that might be more technical. Since you, one of the biggest costs for restaurants is the space, the real estate, the space you’re in. Do you think this is going to have an impact on commercial real estate, being able to charge the same rates, if you can’t have as many people in a space. How do you think that’s going to affect that part of the business model for restaurants?

Cliff: [00:25:57] Well, you know, it’s interesting that you say that. But, you know what, when it comes down to the per square foot, you know, the restaurants are going to move out and restaurants live off of what you’re sales are per square foot and also what your rent is per square foot. And if you have a large restaurant and the rent is, you know, $40 a square foot. You know, in Georgia, in Atlanta, it’s probably a lot less than other parts of the country. But you also have a sales forecast for that specific restaurant square footage. So knowing what your sales are going to be or what they forecasted compared to what they are, the rent will be. And it’s, especially with only at 50% seating capacity, it’s going to provide a challenge without a question. So there are going to being landlords out there trying to charge more rent. It depends on how bad somebody wants a location. If somebody wants to pay for it and they want to be in a restaurant. If they have 4,000 square feet and they need to do $600 a square foot, which is on the medium level. They really want to do $800. So that’s three and a half million dollars in sales, but if they’re paying a low $20 a square foot, that’s great. But if they’re paying 35, your occupancy costs are going to be way too high. So it’s very important to pay attention before you go into it and know what you’re sales are what you think they’re going to be. But with COVID, you know, the next six months we just don’t know.

Karl: [00:27:20] Right. Yeah. And I see, I know with all the vacancies that are happening or projected to happen between retail, restaurants and others, it’s going to have an impact. I remember December, most landlords were pushing price increase in lease updates. Some may still it’s all very local. So it depends on laws, or people, or location. But if the model changes where you can’t drive as much revenue, whether it’s by people or the price you charge, you can’t get the sales volume. Don’t you think that that will force landlords to have to either face vacancy or build a model that allows, you know, business owners to be successful and come to the table. Now over time, like it happens every other time prices will increase again. But for the short term, it’s important that we, that somehow that gets figured out.

Cliff: [00:28:19] Well, you know, listen, we all know there’s going to be a lot of retail space available within the next six months. It’s already happening. You know, whether it’s here in Atlanta, West side, downtown, you go to old fourth ward. I mean, there’s so much happening right now. You look at Alpharetta. Alpharetta is, you know, it continues to grow. Peachtree Corners, there’s buildings here, but there’s also empty buildings as well. So the more of these companies that are not letting or telling their employees to stay home until June of 2021, it provides all of a sudden empty space. Now they still have leases on them. Some of them maybe they own the building, but it’s all really dependent on whether they can work it out with the
landlords. I got an email today from somebody who’s closing a bunch of restaurants and one of the main reasons was because they could not work out a solution with their landlords. So ultimately the landlord is either going to have empty places for, until COVID is over or there’s going to be somebody else who walks in and says, Hey, I have five brands and I want to put them in that place. Maybe for a virtual kitchen. You just, you just don’t know.

Karl: [00:29:20] That’s gotta be. So what are your thoughts on someone thinking of getting into the restaurant? Just finished working at some restaurant, moving into the Metro Atlanta area. Any advice to folks that might be looking to step into it?

Cliff: [00:29:36] You know what, if they’re looking to get a job right now, you know, there are a lot of jobs out there where people are looking for, restaurants are looking for people. You look in the suburbs right now. Suburbs are pretty much doing better than in town. Because a lot of the in town, especially downtown is reliant on the hotels, downtown Atlanta. But the suburbs right now are the places to really find a job. Because the suburbs are coming back a lot more quickly in the restaurant side. Not as much as the hotel, but definitely in the restaurant. It’s coming back more quickly. So the jobs are out there. They’d have to look in the suburbs before they go in town.

Karl: [00:30:09] And as for a career path for someone that wanted to own a restaurant. What types of positions and roles would you recommend someone craft that they wanted to build a career to be an owner of a restaurant one day?

Cliff: [00:30:24] Well, you know, if they wanted to be an owner of a restaurant right there one day, they could probably buy a lot right now.

Karl: [00:30:31] And are they ready?

Cliff: [00:30:33] But they might not be ready. But you know what, it comes down to they have to continue to learn. They have to continue to work at another restaurant. They have to learn from somebody else who’s doing that. And you know, no matter what industry that you’re in, you have to learn and do the job before you actually become an owner of the job. Or owner of the business. So if somebody wants to get into the chef position, they have to learn how to cook. If somebody wants to learn how to do the business side, they have to learn the front of the house stuff. So it’s really important that they still have to be working for somebody to learn from somebody. They can do it in school, but they’re going to learn a lot more on property inside a restaurant.

Karl: [00:31:12] Well, I want to thank you for sharing some of your wisdom and experience navigating through not only just this crazy 2020, but an industry that already has its ups and downs and challenges, and you continue to be successful in all things you do. Anything you have coming up? So what keeps you busy nowadays? What type of stuff you get yourself into?

Cliff: [00:31:36] Man, you know, I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing a lot of pivoting you know. And when we had Nobel Fin, we pivoted to to-go, then we pivoted to online and, you know, ended up closing that. But I started a new company called Hungry Hospitality, which really it’s my main focus now. So I’m working on that and I’m working on these classes called audio business classes. They’re really business classes that are online and there’ll be subscription basis. There’ll be coming out probably sometime in October. And it’s really geared to the hospitality industry, but also the business industry as well. So it’ll be something a little different, but I think it’ll allow people to learn 24/7 and basically download whatever they need. So it should be interesting.

Karl: [00:32:16] Cool. I know a lot of people that would be able to really use some of that wisdom to share.

Rico: [00:32:21] Where can they find, what website can they go to? Where they, where can they find you if they want?

Cliff: [00:32:26] Yeah. Right now all my information is on HungaryHospitality.com. Right now that’s the consulting side. And the consulting side is really working with the restaurants, working with business owners, real estate people, realtors. And you know, a lot of people could use, they always say, man, I never knew this stuff. And you know, the nice part is if they want to learn how to open up a business, it’s better to have somebody who has already done it then trying and making all those mistakes and costing them a lot of money when somebody can guide them to it and help them immediately.

Karl: [00:33:01] Oh, absolutely. It makes perfect sense. Well, I want to thank you Cliff Bramble with Hungry Hospitality, local business leader. And I just want to thank you personally, for all the things you did in the community. Bread you were giving away during the time just being a voice.

Rico: [00:33:21] How many pounds of?

Cliff: [00:33:22] I was making that in the back kitchen and having a good time.

Rico: [00:33:25] You came up with 400 pounds of dough or more,

Cliff: [00:33:28] I think in total, almost 800 pounds of dough. But it was good, you know what I mean? It was a good time, the people enjoyed it. And you know what? I think that the people needed something like that. And, you know, you have to do something like that and get back to the community because the local people are the ones that helped you out in the first place.

Karl: [00:33:44] Well, I want to thank you. You’re a great example for the community and continue to wish you all luck on some of your new endeavors. Well, for today, I want to thank everybody for joining the Capitalist Sage. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta Peachtree. Our business is to help business owners figure out what comes next in life,
whether they are looking to exit the business, sell, whether they’re looking to acquire a business to grow through acquisition or through franchising. We help people realize those dreams. You can reach us at www.TWorld.com/AtlantaPeachtree. Rico, what do you have coming up?

Rico: [00:34:23] Sure. Well, I’m Rico Figliolini. I have MightyRockets.com and we’re a social media content creation company. But I also publish Peachtree Corners magazine so that’s six times a year. Keeps me busy. Talking about passion, I love doing this stuff. I have great writers with me. We’re working on the next issue right now. So part of that is pets and their people. We’re going to be running a, we’re launching a giveaway next week on that. We’re also doing, asking people to give us what they’re thankful for. So our hopes are accumulating 50 people and what they feel they’re thankful for this year. Besides family and friends, we’re all thankful for that. But what else are you thankful for? So you want to get a sense of what that is in Peachtree Corners. We’re curating that and putting that in the magazine. And we’re also wanting to be doing a bunch of other things, including backyard retreats. So we’re profiling five of those. Really some great looking backyard retreats that people can go to. There’s one place, I forget how many acres it is, smack in the middle of Peachtree Corners, has its own rapevines and place to just hang out. It’s kind of a neat place. That’s one of the places, but we’re doing all that. So and these family of podcasts we’re doing. Because you’re the heavy lifting, scheduling everyone on these podcasts and it’s kind of cool. You’re bringing in really good interesting people. Cliff this hour, this half hour was really, really good learning about you and the business. So all that, and we’re fortunate to have Hargray Fiber as a sponsor of these podcasts. So if anyone wants to find out a little bit more about what’s going on in Peachtree Corners or any of the podcasts we do go to LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com and you’ll be able to find out all sorts of things.

Karl: [00:36:15] So I want to mention one more thing as we wrap up today. It’s great having folks like Cliff and other business owners all over the community, because I don’t know if a lot of children get to see business owners. They go in patron in the business, but they don’t know the people in the community that do it and some of these things. And so if this helps to prepare the next generation to be great business owners, small business owners I think, it’s going to drive the economy. So, this is a joy for us to do and we want folks to follow us on Facebook. And on Facebook, is it Living in Peachtree Corners?

Rico: [00:36:53] Well, it’s Peachtree Corners Life on Facebook. So if you like the page, right, and you’ll get alerts for it. If you go to YouTube and you search Peachtree Corners Life. Subscribe there and you’ll also get an alert because we’re doing these things live to YouTube simultaneously if we don’t get dropped. So I think we went about 27 minutes before we got dropped. So the full version will be up after this.

Karl: [00:37:17] Awesome. And then the website?

Rico: [00:37:20] Well, the website is LivingInPeachtreeCorners.com. and on Instagram, we’re Capitalist Sage so check it out.

Karl: [00:37:29] Absolutely. Well, thank you everyone for tuning in and thanks Cliff again. Take care of everyone. Have a great day, everyone.

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Food & Drink

Cool Summer Eats & Drinks

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Acai Bowl

Offering a blend for any customer, Press Blend Squeeze knows how to combine healthy ingredients packed with natural nutrients and protein. This quick stop shop for wellness snacks also provides Acai Bowls, including three toppings of your choice. Popular toppings include granola, honey, goji berries, strawberries, blueberries, coconut flakes and Chia seeds. Want more toppings? You’re always welcome to add more for a small fee.

4880 Peachtree Corners Circle, Suite 1110,
Peachtree Corners 30092
678-694-1451
pressblendsqueeze.com

Ice Cold Brew

Peachy Corners Cafe welcomes all coffee lovers for a special experience. They provide a wide menu — from bubble tea to smoothies. Most importantly, this cafe has perfected their coffee; they offer an Iced Cold Brew with a sweet and salty cream foam on top. This outstanding duo within the foam has changed the coffee game. You can accompany your drink with a side of food choices from their counter.

6365 Spalding Drive, Unit D, Peachtree Corners 30092
678-691-0547
facebook.com/peachycorners

Create Your Own Rolled Ice Cream

Just roll with it at Kremo Ice Cream, where every delicious treat is handmade and rolled right in front of you! Pick one of the pre-made specialty creations off their menu or produce your own. Pictured is a vanilla cream base paired with an assortment of toppings. Kremo Ice Cream is the coolest spot for all tastes during the hot summer.

5210 Town Center Boulevard,
Suite 240, Peachtree Corners 30092
470-375-8959
kremoicecream.com

Orange Blossom White Peach Ice Cream

Summer is here and Yogurtland is happy to help you celebrate! Uniting white peaches and orange blossom, their new showstopper perfectly blends into a thick and creamy light-flavored ice cream. Orange Blossom White Peach ice cream is guaranteed to fulfill your peachy needs. Following this outstanding act, Yogurtland presents dozens of other flavors, which Peachtree Corners is sure to love. Experience the fleeting flavors while they are still available.

4880 Peachtree Corners Circle, Peachtree Corners 30092
770-416-1005
yogurt-land.com

Twig & Berries Smoothie

Commemorating their 25th anniversary, Planet Smoothie has launched new blends to start the party. Exploding with taste, two fan favorites are the Chocolate Elvis and the pictured Twig & Berries, consisting of strawberry, banana and frozen yogurt. Planet Smoothie continues to leave every customer wanting to try more!

5275 Peachtree Corners Parkway, Suite 106, Peachtree Corners 30092 | 470-545-1996
planetsmoothie.com

Mango Cream Puff

Have you tasted these outstanding puffs of cream? Offering a variety of combinations, this French delicacy served at Beard Papa’s is perfectly complemented with your choice of cream. From green tea to mint chocolate, every cream puff placed in your hands comes with an explosion of powerful flavor. Newly added to their menu selection, the mango filling is promised by locals to not disappoint!

5215 Town Center Boulevard,
Suite 620 Peachtree Corners 30092
770-807-0564
beardpapas.com

Fresh Taro Series Drinks

Taro is where it’s at! With bubble tea as their specialty, Gong Cha focuses on creating new masterpieces like incorporating fresh taro into their delicious drinks. Taro, which many compare to the taste of sweet potatoes, enhances the new additions to their menu. Available in hot or cold, this hot new item comes inside a Green Tea Latte, a Latte with Milk Foam or Milk Tea.

5210 Town Center Boulevard, Suite 220, Peachtree Corners 30092
770-417-8223
gongchausa.com

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Food & Drink

Great Vegetarian Dishes in Peachtree Corners

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Taste of Greece

At Taste of Greece, you can’t go wrong with their classic falafels. This perfectly cooked mixture of fried ground chickpeas is not only delicious, but a great vegetarian dish. Take your meal to the next level by adding a side of pita bread and their homemade tzatziki sauce. To finish off your dining experience, follow up with an order of baklava or their famous Oreo cheesecake.

4941 Old Peachtree Road, Peachtree Corners 30092
470-545-4295
Find it on Facebook.

Loving Hut

Loving Hut is known for their extensive and delicious vegan menu, and their mac and cheese is no exception. This flavorful pasta dish is topped with a perfect mixture of spices, vegan cheese and veggies to give it that perfect crunch. To make the meal even better, consider adding one of Loving Hut’s mouthwatering sides, like their chili cheese fries or falafel plate.

6385 Spalding Drive, Suite E, Peachtree Corners 30092
678-421-9191
facebook.com/LovingHutGA

L’Thai Organic Cuisine

L’Thai Organic Cuisine has a lot of great options for vegetarian and vegan eaters, including their fried tofu dish. This crisply fried organic tofu is served alongside their homemade sweet chili peanut sauce, which adds a perfect punch of flavor. To make your meal at L’Thai Organic Cuisine even more enjoyable, order one of their delicious desserts, like the fried banana with honey.

5450 Peachtree Parkway, Peachtree Corners 30092
770-807-7684
lethai.com

Zoës Kitchen

If you’re dining at Zoës Kitchen, their classic hummus and salad plate is definitely worth a try. This simple yet delicious dish includes pita, hummus and a side of Greek salad. Experienced diners recommend pairing this with one of Zoës’ tasty side dishes, like their pasta salad or the braised white beans. You can also finish your meal with Yaya’s handmade chocolate cake for an even tastier experience.

5150 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 100, Peachtree Corners 30092
770-246-5026
zoeskitchen.com

Pokemoto

Pokemoto is an innovative poke restaurant that allows customers to make personalized poke bowls. For vegan and vegetarian eaters, a tofu bowl is a great option. This can include sweet onions, edamame tossed in their homemade sauce and toasted rice puffs. For dessert, they offer dole whip, available in pineapple and a rotating selection of flavors and also available as a float.

6135 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 605, Peachtree Corners 30092
770-559-1206
pokemoto.com

Ten Bistro

Another great option for vegan and vegetarian eaters is the Club Med Salad at Ten Bistro. This salad is a mixture of organic greens, goat cheese, tomato and cucumber topped with three mini veggie black bean cakes. It’s perfect for anyone who craves a salad, but still wants a filling meal. You can take your meal to the next level by adding one of Ten Bistro’s many side options, like the grilled zucchini.

5005 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 820, Peachtree Corners 30092
770-375-8330
tenlocalflavors.com

Ba Bellies

If you’re looking for a restaurant that can fuse Asian and American flavors into creative and delectable dishes, Ba Bellies is the restaurant for you. Their Bolanudle includes noodles, mushrooms and asparagus in a creamy dashi sauce. This classic dish is topped with nori, bonito flakes, masago and a soft-boiled egg. Make the most of your dining experience here by ordering a side of their honey butter potato chips.

6025 Peachtree Parkway, Suite 9, Peachtree Corners 30092
770-710-0565
babellies.com

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