By Paul Maynard
The name is just too appropriate. What else would you call a place, founded by guys who cooked and brewed beer for fun, that convinced investors almost overnight to fund them into a restaurant?
“This is really a story of three guys who met at evening cooking classes and decided, through a set of events, to make a restaurant,” Ned Steele told me recently. Ned, along with partners Jeff Dietzman and Daniel Pittman, founded LUCK in 2012, as a part of Phil Romano’s Trinity Groves restaurant incubator concept.
LUCK stands for Local Urban Craft Kitchen. The concept is based upon serving locally sourced food and serving local craft beers from a 75-mile radius at a common price.
“I met Jeff at a cooking class in Fort Worth,” Ned continued. “He had been taking classes with his wife’s encouragement, as had I, and we just connected in the kitchen.”
That first meeting and a few other happenstances led to Ned and Jeff talking about collaborating on a restaurant. But there were a lot of steps that took place before that happened for these two guys who also have full-time day jobs.
“I’d heard about the restaurant incubator at Trinity Groves,” Jeff related. “So Ned and I got together and drafted up the concept and filled out the paperwork. Lo and behold, the committee selected our proposal, asking us to present our concept to them within the next month.
Now realizing what the y had gotten themselves into, Ned and Jeff turned to Jeff’s chef friend (and cousin), Daniel. Daniel was ready to quit his job and dive in, but Jeff cautioned him; this was a concept – and perhaps, a long shot.
“With Daniel’s help and our own ingenuity, we started organizing pop-up dinners to test out our menu items, “Jeff continued. “After all, we were going to have to present a full meal to the investors when we were asked to present.”
Because of their ongoing networking skills (between the three of them, the partners know most of the craft beer brewers and many of the top-shelf chefs in North Texas), they were able to prepare and hold three pop-up test meals in advance of the Trinity Groves presentation – if they were selected.
“Keep in mind that we were one of the 250 applicants hoping for one of the 12 presentation opportunities,” Ned recalled.
While their preparation continued, they did make the cut for the presentation – within a few days of submitting their application. The next challenge presented itself: they didn’t have a kitchen in which to prepare the meal for the investors.
“So we resorted to what we knew best – we tailgated!” Jeff, a Texas A& M grad and veteran of many Aggie tailgating events related.
“We chose several of our ‘one-pot’ dishes and did a four-course beer pairing for our guests. I think the ingeniousness of it paid off in lots of thumbs up and nodding heads by the committee as they came into the parking lot of their offices to our tent where we were cooking and serving.”
Daniel’s culinary education and skill played a huge role in this part of the life of LUCK. A graduate of the El Centro college culinary arts program, Daniel helped refine the shrimp and grits and beer ice cream dishes that helped make that initial first good impression.
Whatever happened at that event, one thing was evident: they’d made that good first impression. When most of the applicants who had made it to presentation were waiting four weeks, these guys waited only one day before they were asked to join Trinity Groves.
“We’ve made a point of getting to know the local producers and make them our friends,” Jeff said, “In fact, when the (Michael) Peticolas family shows up for dinner, my daughter sits at their table as if she is a member of their family.” Peticolas Brewing is brewed in the nearby Dallas Design District and served at LUCK.
They have also forged relationships with the local coffee roasters to do some innovative things with the dark beans.
“Since everything we serve is on tap, we had to come up with a coffee drink that did just that,” Ned said. “After working with Noble Coyote Coffee, we took their brew through a coffee press and nitrogenated it. What you have is a cold-brew coffee that pours like a Guinness.”
By the way, that “everything on tap” approach means no bottles or cans and very little waste.
With a lot of hard work and quite a bit of luck (pun intended), these guys have succeeded in developing and rolling out a very workable concept.
“This was a good idea that got powered by a lot of dumb luck,” Ned concluded, “We are very happy with the result.”
Paul E. Maynard is a business and marketing consultant otherwise known as The Relentless Networker, and content editor at OffBeat Business Media. Discover more about Paul at paulemaynard.com, and reach out to him at 214-770-1191, email@example.com, or connect with him on Twitter @paulem53