I had the pleasure of interviewing Brad Kime. Brad is the owner of Tini, a cocktail bar in Indianapolis. Tini usesUpserve’s Breadcrumb POS system, which serendipitously led to his full-time job as Senior Vice President of Alliances and Channels Sales at Upserve, the industry’s leading full-service Restaurant Management Solution. Previously, Brad was the SVP of Business Development for Signpost and prior to Signpost, worked in FinTech, most recently as the Chief Revenue Officer at LendKey. He is also the former Chairman and President of OnDeck, leading them to the Inc 500 during his leadership tenure.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What’s your “backstory”?
I went to work for my first startup in 2009 in New York, a small business lending company called OnDeck, that ended up going public on the New York stock exchange in 2014. I was introduced to Upservein 2012–since we shared an investor–and met with Angus Davis, who was CEO at the time, and other members of the team about a partnership initiative and other programs that they were developing. At that time, I had already started my bar, Tini and was using Breadcrumb POS in the bar.
Fast forward to 2017, I met up with Angus again because the partnership program from 2012 had morphed and grown into being a large part of their revenue and they were looking at some new large strategic partnerships. That’s when they invited me to come join the team at Upserve. As a bar owner, longtime Upserve customer and lifelong entrepreneur, it seemed like a natural next step. In my mind, the moon and the stars and the sun were certainly aligning.
What inspired you to work in the restaurant industry?
I had lived in the neighborhood where I opened Tini for awhile and I wanted to have a place to go with my friends for drinks. Tini was initially a small space that only seated 31 people and was inspired by a friend of mine who unfortunately had passed away. We had always talked about doing it and I decided to move forward after her passing, thanks to her inspiration. I found a great location in a neighborhood that I felt like was just missing a place to just go have a drink. I love music videos, which gave me the idea to play music videos while serving cocktails, so that’s our thing. Tini has been around now seven years, we have expanded the bar four times and had quite a bit of success.
What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?
I had some early bumps in the road when I first opened Tini my first manager lasted four days and my next one lasted four weeks. I think in the beginning I underestimated the industry knowledge needed to be successful. Once you find yourself on the other side of the bar, it’s really different in terms of what it takes to really effectively run the business. I finally found a couple of people that I could trust and that really had the industry experience to help my business acumen and create something that was successful.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
One of the cool parts about both working at Upserve on the tech side and at the bar is that Tini gets to be the tester for all the new products that we roll out. This allows us to get to see the positives and the opportunities for improvement before we bring them to the rest of our restaurant customers.
We recently set out to find a solution for restaurant inventory, but not just an add-on, a solution that would create a one-stop-shop for restaurateurs to better manage their business and reach profitability and were able to test it out at my bar. The reason? Food cost is one of the largest expenses for restaurants, accounting for 28–35% of gross sales, but determining the cost of food and how to reduce it is usually manual, time-consuming and error-prone. In a busy, fast-paced restaurant environment, it’s also easy to lose track of what was bought, how much and from which vendor. The process is stressful and overwhelming, but most importantly, wasted food translates into lost profits.
In July, Upserve acquired SimpleOrder, the best-in-class inventory management platform, which is now Upserve Inventory, an easy-to-use solution designed to help restaurants streamline operations, cut food costs, and grow profits. The software is fully integrated into Upserve’s complete restaurant management platform, allowing a more holistic view into the profitability of their menu, and to adjust each dish based on sales and recipe costs. Customers using Upserve Inventory save 30–50 hours every month and report 5–8% improvement in their margins. Simply put, if your restaurant doesn’t have it, your profit margins are suffering.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Bar Owner” and why?
1)Select a niche and own it.
For example, I originally set out to own a bar that plays music videos and serves cocktails, not food. I tried a couple of times to incorporate food, mainly because my insurance would have gone down if I billed a lot of food. The reality is that Tini is a bar with great drinks, and building up great food service as well would have been a big challenge. So, I suggest to stick with what you do and own it, don’t try to be all things for all people.
2) When you first start out, make sure that you are aligning yourself with experienced people that you can trust.
I did not do that initially and it did not work out. It took a few managers to get there and I wish that I had figured out sooner that you really need a lot of experience to thrive in this industry, it’s not as easy as you think.
3) Invest in the right technology for your business
When I first opened Tini, I invested in an expensive legacy system that I immediately was not comfortable with as a business operator since we were storing credit card data on our server, which was an old fashioned computer server. Having a financial services background, I understood the financial risk around that and I set out to find a cloud-based POS system, which led me to be being one of the earlier adopters of Upserve’s POS. Cloud-based servers don’t store sensitive credit card information in a back room; instead, this data is immediately encrypted and sent over to a separate secure network.
4) Continue to reinvent yourself.
In this industry, there’s always going to be a new restaurant or bar or trend that’s better and you have to find ways to stay relevant and reinvent yourself. For me, expansion has been one way to do that by seizing opportunities that have become available to me and expanding four times. When we first opened, we could fit 31 people and now the occupancy is closer to 200.
5) Don’t manage to the exception, manage to the majority and the people who want to do well.
I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great people work for me and want to come to work at Tini because of the way that I treat my employees. In this industry, there will always be some challenges, but I try to not manage the exception, but focus on the majority and the people doing well. I have been able to build trust with my staff this way and have a pretty low turnover rate for a bar: my General Manager has been there 7 years and most of the other staff has been there around three to four years.
Tini also often gets called a “bartender’s bar,” it’s set up in a way that my staff can make more money than competing institutions or other places that they could work. It’s smaller and there aren’t a lot of servers, meaning that there’s less tip sharing and tips are the way they make money.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have always said that Tini is an everybody bar. I want everyone who walks in the bar to feel comfortable. I know some bars or restaurants may target certain types of people or income levels, but I want people to feel like they can come in with their Mom, or their sister or their friends, anyone. Tini is all about having fun, I always think “why do people want to go out” and it’s usually to have fun and create memories. I think creating memories is important and I want people to create great ones at my bar. I think restaurant owners should focus on creating an environment that’s conducive where everyone is laughing. We have this aubergine wall in Tini that everyone takes pictures in front of and posts on their Instagrams and people just know they’re at Tini.
This isn’t just a movement for the food and beverage industry, through my experience with startups, I think it’s important to help create memories with any business experiences, resulting in happier people and less turnover.