Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it. ~James A. Baldwin
One of the pleasures of speaking all over the continents is when I find amazing gems of innovation, out-of-the-box thinking and just plain Unstoppable folks! That happened to me last week. I was so impressed with Aimee Schulhauser and Tangerine – I just had to share.
The Rules of the Restaurant
Restaurants are the bastion of tradition when it comes to operations and planning. The kitchen is run like a military establishment, with ranking and formal titles such as Chef viewed as the Holy Grail. Recipes are created and coveted like the Intellectual Property of high tech. Everyone agonizes over the perfect menu, with change sometimes coming only over that dead Chef’s body. And of course, starting a new restaurant is tough. Keeping that restaurant in business can be nearly impossible.
Enter Aimee and her fab restaurant Tangerine, found in the downtown district of lovely Regina, Canada. I met Aimee as part of an executive workshop group. I was immediately impressed with her out of the box thinking and unstoppable spirit! Here’s why.
It Can’t Be Done
One of the unwritten laws of restaurants is that you need a solid, stable menu to attract and keep clients coming back. You also need that menu because there’s no way to run an efficient kitchen, plan supplies or make money without it.
Not so says Aimee. In fact, Tangerine prides itself on its daily, ad hoc menu of amazing delights. They serve breakfast and lunch, changing their fare every day, and sometimes within the day. Aimee’s designed an amazing approach and closed loop system to purchasing that makes the restaurant sing even as her clients look forward to seeing what tempting fare they’ll savor every day.
Aimee purchases whatever is fresh and luscious in her shopping sprees. She and her team then decide what they’ll create based on their creative whims. Whatever is leftover is then used for the the next days fabulous creations. Sometimes there are three of some dish, sometimes 15. Just depends on the day and time. When something is no longer available – it’s simply erased from the menu board. Chefs and kitchen staff are encouraged to find new recipes, try new things.
You can check out Tangerine’s Facebook page to see a sample of their daily fare. Every day Aimee’s assistant manager posts photos of the day’s treats. Clients know those posts happen throughout their day. They can find out what’s for lunch and snacks even before they arrive. What a great use for social!
Freedom is the Fare
Which brings me to another unstoppable aspect of the Tangerine team. Forget the militaristic hierarchies that dominate most kitchens. Everyone is on a first-name basis, there is no hierarchy and there is only one rule – serve our customers! Well, there are a couple of other rules that can cost tips; don’t be late and don’t text while you’re at work. Other than that – everyone is an equal member of the team and everyone is empowered to focus on serving customers to the max! Based on the happy faces and vibrant energy that permeates Tangerine, I’d say the team is on a roll!
Who Needs a Plan to Grow
Another delightful side of Aimee’s success is her dynamic focus. She doesn’t have a formal business plan. If she did, she would have already missed out on so many opportunities! Yes, she has goals and structure for her team, but she doesn’t have a box around what she does and doesn’t do. It’s a great story…
Aimee is trained as a geologist. She realized a few years out of school that rocks weren’t her passion – so she went back to Chef’s school. Just like that. After school, she worked in a couple of large restaurants in Calgary, but didn’t like the structure and military style. So, she decided to start her own catering business. So she did.
It didn’t take her long to grow that business. She’d always loved teaching her friends to cook – so she decided to add cooking classes. No plan, just following her passion and doing what she loves. By the way, last month she announced her new classes with ~170 slots. They were lined up outside the doors to register before she opened and the registration calls crashed her phone system. She was fully booked in under one hour.
Anyway – a few years after she started her tres’ successful catering business, a gentleman walked into her catering door one day and asked if she served lunch. She paused, thought, “why not,” and said yes. She went back and made him a tasty sandwich. The next day she put sandwiches out in her display case and they sold. She added salads, then started adding breakfast treats.
When her landlord asked her if she wanted the slot next door to her catering business – she said yes. At the time she didn’t know what she’d do with it at that specific time she had so many ideas. And then, Tangerine was born.
By the way – so many people have been asking her to serve supper that she’s now staying open til
If she’d had a plan for her catering business, her cooking school and Tangerine might not be thriving and growing today.
Let’s be Green About It
If that’s not unstoppable enough for you – it gets better. Aimee also has a closed loop system to give back to the earth and to deliver the most natural foods possible.
All of her businesses capture their leftovers, peelings and more. They then send them to a local farmer who feeds them to his pigs and chickens. Aimee then buys his pork, chicken and eggs for her restaurant. The perfect closed loop system – we get organic delights and so do those critters!
How do you top all of that? I’m not going to share all of Aimee’s secrets…but there are many more businesses in the works.
Aimee credits her amazing teams with much of the success. She hires great people, they inspire each other and the result – well, its magic.
Aimee does have one set goal. She wants to be a millionaire by the time she’s 40. I’d say that’s already in the bag.
When you find yourself in the beautiful city of Regina, Canada (a place I highly recommend), stop by Tangerine and be prepared for a culinary festival! Here’s their website. You can also find Tangerine on Twitter (@TangerineRegina) and on Facebook.Check them out. You will be inspired!