Search
  • The Check Podcast

Episode 26: Fighting For Restaurants

Updated: Mar 4

Chris Savvides is the second-generation owner of Black Angus restaurant in Virginia Beach. He's also a tireless advocate for the restaurant industry. Currently a member of the board of the National Restaurant Association, he talks with Alvin and Brady about issues that threaten to end the dining experience as we know it.







Episode Transcript

Posted March 3, 2021


Brady Viccellio

If you've ever wondered about what goes on behind the scenes at restaurants, then you're in the right place. This podcast takes you inside the minds of restaurant owners, chefs, bartenders, servers, basically anyone who has anything to do with food, drink or hospitality. I'm Brady Viccellio, owner of Steinhilber’s restaurant, and La Bella Italia on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach. Welcome to The Check podcast.


Alvin Williams

And I'm Alvin Williams, cohost of the check and owner of Cobalt Grille restaurant at hilltop in Virginia Beach. Welcome to our podcast, we'll be talking about restaurants, people who work in restaurants who own restaurants and people who like to dine in restaurants.Brady Viccellio

Today, we have none other than Chris Savvides as a guest. Welcome, Chris.


Chris Savvides

Good to be here.


Alvin Williams

Chris, welcome to The Check.


Brady Viccellio

Chris is the owner of Black Angus Restaurant and Catering. Also a third-generation restaurant owner operator like me. In fact, I was talking to my mom earlier today. And one of her first jobs was working for your grandfather.


Chris Savvides

Actually working for my dad. I saw her at a restaurant depot once she was telling me that she worked there. And my dad said to her first thing is what the hell are you doing here? And then she said that one time and one time she remembered about my dad, he was expediting on the line. And he took a baked potato and threw it at the cook. And she was like, I guess she knew what that was all about. But it was kind of funny. It's like, I don't think I get away with throwing a baked potato across the line.


Alvin Williams

Not anymore.


Brady Viccellio

I haven't been known to a sautee pan.


Alvin Williams

Oh, that was when I was younger and a little more different.


Brady Viccellio

Last week.


Alvin Williams

You know, there's no need for that kind of stuff. It's a different generation of growing up through the kitchens. And unfortunately, we don't behave like that anymore. No throwing of copper pans. But I really know how to duck.


Brady Viccellio

Because you've had a few coming your way?

That's not all you do. Is it Chris?


Chris Savvides

No. And that's a lot of things dovetail into the restaurant business. The owners are involved in a lot of things. And one of the things I've been involved in is advocating for the business of the industry, working with the associations, trying to make sure that we're well represented. And I've been involved in Virginia Beach Restaurant Association, the state association was chaired both those done committee work, lobbying. And I've been pleased and honored to actually be appointed to and I've been serving on the board of directors of the National Restaurant Association since 2015. And it's been quite an incredible experience.


Brady Viccellio

It's an honorable post,


Alvin Williams

Can you tell us a little bit more about your actual restaurant and why that's led us to be such an activist for all of this?


Chris Savvides

I would say 100% because my father watching how he was involved, not only in the community -- just being involved in all the different aspects being civically minded and involved in different areas. He was, as things come about, and it actually started with liquor by the drink. He was instrumental in helping restaurants get the ability to have liquor by the drink in Virginia, he lobbied very heavily for that. And ended up getting it when he was our age, working in the restaurants. And then I just saw how he was involved and how he took time out of his day and his week to get involved to go to Richmond to lobby. And then I got involved locally and just things from, you know, parking regulations on Atlantic Avenue to different taxes and things like that. And it just kind of followed his lead on it. And then what is interesting, though, that I think that kind of fueled it is that most people think that you can't have an impact when you do that stuff, that the politicians are set in their ways and a lot of lot of cases it is but there's a lot of instances where you actually do have an opportunity to educate and change the course of action that if you weren't involved, it never would change.


Alvin Williams

So because maybe the politicians are not on the ground floor and they don't really understand what's going on. So they need someone to explain to them.


Chris Savvides

Exactly.


Alvin Williams

What’s your father’s name?


Chris Savvides

Michael.


Alvin Williams

We've all had a challenging year due to COVID. How has this affected your restaurant with sales, and have you done the pivot towards delivery service? And how has it affected your catering since, you know, the governor only allows so many people, you know, to gather together for parties and stuff?


Chris Savvides

Well, it has been trying and I will try and keep this a family-oriented commentary with my comments on the restrictions but to put it bluntly, our catering business is gone. I'm not sure it's, I mean, I think there's an opportunity for it to come back. But a lot of the catering is built with folks that are part timers, and you have key people, and you need that revenue to keep those folks involved, especially your key people. And with one thing with the restaurant, sales continue somewhat—with the catering it stopped completely. And there was no way to keep people on board and to, and they've since moved on. And to start that up again and start over from scratch. When I'm not even sure the restaurant is going to be on all night, all eight cylinders over the next couple of years. It's a little bit challenging, and if there's going to be restrictions on the social arrangements, I mean, we would have a couple years ago, we would do close to 60 plus events in December alone. We do all property catering. This year, we did zero. Yeah,


Brady Viccellio

I had a similar experience. I mean, it's our bread and butter Steinhilber’s, the larger groups. And December is always our busiest month. But I do off site, we do on site. And December was one of our worst months this year.


Alvin Williams

That's devastating. That's like losing an arm.


Chris Savvides

And they're talking about, you know, this industry -- the talking point is we're 5% profitable at the end of the year on a good year, you know, and that ranges anywhere from, depending on what type of restaurant, anywhere from three to maybe 10%. You know, when all said and done, catering was roughly 30% of my revenue. And then on top of that, then you've got COVID affecting the restaurant itself. I mean, we didn't have the first round of PPP, I don't know if I'd be talking to you right now, as a restaurant owner.


Brady Viccellio

Were you able to do any delivery?


Chris Savvides

We played with that. And right now, I'm actually trying to pivot to do that more. But hey, honey, what are gonna have for dinner tonight, let's call out and get filet mignons. It just doesn't play. And last year, we did a different menu. And it worked well, because everybody was out looking for things to support restaurants. And right now I'm actually toying with a possible ghost Kitchen, where we utilize our staff, kitchen, etc. But we might do a different menu that's virtual.


Brady Viccellio

I think we're all looking at that.


Alvin Williams

I mean, so basically, to stay alive, we have to, you know, pivot and change and come up with different menu ideas and concepts, not something that we're specialized in doing or that we're used to doing just to keep breathing.


Brady Viccellio

So one of the things that I've been, it's been a hot button for me that I'd like to touch on is the third party delivery structure. And a lot of people don't know exactly how that goes, they charge you 30% off the top.


Alvin Williams

I think we should say at this point, if there are small children, there could be some curse words coming up.


Brady Viccellio

Well, I mean, let's go back to what Chris said, you said zero to 10%? At the end of the year, three to three to 10, I think was your number. If you're, if you're having a good year, it's 10. If you're having a bad year, it's three, I mean, I've seen less than that. But when you take 30% off of your gross to go sales, that cuts into your three to 10%.


Alvin Williams

Well basically explain how it works. So we have a third party service such as Grubhub, Doordash. Uber Eats Postmates. So we have our menus, the customer goes online to their service, and they order our food through them. And those people charge us the restaurant, the person is putting out the food, they charges up to 30%.


Brady Viccellio

Or more, because they add on these marketing things. And they have all these little fine print items that they'll add on.


Alvin Williams

Yeah. So basically, we as restaurateurs are working for these companies, so that our clients can get our food. And we get very little if any profit.


Brady Viccellio

What it does for us, the only thing that it really does for us in the on the books is marketing. It exposes your product to maybe a different audience – and it keeps our people employed in the kitchen. So they have something to do and then they get a paycheck but on every on every meal that goes out on that third party delivery, I see it as a loss.


Alvin Williams

Yeah. To the point where the other day was Valentine's weekend and we were naturally busy because it was a busy time. The lovers are out and they want to eat so I cut the platforms off. I said, I can't work for these people while we have a natural flow of people coming in because you can't serve them and do all that because you only have so much staff now as well. Well, let's talk about what's the best way to support restaurants. Best way to support restaurants with customers is to call the restaurant itself…


Brady Viccellio

…and go and pick it up.


Chris Savvides

A friend of mine has some restaurants in Northern Virginia, and he brought something to light because I was not going to do it, because 30% is ridiculous. He's changed his mind on it to a certain degree because the people he is getting through these delivery services are not his normal customer base.


Alvin Williams

So to his point, he thinks that he's getting a different market, right?


Chris Savvides

It's all incremental income to him that he not otherwise would not have made that sale.


Brady Viccellio

When you get that 30% that you take off the top, if you're just a kitchen producing food to go, that might be okay. But as long as you're serving guests in your restaurant, and that's cutting into that service, right, it's kind of two different businesses. And it almost needs to be looked at as two different businesses. For me, there's very little profit on that side, if any. My alternative is my POS (point of sale) system that has a to-go and delivery situation built into it, with an app online. And they charge $7.50 per delivery. And under $50, I charge $5 to the guest and over $50, I just pick up the whole thing. So it's a flat rate, no matter what you order. You know, one cannoli, or dinner for 12.


Alvin Williams

But again, the best way to help out restaurants is for customers to call the restaurant direct.


Brady Viccellio

Go directly to the restaurant’s website.


Alvin Williams

And they'll pay less for the food.


Remainder of transcript to come.






15 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

© 2020 by The Check 

  • Facebook
  • iTunes
  • Spotify