And, you know, I never regret being a chef now helps with design helps with understanding how a kitchen runs that transfers to the front of the house too. So it was, it was really a great experience. And when I look back, I think that experience in and of itself helped guide my career, which is great. Yeah,
[00:05:43] Josh Sharkey:
So you were in business school, but you really wanted to cook. Why did you want to cook so bad?
[00:05:46] Ron Parker:
Yeah, my parents, uh, everybody in our family is engineers or doctors. And we grew up, my father, because he was an engineer, he was on the front edge of semiconductor manufacturing. So as we all grew up as kids, I had one of the first digital watches as a test. They would send us out to play with all these devices, even though they weren't on the market.
And it was really as a, I like to say we were test subjects for electronics and we grew up all over the world. So we lived in 17 countries over 21 years and we moved all the time. And it was because of semiconductor manufacturing. And because of that, this is the irony of it, Josh, my parents forced me to eat the food.
Consistently in every country we lived in, because they said it was culturally appropriate to engage the culture, show respect, show an appreciation for the food. So they raised me that way. And then when I got older and I loved food, they said, you're not going to become a chef. And I said, well, you raised me this way.
Like, this is what I want. It's like, you literally, yeah, you literally built me to be the person that I am. So. That's how, how it came to be. I just, I fell in love with food. I was doing, you know, parties for my friends in high school. I would cook for everybody. And, you know, 30 years ago, the idea of becoming a chef was just, that wasn't a career path, especially for, for my father, who was an engineer.
It was like, absolutely not. And, you know, it's going to be a tough life for you. And, and again, it was point of concern and they were not wrong. It was tough. I mean, I don't know about your time in the kitchen, but I appreciate it. I'm thankful for all that time.
[00:07:17] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, I mean, we could probably, you know, talk for hours about the, what it does to you, the discipline it provides, and the, you know, preparedness and all those things, but, now that you, I mean, you do really everything that is involved in the restaurant business, and outside of it, but, like, what are some of the things that still today, like, stick with you, about being a, a cook in those kitchens, as you're now running the entire, you know, Jose Andres group and building new companies and other like things today that you still do or practices that you relate back to that time.
[00:07:49] Ron Parker:
I think the one thing that really sticks out at me and it's something that I constantly want to perfect every place I work is how can we as former chefs use our knowledge of the kitchen and layouts to make it more efficient for the people that are currently working in our kitchens. I think a lot of restaurateurs and we're all guilty of this once you open one restaurant, if you have one brand and you think, all right, that one's working well, you replicate it and you move it to the next.
Sometimes I think we forget to stop gather the employees that are working in those environments together. And show them how to look at some of the plans we're designing, because I've seen many concepts, many restaurateurs where they start to replicate the same thing that worked before. But then the problem is you lose sight of the efficiencies when you're actually working the line, how many moves you have to make.
If you're looking at a service station, you know, good example, I remember working with the wait staff at the old Union Square Cafe before the new one. And they were so excited that I wanted to do an auto cab design for them for a service tray for how they could nest silverware to be more efficient going into the dining room.
And I think we all get really kind of taken with the totality of everything that needs to be done and sometimes in restaurants. It's the small elements that can make somebody's life that much easier as a service staff member. And we've all been there. And I just always remember like, you know, you can save people time and make their jobs better and make their life better.
If we just literally stop for a second, ask the question, what's working well, what's not working well, how do we improve upon it? And I think sometimes with growth, we're all guilty of it. We're growing, we're growing, we're growing, but bringing it back to its core base, which is the team members on the floor.
How do we make their lives better? And that's not just culture with design. How do you actually make their life better? I think that is something I'll always strive for and I'd like to get better at. And all of us in the industry should get better with that because it can make an easier day for people working in that environment.
[00:09:47] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, you don't often hear that, that's so smart, just involving the team in the design. Are there any other, like, big changes that happened when you went from the old Union Square in Union Square to the new one?
[00:09:59] Ron Parker:
I'd love to say I had a big hand in that, but I did not actually, that was, uh, appropriately Lead passion project by Danny, you know, I was working on the redesign of the MoMA kitchen with Abram Bissell and Dino Lavorini.
[00:10:11] Ron Parker:
So I was doing that renovation at the same time that Danny and Richard Kareem were working with David Rockwell doing Union Square Cafe. So it's probably a better question for Danny. Like what were, what were the lessons learned? And look, he and David and Richard just did a spectacular job taking what was one of the most beloved restaurants in New York City in a smaller format.
And putting it into what is a cathedral space and not losing the essence of what made it so special. And, and that is as much art as it is soul and science. And they really, that team together did a spectacular job, but it's a good question for Danny. You should save that for when he's on the podcast.
[00:10:50] Josh Sharkey:
All right. I agree, by the way, they did a great job at the transition. Maybe some other takeaways, like you've opened so many spaces, things that you've seen. Or changes that you made that maybe aren't intuitive that helped the operation just from talking to the team.
[00:11:02] Ron Parker:
It always comes down to, I'm constantly surprised when you engage somebody who uses either a service station or a piece of equipment on a daily basis, what their experience is, because all of us, yourself included, as we've graduated out of daily ops.
Even though you think you know what you're doing, you don't, it changes every day. You have to be on the floor, you have to experience what the, what the physical plant is throwing at you. And, and for me, I would say that the world is harder in restaurants now than it used to be for us because there's so much technology coming at you.
It's not just the physical space, it's not just culture and hospitality anymore. It is all of the inundation of data that you're being hit with through table management systems, PMS systems, KDS systems in the kitchen, like, you know. It's so weird how the world has gotten more complicated, but the business is still the same.
It's a human game, and I think we all have a tendency to get clouded with all the data and everything else that's coming at you. And you just forget that if you wiped all that clean and you really just focused on what mattered, which is how you greet people at the door. How you talk to them on the phone, the core guest experience, the business can be simple, but it's also very hard.
So I wish I had a silver bullet for you on this answer. I'm literally, and people say this all the time, but I'm literally learning something new every single day. I mean, this industry is so dynamic and I think that's why I always still love it. Yeah.
[00:12:21] Josh Sharkey:
One thing that comes to mind for me, and I don't know all the ways in which it's being attacked right now, but you sort of have to build the infrastructure of technology now into.
Into the restaurants, into the kitchens, in front of the house, you know, you, where are these tablets gonna go, and tablets for back of house and front of house, where are KDS screens gonna go, what, I mean, there are some restaurants building robots, and you need, you need a completely different build for that, or rebuild if you already have the restaurants, I imagine that that's Now, a part of the sort of the zeitgeist of design of thinking about how you incorporate those things into the design.
[00:12:54] Ron Parker:
Yeah, in fact, I would say that the bulk of most of our time as we're looking at new designs, we're taking over new hotels at Jose Andres Group is there is such a conversation about. Technology, not only how it's getting integrated, but how do we integrate with other other system partners? And, you know, everybody wants to own their data and own their customer data.
But if you think about doing a restaurant inside a hotel now. It used to be as simple as, Hey, we opened the doors and we managed our book and we wrote things on paper and we used Excel to do our food costs. But now you have this really kind of world that's come together where the hotel says, no, no, no, I own my customer data and you can't have access to it.
And then we have our customer data. And it is fascinating to me that we have actually made our lives technically harder and in some cases easier with technology and in the restaurant industry. I mean. I love what you have created for our industry because it makes it a lot easier for chefs. I can't tell you how many times that Rick Billings, who's our corporate chef at Jose Andres Group, was just raving about meez because he was in the Bahamas.
[00:13:59] Ron Parker:
He was struggling quickly with the mise en place they had to make a bunch of changes. And it was just one of those moments where he's like, all right, he was using his phone. He only had a couple of pounds of butter, the recipe that they already had. So he just hit a button and it scaled everything for him. And he's just like, this is the best thing ever.
So that's an example of how it's made our life easier. But on the flip side of it, you know, I like to say that none of us are robots. Like the amount of customer data that we collect in our industry. Is overwhelming and to expect our team members on the floor to be able to connect all of those dots regularly, where it used to be that you just knew your guests.
You actually didn't rely on a tablet. You actually used to know their face. You knew their name, but now I think we're so attached to tablets and PMS and. And systems that the idea of actually knowing your guest comes from, what does the chit say in the restaurant about that guest? And there's something that's lost in the humanity of that because everybody's now a chit or a tag on a PMS or table management system, and it doesn't have the human connection that used to.
So for me, I'm always constantly thinking of ways. How do you, how do you rebuild that human connection when it used to be old school, you knew in New York City and San Francisco and everybody was like. Who is the maitre d? The maitre d knew everybody and the maitre d ran the floor and now I look at a lot of the restaurants and You know, in our industry and I'll walk in and it's not the same person at the door all the time.
They don't really know everybody. So I feel like we're losing something, but I hope we get back to where we used to be.
[00:15:32] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like there's almost like this purgatory period with the technology because ultimately technology should just amplify the thing that you already do well and just make you do it better.
And a lot of what. It's happening right now in a lot of these sort of verticals of tech, especially in the restaurant world is there's yeah, there's collecting an enormous amount of data, but they're expecting you as the operator to be a data analyst or a data scientist. And sometimes, well, you know, obviously we can't do that.
We don't have the time to do that. We don't have the resources. We don't have the, that's just not our skill set. And we just haven't gotten there to where there will be a time. I think when they get to a point where they've operationalized this enough where. You just do the thing you've always done, and when you need the information that you need, it's, it's there at your disposal, and otherwise, you just go about your day.
The innovation curve and the adoption curve is not there yet, but I think it will be. I think it might be another 10 years, but I think it will be, where you can actually just stand at the, at the podium. Someone comes in, and I don't know if it's glasses that you're wearing or something, but you just go, and you just say hello, and there would be none the wiser.
[00:16:34] Ron Parker:
Yeah, I'm with you. I hope we get there soon, because I feel like we've made our industry more complicated. And like you said, you have to be a data analyst these days to understand the back end. I want to get back to the simpler days of what we used to do because there's a beauty and a brilliance to just running a small restaurant without a lot, I like to call it static.
I think a lot of technology and I grew up as a technology kid. You know, my family and I appreciate technology, but I also feel like more is not always more. And there's their perfect balance between there's a certain simplicity, not only with the dish and how you treat a guest, but also. Technology. It needs to be simpler in some ways, too.
So, uh, I'm with you. I think we're, we're slowly getting to the point where that world is getting more collapsed, more technology in one box, better solutions. But, uh, we got a long way to go. You're part of that solution. So thank you.
[00:17:26] Josh Sharkey:
I appreciate that. There's a similarity between good food and technology because I was talking to Wiley about this in the first episode of this podcast just about creativity and it doesn't matter how incredible a dish is or how innovative it is.
If you can't execute it every day, who cares? You know, because it doesn't, you can't eat it. And it's the same thing with technology. It doesn't matter how, you know, innovative it is or how robust it is. If you can't actually use it every day, then who cares? Yeah. We're just not there yet. With some, I think with some we obviously we are, but all right.
So. I want to get into Hospitality Multiple because it's, man, it's awesome. And I think everybody needs to learn more about it. I do think it's just helpful to hear a little bit more of your background because it helps folks understand. Part of why you built it probably, and why it's so helpful. So you spent 14 years at USHG.
Can you tell us a little bit about like, maybe just some major takeaways there, and what you did, and then how you ended up moving to Related after that?
[00:18:23] Ron Parker:
When I started with USHG, it was, you know, really perfect timing because I was running, I was Director of Operations for Sports and Entertainment at the US Open at that point. I wanted to get back to fine dining. I missed it. And I did an interview for 30 minutes at Eleven Madison park with Richard Corain. It was a great interview. I mean, I was so excited. Danny was just the pinnacle of fine dining and hospitality and culture. So I thought, what a great company to work for. And when I say it was a quick interview, I mean, Richard, you know, keyed in, he's like, look, you're a college grad, you're a professionally trained chef.
[00:18:55] Ron Parker:
You're running one of the largest sporting events in the United States, plus other off premise events. Cause at that point, My job was running the U.S. Open, but I would do Breeders Cup horse racing. I do concerts for restaurant associates. I was really the traveling operations guy for, for restaurant associates.
And at that point, it was a quick interview because Richard said, look, you got a fine dining background, college degree. You could run any of our restaurants. And at the end of that interview. I always remember my heart sank because Karain looked at me and said, tell me about your concessions experience at the U.S.
Open. And I thought for sure, I was like, there's no way I'm getting this job. He's asking me about concessions. And little did I know, you know, I didn't know anything about Shake Shack. It had been open for a season. It was actually closed at that point for the season. So we're sitting in Eleven Madison Park.
And Richard said, you know, you're, you're the right type of guy for our company, but I want to walk you across the street and I want to show you something that we opened this last year. So we walk across the street. And then I felt a little better about him asking me about the concessions experience.
Cause I was like, there's just no way he's giving me a job. He said, this is called Shake Shack. We opened it this last year, a little bit of a disaster. It was designed to be a hotdog stand and everybody that showed up wanted to order burgers. And then he said, you know, I'm going to have you go up to the Museum of Modern Art.
You're going to open that. You'd be part of that team, but he's like six months from now, I'll give you a call. Just like clockwork when the season came around, I was up at MoMA working with union trades, doing punch lists, you know, op stuff. And then Richard called and said, okay, I need you at Shake Shack now.
And that's where the evolution began. It was that beautiful, you know, balance. I'd like to say where I finally learned in my career. How does fine dining influence casual cuisine? Because everybody always forgets that a lot of Shake Shack was birthed out of the Eleven Madison Park private dining kitchen. And it used to be back in the day that people would run across the street all day long with pans of burgers and things that they were bringing from the PDR kitchen.
And that's how Shake Shack was started. And so ultimately, you know, for the first seven plus years, it was always working with Shake Shack until it hit its growth. And Randy Garuda, God bless him, he raised his hand and said, I believe in that brand and Shake Shack couldn't have a better champion. I mean, you know, watching Randy lead a pre-shift is like watching the best college football coach rallied the team.
So, and that's really what that brand needed. So I would say, uh, you know, Shake Shack was a great experience, but I had the benefit because of Danny and everybody in the company to move around the organization. Started sports and entertainment ran there and built the catering division and ran the catering division worked in fine dining restaurants and openings.
And so I would say the biggest takeaway from working in that type of diverse environment is always kind of operationally going back to setting up systems. And processes for opening and that every opening, you just need to keep looking at a critical path document. And then once you finish the opening, you go back and you do a postmortem with the team to say, okay, how could we do it better?
And it is that technical. And I mean, it sounds not exciting, but it's just constantly having a consistent task list. It's no different than being in the kitchen. I always like to say, what's your mise en place? When you have to get it done? What's the timeline that training in the kitchen? I think actually. Helped me get prepared for operations and to be very task and detail oriented and timeline oriented, and we can all still get better with that.
So, um, my experience with Danny is something I'll always cherish: the culture of the team, the growth of the company, and ultimately, when I left USHG. I wasn't planning to go into development. The reason that I actually ended up starting the conversation after I left the company was the developer is somebody we had been doing work with.
So we had been doing some consulting work for Hudson Yards that developer related. Was a minority investor in the sports and entertainment and catering division that I launched. And when I called them to let them know that I was departing, their request was, Hey, we'd like to talk to you. So, uh, I went to three different dinners over many, many months and, um, never planned to go into development because I'm a chef, you know, I'm a chef and an operator.
I don't know anything about development. I do know how to write a lease. I know how to underwrite a lease. And ultimately what happened was they. They had been entitled on roughly 23. 5 billion of construction across the United States. So, you know, the one thing about Related and these large developers, it doesn't matter who it is.
I don't think a lot of people realize that they spend years, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars, trying to either assemble the appropriate amount of land or get the approvals to build. And that takes a long time. I mean, and this is stuff that had been happening for, I mean, I want to say seven plus years.
And just like Clockwork, Related landed one project after another. So I found myself sitting at the table with, uh, Steve Ross and Ken Hamill, two partners of related 26 plus years. And their pitch to me was almost 23 and a half billion dollars of construction that it's going to be underway at different phasing, but all of it, all of it has hotels, restaurants, heavy F and B because the world has dynamically shifted.
The more that we've. Become a technical society and people are engaging. It's ironic. We call it social media, but you're, you're really not connected. You're digitally connected. You know, what's interesting is the thing that is bringing people from their homes to the offices or to the city centers is our craft, it's hospitality.
It's F and B. So I never in 30 plus years could have imagined the arc of all of our careers that it's actually food and beverage that brings the community together. I think it's always been, but the more that the world has become more technically disengaged, even though we're engaged, the way to bring people together and have that human experience is always gonna be through food.
So I like to say, no matter how much AI is out there, and yes, we could probably teach robots to cook for us. The one element that's always gonna be. A beautiful human connection is the table, and it doesn't matter what culture you're from. It doesn't matter what your background is. The ability to sit at a table and talk to people and engage in conversation and share food and culture together is something that's never going to be replicated by technology.
And that's the beautiful part of where we're at. So that's how I ended up at Related. It was exciting to see projects where. As a chef. I don't know about you. First time somebody said, look, here's 240 acres, 10. 5 billion of investment in Santa Clara and California and these buildings. And you tell us where you want a coffee shop, what the F&B should be in the hotel.
Like that's like being able to paint a canvas. And as a chef and an operator, it was the most exciting thing for me because I'd never had that opportunity. So that's, that's how I ended up at Related. It was that exercise. And then COVID of course. Changed all of our trajectories in the, in the industry. It knocked everybody's legs out from under us.
[00:26:04] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. That's so cool. Also though, I'm sure a lot of pressure, it's a lot of money to be deployed that you need to now sort of, you know, convert into successful operations. Did you have to assemble a team for that as well? How did that work?
[00:26:16] Ron Parker:
I inherited a small team. I mean, for a large organization, obviously it related, there's a significant amount of talent with not only financial underwriting, construction management, the project managers in that company are just absolutely brilliant.
Definitely can say I've worked with some of the brightest people in that organization. Same with USHG. Culturally savvy people at USHG. Very attuned to emotion and what matters. You know, Danny always used to talk to all of us about what's essential. I think that's one of my biggest takeaways from working with him is Yeah.
You know, don't just rely on your technical strengths. You need to sometimes back up and really think about what are you creating and what makes what you're creating essential. And I think that's a great lesson for anybody, no matter what industry on flip the page and go to Related, just the technical expertise and.
You know, wasn't a lot of emotion behind it and construction and development's a pretty, uh, hard knocks industry, but the quality of the talent and the brilliance of the people that they have to assemble to create, you know, whether or not people love or hate Hudson Yards, the coordination engineering and the amount.
Of people that had to come together to build that project is really awe inspiring on a global basis. So just even seeing that talent, and I would say the one thing that I took away from Related more than anything, it's just the discipline and the amount of detail that goes into really planning a project that's going to be multiples of billions of dollars and the phasing of how you have to have that cash come in at the right time.
The right amount of resources and the right way to build community. And so, you know, I would say the Related is, uh, you know, they're best in class when it comes to mixed use developments. I think they would look back sometimes and say. Maybe we missed the market in certain ways. A lot of the food and beverage that I inherited when we opened Hudson Yards was mostly fine dining, but then you had 47,000 office workers who only had less than an hour for lunch and they can't sit down at a table.
So again, we all live and we learn, but, uh, you know, I would say it is related. I learned more about real estate than I ever could have learned working 20 years in our industry. So it complimented my Ops experience. Now, I feel like I know enough to be dangerous with underwriting. Real estate and assets and leases and all the things the trips and falls that we ran into in the restaurant industry without knowing enough about how to underwrite projects. So I think it became a good balance for my career
[00:28:50] Josh Sharkey:
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Well, I think anybody that owns a restaurant or has owned restaurants, we've all screwed up a couple leases in our time. I know I have. Yeah. Are there things that are different today about. Negotiating leases that you're seeing in the market, or are things that you, are there ways that you approach leases that you think would be helpful for folks to hear?
[00:29:59] Ron Parker:
Yeah, I think it's um, one of the things we're about to launch on HMx is we're going to take a page from our friends at Y Combinator, who I love, respect, and have always followed, and how do we start to open source more of the mindshare for our industry. So, We're going to have downloadable lease template guidelines, and it's not a lease as much as best practices.
And I want to make it open source for all of us, because Josh, you have some experience of things you either did well, or you didn't do well that you learned from. I want to create a repository for all of us in the industry so we can share best practices with things you should look out for in a lease.
You know, simple things that maybe you don't know. A lot of people don't really understand what percentage of your total revenue should you cap out on a lease when you're looking at your underwriting. So my goal for us in our industry is to create more of a community where we can share that knowledge and just give it to people, not necessarily charge for it because, you know, restaurants, you know, I'd like to say it takes a thousand different tasks to open a restaurant.
But if you sign one bad lease kills the concept and it's not just about the lease, you know, I mean, there's so many variables in our industry and not to say that it's unique to us. I mean, other industries have a lot of variables, but I think it's a capital human intensive industry and you could have the best concept.
You could have great traction, great community doing a lot of revenue, but if you didn't sign a good lease, then you're either working for a landlord. Or you're actually not even going to make it because you don't have enough money to pay your rent plus pay all of your expenses. So for me, that was really the impetus for starting HMx.
It was looking back on at least my career and friends that I have seen that have beautiful, amazing concepts that sometimes I would look at. And say, God, I can't believe they closed and it was just because either their underwriting wasn't correct, they didn't have the right resources, you know, they didn't sign the right lease.
And, you know, I think I've always taken a little defense personally, because I love this industry, that the metric is always 1 in 10 restaurants will make it and then we have a bad rap for not being a good industry and then quite frankly, I mean. Using Danny as an example, and what he did with Shake Shack, you can do really well in this industry.
You can make a lot of money, but you also need a lot of guidance. I don't think we, as part of the community, have done a really good job looking at each other to say, How do we pay it forward for people who are coming after us? And the restaurant industry is so known for, Get in my kitchen, stand on my front door, you're gonna learn how I do things.
I don't think that's a great way to be just passing institutional knowledge that's hand to hand combat. So that's the idea of HMx. It was a lofty goal. I always said, look, if I could do it and eventually one day break even, that's my idea of success. That's not a business plan people want to invest in.
That's not why I started it. For me, it was to try to give back to our industry. And work with people like you and other other people I keep connecting dots with how do we actually make it better, not necessarily easier, but better for the generation that's coming after us. And I feel like we have an obligation in our careers to actually pay that forward.
And that's the idea of HMx. How do we give them tools that they can maybe make fewer mistakes?
[00:33:06] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. So HMx, you mentioned Hospitality Multiple. So let's get into it. And there's four elements to it. If you go to the site, there's invest, connect, pros, and mentors. And so overall, you're just providing a platform to help the industry to provide resources and connect folks.
But what's the, is there sort of an overall goal in sight that you have for this? And also, I think it's very clear why you started. And that's why I wanted to ask you about your background, like How to find talent when you're developing, how to make sure you're signing the right lease, because if you sign the wrong one, especially early on, your whole business can go down.
Was there one moment, one defining moment that was like the impetus for like, shit, I got to start this. I have to start it and I got to start it now.
[00:33:47] Ron Parker:
There wasn't a defining moment. I just found myself at it related. So I'll use the Santa Clara project, which was one project. It was 10 and a half billion in construction, 240 acres.
We had roughly 75 locations to program for F&B, so a nice canvas to work with. And I just found myself really spending a lot of time having to reach out to friends, associates, colleagues I'd met over the years. It was a very manual process. If you can imagine programming different restaurants, I always thought there has to be an easier and faster way to do this.
And it wasn't about being lazy. It's just that. You would engage one restaurateur for a hotel. You would talk for two or three months. You'd probably talk to another two or three, figure out what deal works better. And that's just one location of 75. So for me, I thought for restauranteurs, I have only worked for two companies that could afford to have a business development department.
That is a nice to have item, but it's an expense. A lot of people can't afford until their company is big. And so Danny had a business development department, Jose Andres group has a business development department. I've never worked with other, other companies that, you know, somebody just wears the extra hat and you probably were business development.
So that's how it typically works. And that was where the idea came from. That was just this idea. How do we make a platform that people can get business development from? And the purest goal, the original goal for me was really, how do we create a platform that helps people raise capital? And I like to say, look, hindsight's 2020.
You know, my ignorance was just simple that I had a lot of friends that had a ton of talent, but they never actually get to own their own restaurant, because if you don't have a great family network of people that have the ability to contribute capital to you, you could have the best idea, but there's very few people in this world that are going to say, Hey, Josh, I love you as a chef.
You know, I just met you. I'm going to cut you a check for a million dollars so you can open a restaurant that just doesn't, that doesn't happen. So if you don't have the family circle, I like to say the ability to pass the hat. There's a lot of, a lot of people that put their lives in our industry that'll actually never own the benefit of what their talent is creating.
So I just wanted to try to start something that helped people on our crowdfunding platform, bring their ideas to life. Maybe go from store one to store two or three or four. And then of course, there's plenty of people in venture capital that once you get to store four, they call it proof of concept.
They're happy to start writing a check. So I also felt with venture capital and private equity, they have two good things that they provide strategic vision and support, but then they also are in the game of if they see a good idea, how did they get the most equity for the least amount of money?
And that's just the nature of. Capitalism. Like that's how it works. And I was hoping to change that dynamic by giving the entrepreneurs the ability to decide what they wanted to give away. Like, so when you're on HMx on the invest portion, they get to decide what type of equity they want to provide.
It could be no equity. It could be perks. So it really puts the control back in the hands of the artist who's creating whatever they're, they're doing. And HMx isn't just about restaurants or quick service, hospitality technology, a world that you know very well, consumer packaged goods, direct to consumer goods, like, that's really the idea.
It's the whole spectrum within hospitality that you can raise for, and that was the pure goal, and the reason that it changed and turned into, like, say, a four legged monster, uh, this new, uh, I kept hearing Danny's voice in my head as we were developing this because it took nine months to get approved with FINRA and SEC.
And for anybody who goes through that process, I can tell you it's a little painful, but becoming a registered firm, Danny's voice kept coming to my head. Is what I'm creating essential? And the answer was no, very candidly helping people raise capital is one piece of what we need, but it was a transaction.
And I've always, always been very concerned if you create something that's just transactionally based, that lacks emotion. And yes, the transaction is necessary, but how do you actually build things that help the community and that's, that's how the site ended up growing. I've heard from a lot of people in technology and they're, they're not wrong.
They said, just do one thing and do it well, just do the capital raising only or do the pros portion only. But everybody I talked to in our industry, and I'd love to hear your feedback. When they see the composition, all of the parts work together. You can raise capital. You find professionals and resources in the industry that others are using and you can talk to them about it.
You can as a chef or a restaurant group create for free. It's a digital website and basically a marketplace where you get to post what type of business development opportunities you want. And for the people that are coming on the platform, if it's Marriott, Vornado Related, American Airlines, people looking for culinary talent, when they fill out their form, it matches the profile of the talent that we have on the website with the company that's looking for that talent.
So it's, I like to say it's a business development, digital resource, and you don't need a department and it's there for you for free. So, you know, that was the goal. And, you know, maybe in a world of technology, looking back, it's probably a little unruly. But, uh, people, people seem to like it.
[00:39:10] Josh Sharkey:
If the one thing that you're doing is business development, or you're helping creators monetize their equity, the elements of the product are just, those are the features.
right? Invest, connect, you know, find, you know, great companies and software with pros and, and find the mentors. Maybe we could just at a high level, You're helping chefs and creators find investment and then also helping them understand how to make sure that they do the right thing when they know sort of what steps to take when they invest.
You're helping developers find talent and then you're also helping companies. That are in that ecosystem become discoverable to those creators and developers, and then you have the mentor part as well.
[00:39:49] Ron Parker:
Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned mentor. We haven't promoted it. We haven't talked about it. We're about to actually launch it.
We've had people signing up and what's fascinating, Josh, is that that part of the site. Absent any promotion, has the most hits regularly and people signing up for it. So what I'm realizing is that there is a definite need in the mentor part of the platform. There's no transactions to it. This is us connecting mentors and mentees.
We've been actually on a road show as of late talking to various mentors for what matters to them. And how do we find the best mentees for them? Because, you know, if we do our jobs correctly, we will make their profiles just match. And then we're not, we're not shepherding anything. I don't want us to be in the middle, but what I'm starting to realize is that in our industry, even people that you and I would consider to be mentors, sometimes they want to talk to people within their peer group.
So like Jose Andres. You know, that guy carries the weight of the world on his shoulders and on occasion he might want to go talk to Danny Meyer or somebody else to compare notes. So it's, you know, as we all go through life, I think we seek guidance and familiarity and maybe just throwing ideas off each other with people who have been through a lot of what we've been through, but we all have different perspectives.
[00:41:09] Ron Parker:
So I think even within the world of mentors of people that we all know and we trust and we see on TV or they're successful restaurateurs. They need a network to compare notes with each other. So we're, we're right now in the process of, uh, it'll look a little bit like the Connect portion of the site.
So when you're on the site. The profiles will be there, but we're really trying to spend a lot of time on making sure that the UX really connects the right type of mentor and mentee so they can help each other. I don't have a clean answer for what that's going to look like because every time we talk to a mentor, it's a very different perspective on what they're looking for.
[00:41:42] Ron Parker:
So it's exciting and it's exciting to know that that part of the site seems to have a lot of the, the attraction to people who are looking at the site because they all are looking for additional guidance and we just don't have anything like that in our industry right now.
[00:41:57] Josh Sharkey:
Oh yeah, I mean, I can tell you firsthand as an entrepreneur and a founder.
It's desperately needed. I'm a part of a really amazing shout out to this group called Hampton Group. It's a group for CEOs and a place for us to just connect and talk. And we also have smaller groups that we break out into and we just ask questions and compare notes. But there's not a lot of that, especially in the food business, there's even less.
So I think there's a huge opportunity here to help folks because, I mean, there's so many things that we have questions about as a, I mean, Jose Andres, yeah, he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. So I can't imagine the type of questions and notes he's comparing, you know, but when you open your first restaurant or you've opened your 10th restaurant, there's things that you need to know that you haven't done before that someone else has done.
And if this can be a place where you can find that, that's, I mean, that's incredible.
[00:42:44] Ron Parker:
Yeah, that's the hope. That's the dream. And I feel like we all. Want to give back. I know you want to get back. I know a lot of us that have been in this industry for a while is, you know, I just want to, I want to make sure we're leaving better footprints for others to follow because it's no matter how well we do that, it's still going to be a tough industry.
[00:43:04] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah. How do chefs or professionals, I'm sure it's allergist and any sort of, you know, food professional and investors, how do people get involved?
[00:43:11] Ron Parker:
So it's pretty simple. I mean, I'll call it the cost of entry. You can go to the site and pretty much look at almost everything. If you want to start engaging or talking to others, the price of entry is you enter your email address.
If you come to the site and you want to issue your brand and you want to raise capital against it, you sign up and you send in a form. You know, we do provide some vetting criteria, although we're not a fiduciary, we're a hosting platform for investments. You know, I feel strongly, at least to protect investors, that somebody who's going to list on the site, they have to be for wall cash flow in business for a long time.
You know, if you've been in the business for 30 years and you're a restaurant group, that's where we allow a little freestyle that you could come to the site and actually. present a new idea, but for the most part, you have to have a business that is already operating. I wish we could crack the code on how do we take great talent and make it that they could raise capital.
And let's say you worked for Thomas Keller for 10 years and then you worked at Noma for five years and you obviously have the pedigree. I think that would be a great code one day to crack, but I just don't think, you know, there's not going to be enough people out there willing to just start throwing down money on people who are just doing their first one because it's super risky.
You know, right now we're here for anybody who's at store one that wants to try to get the store seven. And then I think after you're out at that point, the goal is that you're probably going to be picking up people in venture capital and private equity that have other resources.
[00:44:36] Josh Sharkey:
Gotcha. And on the investor side, I'm assuming you need to be an accredited investor.
Is there any other?
[00:44:42] Ron Parker:
No, well, that's what's so nice about the site. So, um, when people are on the site, there's two types of investments that are listed, anything that's called reg CF. So that's what Fenner likes to call crowdfunding. Those are built for non accredited investors. The underwriting, the underwriting is that there's a lot more rigor that goes into the underwriting required to get somebody listed.
On a reg CF basis, they can raise up to 5 million in capital. Um, it typically takes, if they have all their paperwork and everything in order, then, uh, you could probably get them up and on the site in 30 days. And those dollar increments are typically much lower. A lot of the sites that you'll see out there, if you go to.
Start engine is a spectacular site. Wefunder are a lot of them. They started this industry, but we're trying to specialize specifically for hospitality. A lot of the CF that you see out there is typically 500 dollars or less. Now, it doesn't mean that an investor couldn't write a check for 10,000 dollars, but they usually make it low dollar increments and they add perks so that people, you know, feel like they're connected to a brand and want to see it.
They want to see it win. When the next evolution is called reg D. So that is where you're accredited investor. You have to attest that you're accredited investor. And then that means that it could be unlimited. You could raise 300 million on the platform if you wanted to. A lot of people that try to do accredited investors usually have high dollar increments.
They're looking for. 200,000 dollar checks, 300,000 dollar checks. That part of the capital markets right now is tough. Because, you know, I like to say that we're in a capital market right now with interest rates and what's happening in the world where the really big players are still out there. I've talked to a lot of people in the last six months as I'm talking to them about some of our issuers who are doing Reg D offerings.
A lot of big players are saying, if you need a check for 30, 50, a hundred million dollars, I got you any of the smaller stuff, it's brain damage. The same amount of effort goes into writing a 5 million dollar check as 50. But you got a lot more handholding. And then what's funny is like, so the middle is completely locked up in the market right now.
And then if you go downstream and you start getting into investments of a hundred, 500, but you're, you're literally collecting a couple thousand people. That market is still very vibrant. So people are willing to make small bets and be connected with brands that they love and they trust. And then you've got the big players out there, but the middle of the market is, I like to say thoroughly constipated right now.
I mean, nobody is moving. And so what I'm doing is we've been getting a little creative, uh, banks over the last couple of years have what's called custodian services and not to get too technical. You as an entrepreneur, what most founders don't want to see, they don't want to have a cap table that has 2,000 investors.
And so what we're doing now, and this is to help people is these custodian services, make it so that it collapses. You could bring in a thousand investors at a thousand dollars, collapses it into one line item on your cap table. So it doesn't look messy. It won't scare VC or private equity companies away later if you grow.
And then that service is something that people are really interested in. So it's, it's a very, I would say the learning curve in capital markets has been pretty intense for me because I jumped into two things. I didn't know. A lot of technology. I grew up in a tech family, but jumping into tech is totally different.
And then I grew, jumped into the deep end of the pool with Finra and SEC and capital markets. So, uh, you know, learning, learning and figuring it out.
[00:48:03] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah, no, it's great. And I'm seeing a lot more of these SPVs, like syndicates, you know, happening rather than the institutional investors directly a lot more for that rate.
[00:48:15] Josh Sharkey:
You know, obviously interest rates went from zero to whatever they are now. I mean, it keeps growing. So it's great that this instrument is available and I would advise folks to check it out because you're right is the middle of the market at the moment is a tough one.
[00:48:29] Ron Parker:
You know, it's interesting. Uh, we have amazing people on our site right now and you know, we're shifting gears.
I'm trying to let everybody know now that there's this new custodian service that can be offered by banks and what's nice is I'm trying to let everybody know, look, don't just search for the few large check investors because they're hard to find right now because unless you're raising a ton of money.
You're just going to have a hard time with that. And now it's really, how do you actually engage people with perks and things that get them excited about your brand? So I can tell you some stuff we have coming up where we're digitizing. So almost like the Apple wallet, you can get like a little card.
So we're making it so that if you made an investment in a restaurant and it was a thousand or five thousand, you'll get a push notification with the digital wallet. That's unique to that restaurant, but I'll have a phone number and a link so you can make reservations and you can tie all of these perks to it.
So what's cool is let's say you threw a thousand dollars into a restaurant, Josh. It would give you early access to reservations before the public has access to it. You can put in your VIP status, maybe it's champagne at the table. So what's kind of fun about our industry is that you can actually attach more human connections and excitement to the investment.
So not only are you getting an investment, but you're getting. Perks that you get to experience with family and friends connected to it. So I like that. I think that's a thing that would work well for new restaurants opening. Cause if you could think of going to a new market and you get, I don't know, 2,500 investors who they're going to get to come to friends and family.
Yeah, they're going to get early access to tables and perpetuity. Maybe they get discounts. Like they become part of your family and part of your fan base that are actually going to talk about your restaurant before you even open. So I think it's a good way to provide that extra bridge capital that restaurateurs need when they're doing, you know, development deals with landlords and stuff like that. That's the hope.
[00:50:17] Josh Sharkey:
I a hundred percent agree. And, you know, with restaurants, you have something tangible that you can, you can provide unlike technology where a little bit different. And I totally agree. It's an awesome opportunity. So you have these sort of four sectors, so there's a lot of stuff going on right now.
And obviously you're running Jose Andres Group as the COO. I mean, what are you most excited about right now?
[00:50:35] Ron Parker:
Full candor, I'm working on a patent that I'm really excited about for our industry. So I don't even get a guess. It's a technology.
[00:50:41] Josh Sharkey:
What? Can you talk about that?
[00:50:48] Ron Parker:
Yeah, it's, it's really, it's, uh, you know, like I will always and will continue to push. Hospitality Multiple just as a resource for our industry did not start it to try to make money. Just want to feel like after I leave this industry at some point, I'd like to be able to look back and say that all of us collectively together tried to make it better for others. So I won't beat that horse anymore.
[00:51:05] Ron Parker:
My job at Jose Andres Group is full throttle. When I say it's 99.9 percent of my time, I have a really good team at HMx. I'd like to say that I've orphaned them to some extent, and they're again, they're like entrepreneurs, you know, it's a startup and you know, everybody wears 15 hats. They're doing a great job.
[00:51:23] Ron Parker:
But with Jose right now, I can't say enough. He with what he's doing for the world, I'm giving him as much as I can give him of my time. And, you know, I think one of
The things we talk about all the time is balance. There is no balance right now its full time all the time all the time, 100 percent all in. Between HMx, but Jose Andres group and Jose Andres group is it's a lot of work. It's a, you know, 37 concepts, nine different markets. We will double the size of the company in the next two years easily. So, uh, it is on a significant growth path in a good way. And, and quite frankly, you know, with Jose, I mean, he's superhuman between the work he does for World Central Kitchen, you know, the work he's doing with media and the restaurant group.
My job is to try to hopefully make some of his world a little easier. And I feel like the more I learn working with Jose, I can take some of those learnings and hopefully put it into Hospitality Multiple, but the, the patent is literally, truly, it's an opportunity to connect that digital world that I was talking about with what happens on the floor of a restaurant so that there's more human connection with team members to be able to enact hospitality.
So. I don't want to go down that rabbit hole because, you know, it's a whole, that's, that's a commercial product as opposed to, you know, what I'm doing right now is for the love of, love of Jose and Jose Andres group and the love of Hospitality Multiple. The other idea is like a retirement idea.
[00:52:51] Josh Sharkey:
Oh, all right. I gotcha. It's funny. I think my retirement is going to be a restaurant. I enjoy it, but not as a waiter. What's the, just to touch on Jose Andres group a little bit, like what's the, there's a lot of tentacles of the business, by the way. You know, there's the restaurants, but there's a lot of other things going on. Is there an overarching strategy right now? Very much. Yeah. Of the company.
[00:53:10] Ron Parker:
Very, very clear strategy. I mean, a lot of the growth over the next three to five years is one. It's already fully committed. The next two years are completely contracted. We're already three years out. So we, we know it's not aspirational growth.
I mean, it's, it's on paper. It will be a lot of hotels, because what's beautiful about a hotel is you get a lot of different operations. You have in room dining, you have banquets, you have restaurant concepts, you have casual, you have bars. We like the diversity of that type of portfolio. So you'll see Jose Andres Group doing a lot of growth with hotel groups.
But in addition to that, you know, we've had a brand. And this is the reason that I actually joined the company is, you know, it's an internal, I'll call it. Language that we use, we call it fast good. Fast good are all the quick, casual concepts that Jose has created over time. And so the goal is, how do you actually look at those concepts and start to replicate in certain markets?
And what's beautiful is if you can imagine the infrastructure needed to support a hotel and multi unit market. In a market, you can take that same infrastructure and then you can deploy a lot of fast casual in the same market. So that's the strategy. And then what's overarching with that is there's Jose Andres media that was started a couple of years ago.
Jose is doing a lot in media that shines the light on the restaurant group. So it's, it's kind of cool that we benefit from the fact of, you know, you could see a product on TV. That Jose is talking about, and that same product could be sold in one of the restaurants, which is kind of neat. So it actually connects the media space to the physical space for guests.
And then in addition to that, even though it's separate from the company, we are all always very passionate about supporting and doing what we can for World Central Kitchen because of the good it's doing for the world. Unaffiliated with the organization, except for Jose, obviously. So it's really philanthropy, it's media.
It is brick and mortar activations with concepts and creating more community and better spaces. So that's working with hotel companies or others, but anybody who really kind of wants that, that sphere for Jose Andres group and those worlds coming together, that's, that's where we're playing. And it's international. We have restaurants all over the world and we're going to continue to push on that.
[00:55:21] Josh Sharkey:
Wow. That's awesome. Curious. The hotel relationship. Are those typically F&B management contracts or is there an equity or a partnership piece of that? How does that work?
[00:55:30] Ron Parker:
It's a little bit, I mean, every, I'll call it brand is different. You know, you get a mix. I wish there was one size fits all, but it's a combination of management fee agreements. Sometimes your joint venture partners where you co invest and in some cases it could be. Management of some components plus leasing of other components. I mean, a lot of that, depending on the state and the city comes down to what's the union environment.
Is it union, non union? I mean, I wish I could give you a straight line answer on that one. It's very common. Sounds like it's a mixed bag. Always a mixed bag. I mean, what's great about it is, you know, you get to figure it out per location and figure out what type of deal structure works. But, um, yeah, a little bit of everything.
[00:56:08] Josh Sharkey:
It's awesome. It sounds also right up your wheelhouse of the fun you like to have. Absolutely. Ron, this was awesome, man. I really appreciate you coming in and sharing, you know, more of what you're doing. Is there anything else you want to share about HMx or Jose Andre’s group or anything that that you think would be, you know, just helpful or a creative conversation?
[00:56:28] Ron Parker:
No I think, uh, I just can't thank you enough for creating meez. I know that sounds weird, but, uh, every time I talk to a chef that's using it, I remember when you were starting and I was asking some of the chefs before we actually even started using it and I'll, the chef will remain nameless, but I asked one of my chef friends who was using meez in the beginning, he said he was getting it for free and he was testing it and my comment to him was like, well, my question was.
[00:56:51] Ron Parker: Well, if you had to pay for it, would you? And he was like, in a heartbeat. And so like, that's my hope for HMx one day that what we're creating, even if we're not charging for certain things that I hope we can make as much of an impact as you have made with meez is where if people say, if you had to pay for it, would you?
And that that's when you know that you've created something special that's really sticking with people that they feel like it is essential and if they had to pay for it, they would, but I feel better about it that if we're, if we're doing more good for the world, that that's really where I want to spend the rest of my, my days, quite frankly, that's why I love working with Jose, he's doing it.
Great work trying to do and look, we make mistakes every day. Jose Andres group culturally, it's hard to scale a company and double the size of it and actually make it still feel like a family. But, um, I think if I can spend my days trying to replicate what you have and make something essential, that's where my focus is.
[00:57:45] Josh Sharkey:
Means a lot, man. Thank you. I appreciate that. And you're doing exactly the right thing. Learning, iterating, listening. You know, staying, staying simple because that's how you get better. So thank you as well. And I urge everyone to check out the platform. I've been talking about it a lot. I know a lot of chefs have.
[00:58:00] Josh Sharkey:
I mean, there's so many chefs on HMx now. I don't know how many there are now, but it's like a dead scroll. You keep scrolling and more and more of these. So it's really cool, man.
[00:58:10] Ron Parker:
Awesome. Well, I can't thank you enough. I appreciate you having me on, on your show and, uh, look forward to spending more time with you off the show.
[00:58:18] Josh Sharkey:
Yeah absolutely, man. I appreciate it.
[00:58:24] Josh Sharkey:
Thanks for tuning in to the podcast. The show is a remix of the song art mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show notes and more visit, getmeez.com/podcast That's G E T M E E Z. com forward slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Keep innovating, don't settle, make today a little bit better than yesterday. And remember, it's impossible for us to learn what we think we already know. See you next time.