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Falafel Inc. in Kansas City, MO with Ahmad Ashkar

Ahmad Ashkar Headshot
Episode #: 101
Falafel Inc. in Kansas City, MO with Ahmad Ashkar

Guest: Ahmad Ashkar
Topics: Falafel Inc, entrepreneurship


Chris Ressa 0:01
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management.

Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I’m joined by a mod Ashkar. A mod is the founder of falafel Inc. He is the CEO of the Holt organization. I am excited for him to be here. Welcome to the show. Mr.

Ahmad Ashkar 0:35
Great. Thanks for having me here. But pleasure to be with you.

Ressa 0:40
Mike, tell us a little bit more about the whole organization and falafel Inc.

Ashkar 0:44
Yeah, just for the record, I’m on the found Foundation, there’s the whole universe is a mega, you know, private sector 50,000 employee organization, I run, I run our whole Prize Foundation. And I think it’s a real pleasure, you know, I get to invest in startups. We’re a worldwide leader in impact education. And you know, our mission is very simple. Entrepreneurship is something for the lucky in the privileged, and we try to take luck out of it. And we teach young people around the world, how to build businesses that are for good, and for profit.

Ressa 1:25
Okay, so you take young, aspiring entrepreneurs, your foundation seeds them, you invest in them your early stage founder, how many entrepreneurs and organizations have you invested in?

Ashkar 1:40
Yeah. Great, great question. So not only do we invest in emerging entrepreneurs, I think the best part and the reason why we’re operating a nonprofit, is we create entrepreneurs, we invest in people who don’t even know that they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur yet. So kind of the first phase of our program is all about inspiration, and education. We teach people how to create enterprise, how to believe in themselves, how to identify really good market opportunities. Overall, we graduate through our program, 300,000 people, every single year. Of those 300,000, you’re looking at somewhere between five to 10,000, early stage companies, which make it to our evaluation period. And from there, we’re investing in anywhere from 10 to 100. A year. Unbelievable. Yeah. So from since inception, I mean, you’re talking about, you know, over 1000 companies that we’ve invested in, we’ve trained and mobilize over 2 million young people from 121 countries to act and think differently about business and monies raised is over a billion dollars from the companies that we’ve invested in with market capitalizations, you know, off the charts.

Ressa 3:02
Wow. Is there one or two unicorns that you guys have done that people might know?

Ashkar 3:07
Yeah, probably Aspire food group is the most famous aspire, you may not know the brand name, but you’ll know the industry of edible insects. If you’ve seen like,

Ressa 3:19
edible crickets, I saw I saw one on Shark Tank.

Ashkar 3:23
Yeah, yeah. So that’s, that’s one of the companies that you know, will have gone gotten acquired, or partnered with, with our company aspire, which is the largest in the world. So Aspire food group, had the idea in 2002 1012, that they would create an alternative to traditional meat production and an alternative to protein as a mechanism to solve hunger. And what most people don’t realize is that the crickets, even if you don’t love crickets, and you think of their gross as a human food source, what aspires done is they built an alternative, you have to think about it as a consumable protein. And they’ve invented a protein substitute, which is 90%, cheaper, 100 times less damaging to our environment. And if you think about the possibilities, even if you’re a chicken and beef guy, well, where’s the costs of, of traditional food agriculture. 70 80% is in the the animal feed. So there’s an unlimited amount of upside. And today, Aspire is undisputedly the champion, the leaders in the alternative insect for human consumable space as a human protein.

Ressa 4:42
That is wild. I love that story. Very cool. I love what you all are doing. Thank you. You’ve been doing that for how long? How long have you been there?

Ashkar 4:52
12 years,

Ressa 4:53
12 years. And at some point you decided we’re going to start our own business. I’m going to start my own Isn’t this and you decided to open up a falafel shop? When did you do that?

Ashkar 5:03
So so it’s a really funny story. First of all, it was an accident. Okay, so anyways, I did have this grand plan. Our our whole flagship Challenge is a million dollar startup. It’s how we get young people excited about business and entrepreneurship. And because we target a lot of young people, entrepreneurs, we issue challenges. We’re actually one of the largest challenge creation companies in the world. And we our flagship million dollar programs run in partnership with the United Nations, and President Bill Clinton’s office. And every year we pick like the Sustainable Development Goal challenges, and we’ll pick one or two, and we’ll say create a business that solves this challenge and creates a billion dollar enterprise. And one of the challenges a few years ago was all about refugees, and how to empower refugees. We issued this challenge and the marketplace, I had never taken so much shit from the market about this idea of for good for profit, then that year, because they were like, they’re like, it’s impossible to build a for profit enterprise that helps refugees, because this is a part of the market from a charitable person perspective, that should just stay charity. Right? And, you know, there’s a lot of talk around, like, what can be social enterprise? What can be charity, what needs to be pure business? And, you know, I was like, Well, alright, what am I going to do about this as I can’t invest in potential refugee impact first businesses with that, because there wasn’t a whole lot of like, examples to point to one thing led to another emerging Palestinian, I’ve always wanted to open a like falafel shawarma, homeless shop, it’s just like, you know, in our culture, if you make it big, you open restaurants, or a gas station, you know, your, your culture, you make it big, you buy a building or something, you know, like, like, it’s just, it’s what we do. We’re simple people. So my wife kind of called me one day out of the blue and said, Hey, there’s this restaurant going out of business. You know, your dream of opening a restaurant is about to come true. And I said, Oh, my gosh, you know, it’s not the right time. And I was struggling with this refugee challenge that we issued at the Hult prize. So these two things kind of collided, and I built the brand falafel Inc. and I really built it as a social experiment. When it’s a hire refugees. I wanted to do a deal I did a deal with the World Food Program, where a portion of our sales fed refugees and that we employed refugees in store. And we did it with our first store. And I kid you not Chris, there was a line out the door from the first day we opened and the line never went away. So that’s kind of the story of falafel, like,

Ressa 7:55
amazing. That is truly inspiring. I guess. I mean, yeah, it’s, it’s really inspiring.

Ashkar 8:02
A lot of luck went into it, but because I was like, not a normal restaurant tour, I looked at the business in a different way. Like, I like I looked around the market. Usually when you do your pricing, you figure out like where the neighbor is, and then you price accordingly. I figured out where the neighbor was, and I made my Falafel sandwich, half the price, you know, like, in fact, some of them was like a third of the price. And then I was like, because we’re closer college as well. And University. And then I kind of rethought the whole production supply chain sales channel.

Ressa 8:36
So that is really innovative, really cool. Good stuff. Okay. Let’s get to know a mod a little better. We’re gonna go to clear the air. You ready?

Ashkar 8:46
I guess you’ve got some tough questions coming in.

Ressa 8:50
Question one. When is the last time you did something for the first time.

Ashkar 8:56
So I’m the kind of guy that likes to do something for the first time every day. I just believe like, getting uncomfortable is the fastest way to disruption. I think, Sunday or Saturday, I cooked on a live cooking show for the first time.

Ressa 9:15
Wow. Yes,

Ashkar 9:17
let’s show you go to my Instagram. It’s a show called craving Palestine. And they they do it’s like an impact interview. While you’re cooking. They’ve started this new series. So you don’t just do like an interview like we’re doing. You might tell me hey, you’re gonna do an interview with me and then you’re gonna cook something for me. And it’s supposed to be with chefs. But because I’m a restaurant tour, I guess I qualified. So that was an experience and in what did you cook at mayor of impact and check out the show with it’s got 30,000 views so far. So I think it went over pretty good.

Ressa 9:54
I think so mayor of impact follow him on what is what did you cook

Ashkar 10:00
I made something called minute ish, which is a famous Palestinian Levant. Like pastry. It’s like a bread dough. So I made dough from scratch. And then it’s got some Zaatar on top. And if you know as our as it’s like a blend of like, kind of like it’s green, it’s a little bitter. It’s like time sour, you know, it’s really good. It’s an aromatic think of rosemary and thyme, blend, and I put it actually on my french fries. So I make something a falafel link called Zotz. Our fries, they’re really famous. It’s, you know, it’s a mix up, like rosemary fry would be an equivalent. So I did a big pastry. And I did it from scratch. I like, you know, made the dough baked and you know, finished it all on time within my Hour segment.

Ressa 10:52
Incredible. Second question, what is something most people agree with? But you do not. It’s probably everything.

Ashkar 10:58
You can’t be successful as an entrepreneur, unless you’re against the grain. Pretty much everything I do is against the grain. But I guess you know, something most people agree with that. I don’t I don’t know that you should celebrate Christmas. You know, I learned early that, like, if you’re successful, you can make Christmas any day the year you want. And I’m pretty unorthodox when it comes to like, what days I should work, and what days I shouldn’t. So I don’t you know, so I’ll use the Christmas as an example. But really, what that means is like, I’ve redefined the workweek, right? Like, I do a lot of deals on Saturday and Sunday. And then I take a lot of Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. So probably while the rest of the world is, you know, operating on a Monday through Friday schedule, or celebrating Thanksgiving and like, you know, I go to I go to I pull my kids out of school to take a break, like spring break. Like I don’t do spring break during when everybody else has spring break. I do spring break while on spring break. You know, and that allows me to really, like I guess capitalize on opportunities that other people might not see.

Ressa 12:22
We’ll call that creating your own calendar. I like it, I guess. Yeah. Last question. What is one skill you don’t possess that you wish you did?

Ashkar 12:34
I don’t know how to juggle. You know,

Ressa 12:38
I’m pretty good at juggling actually. Really? Yeah. You should do that on the show. When I when I was like 10 or 11. We went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for vacation. And I bought a juggling book. Oh my gosh. And I on the beach for like two days I was learning teaching myself how to juggle, juggle, and I got pretty good. And that was like on a Saturday by Sunday. I was pretty good. I was juggling at the ice cream store. The ice cream owners like you should juggle here and get tips. I love it. And I for like, twice that week. I went and juggled in front of this guy’s ice cream store. I got some tips and free ice cream.

Ashkar 13:18
Oh my gosh, that’s an experience. I mean, look for me, like, you know, as as as a as a personal attribute something that I’ll call it a skill. It’s patience, that I don’t have it all that I do. I mean, I’m glad that I’m not patient, sometimes. But overall, I really wish no matter no matter how hard I try. I just I just can’t do it. I mean, I, I tell myself all the time, like, hey, you know, be patient. If somebody tells me something I don’t like, like, I always get so angry. You know, I feel like I have rage. You know, and I really wish that sometimes I had I was more patient, because I think I’d get a lot more done both professionally and personally as well.

Ressa 14:08
Most leaders, CEOs and entrepreneurs, they lack patience, and therefore they move quickly. And they don’t let the minutia, get in the way from them and get in the way of them moving forward. So I don’t think you’re alone in that in the in.

Ashkar 14:22
Yeah, no, but man as you get older man and like my younger age, it was great. But you know, it’s just like, you just, I let the smallest things work, like work me up. And I just, you know, I don’t know, somebody’s like, Ah, I can’t take it.

Ressa 14:38
Yeah, I understand. All right, well, that was great. I think the audience learned a little bit about you. Now they know that I can juggle, and I can do tricks where I can take the bite at the apple while I’m still juggling the fruit and bounce it off my head and stuff.

Let’s pivot the conversation let’s talk about the restaurant world today your your you have 10 restaurants? What’s going on in the restaurant world today? How do you see it going forward? And let’s start there.

Ashkar 15:09
Yeah, so thank you. Um, there’s a little first of all, there’s a lot going on, and I’m lucky, we have falafel Inc. Also, we’ve got in the family district barbecue, which is a DC based Barbecue Shop. We’re from Kansas City. So we actually opened up a very traditional Kansas City style barbecue restaurant, which does Okay, in the DC metro area is, again, more of like a passion play. But we’re seeing two I think major trends coming out of post COVID That falafel link happens to be on the right side of whereas district barbecue is on the wrong side of and that’s the ability to be very lean. And I would say specialized in your offering. Right? Yeah, these the days of these big restaurants with 5000 items on the menu, I think are behind us. Falafel Inc. Sells two things. falafel and hummus. I mean, literally, you know, we do a Falafel sandwich bowl, we just introduced shawarma, and Reagan shawarma, it’s our third product. But like all of our ingredients together are I think 16 or 17 skews. So being lean, is critical. And second is being impact centered. So and that’s retail, not just in restaurants. But that’s in general. A lot of lot of industry professionals who have been around for, you know, whatever, 20 3040 years, are refusing to accept that the experience of the customer is different than it was you know, a couple of decades ago, and that the customer needs to share in the brand’s values. It’s not just about the food. And I think being impact centered as a business just sets you apart from everybody else and allows you to tap into the largest consumer generation in the millennials and the wealthiest that we’ve ever seen in anyone’s lifetime. So Chris, if you look to millennials, and the millennials, like born 82, to 94. If you look at how much wealth they control, they are the wealthiest generation of our time. And by 2060, so we’re 2021. Now, next four years, the largest intergenerational wealth transfer of our history will take place, it’s $60 trillion dollars. And it goes from the millennial parents and grandparents to millennials and z’s. And what that means in the first 5 trillion, by the way, is done at the end of next year. What that means is that for the first time in our history, is the majority of the spending power is controlled by a generation, who has been interconnected their whole life, who has not been able to avoid, like poverty, famine, you know, inequality from around the world. So their idea, their idea around what a brand should be, is different than people have run, you know, businesses for the last 20 or 30 years. So, and most old timers are like refuse to see and I can tell you, because I went through a round of potential capital raising, which I didn’t end up raising any money. Because we were like, Oh, you donate that much money to charity. Oh, your price is only $3 Oh, you refuse to increase your prices. And they’re like, you’re a dumbass. And I’m like, do you don’t understand that there’s this whole generation of consumer that is aligned with my brand. And we’ll come to support my business. And then what happened during COVID? You know, while every other brand is literally bankrupt, or thinking about Oh, my God, how can I open? My stores are thriving, because my customers know that we stand for something more than just a product. So that’s on point number two, point number one, you know, you’ve got to be able to run on razor razor thin margins. And you’ve got to be really good at what you do. And that’s why I think you’ve got to operate with a very marginal menus.

Ressa 19:51
Those are two fascinating trends that you think are going to come from successful businesses. They’re going to be lean and nimble and they’re Gotta make an impact. You mentioned that district barbecue is not necessarily on trend to in the family. And I know for a long time I know barbecue in generals, hard business. I’ve been told I’m not in the barbecue, but I’ve been told barbecue is hard. What about district barbecue is not on trend that’s making it difficult.

Ashkar 20:20
Yeah, so a couple of things. And this is anyone, anyone who’s in the meat business is going to feel this, right. Number one, it’s cost. Right? So you’re looking at not only the, the your materials cost, right? But you’re looking at your variable cost, like for production, like if you look at my philosophy, right? Falafel mix is made, you know, you drop it in the fryer, a couple minutes later, you’ve got a product to sell versus a Brisket. Brisket comes to me, you know, six in a case 200 pounds a case give or take.

Ressa 20:57
I love good brisket. They’ll give me some Burnt dense.

Ashkar 20:59
Yeah, you’re right. I’m gonna tell you what I did. And you’re gonna not. And I’ll tell you so. So if you’re going to do barbecue, right, and what we had to do to be on trend, because we knew we weren’t going to, like you can’t be a barbecue restaurant and be like, Oh, by the way, I only sell brisket. It it doesn’t work.

Ressa 21:20
You got to have like a meat and three, right? Yeah,

Ashkar 21:22
exactly. You’ve got to sell, you know, combos, you’ve got to like, if you got to look, you got to do brisket. And you got to do it three ways chopped, sliced and Burnett’s, right, you’ve got to have a chicken, you’ve got to have a pull chicken, you’ve got to have chicken on the boat, you got to have ribs, you know, you got to have a pull pork, sometimes you can’t even do like pork butts or not even enough people, you know, you’ve got to have wings, you’ve got to have 10 kinds of sides. I mean, it’s a crazy business. And in when times got tough, and COVID, you know, kind of hit our barbecue brands, and my brother runs our barbecue business. You know, you want to downsize the menu, where do you start? Like, what do you like, you’re like, Well, I still gotta have four kinds of meat, ribs, etc. So you know that operational efficiency didn’t go anywhere. Prep, you know, I mean, people don’t understand, like, you get brisket, like six in a case, you know, you’ve got an hour of trimming, right? Then you’ve got you know, you’ve got to do your marinade or whatever, then you got to come back the next day or 12 hours later, you know, load the smoker, and you’re short a smoke, I don’t care what technique you use is 14 hours, you know, that’s a minimum, and you want to do burn ends get 26 hours of smoke, so I just like, Ah, how do you get cost down? You just can’t. So you’ve got to do some really innovative things. And that’s when I say we’re on the wrong side of that trend. On point one. Definitely, we’re trying to do our share on the impact side. But it just it just tough. But I will tell you what we did do to kind of that was controversial. And you know, probably have my customers listening today. I reduced the menu, I eliminated all anything that couldn’t be produced by two man crew Island, because I just like I had to do it, right. So specialty sandwiches some of our more higher end sides. We did like a white chicken chili from scratch, had to eliminate those, you know, hated to do it’s every one of my best sides. And then and then I I upped the prices, like significantly, right? I’m like 35 40% better, more expensive than anyone else in town. But I’m the only one that does burdens. I mean, I’m selling burdens for like $35 a pound, right? But my quality, I had to make a decision, I moved my quality to 99.9%. And then I moved my quantity business down so that I could stay alive in that business. And it’s worked, you know, my sales, I’m probably doing you know, half, but I’m getting so much premium out of the product that people are willing to pay and I’ve got my you know, fixed customers. And that’s a completely different strategy than the falafel product which is like lean, mean volume, you know, this is a different business. So you’ve got to pick like you can’t, too many operators are trying to do everything you can’t do that. You’ve got to understand your economics and build a business that reflect those

Ressa 24:25
radical insights in the restaurant business and I love that we were able to talk about two different concepts and one is a falafel concept that has very limited items. One is a barbecue business that has a ton that was great. I want to go back to the falafel and I want to talk about one of the stories of one of your stores that opened up and the story of how that happened. What location are we going to

Ashkar 24:50
let’s go to let’s go to Kansas where I’m from home is the least likely location for a falafel ache

Ressa 24:59
and why town we go into Lawrence. That’s the university.

Ashkar 25:03
That’s where KU is. That’s where I spent. You know, as a kid, I grew up in Kansas. I grew up in Leavenworth, which is about 25 miles from Lawrence. So as a troublemaking high school kid, you know, where we spend our Fridays and Saturdays, like in Lawrence, and, you know, I love where I’m from. I’m born in Kansas. You know, I’m a huge Jayhawk fan. Huge chiefs fan. I know you know, you guys don’t talk smack we lost. We know we, we got the suit. People like to remind me like, oh, you lost the Super Bowl. And like we won last year, like it’s all good. And of course, yes, to those of you that don’t know, Kansas City is technically in Missouri. But we represent the Kansas people also represent Kansas City. It’s on the Kansas side, too. So before people like oh, wait, Kansas, cities are not relaxed. Alright, there’s literally one road. And it’s like, that side is Kansas. That side is Missouri. And they’re both Kansas City. So Lawrence, Kansas. I’ll tell you man, I always wanted to bring falafel Inc. to Kansas. And people are like, Why don’t you bring your barbecue brand to Kansas. Like that’s a better and I’m like, that’s the whole one of the reasons I started falafel Link was to create a more empathy for the plight and challenges of refugees. And when you walk into any one of my stores, my stores are built to look like refugee camps. They’re made of sheet metal. OSB, you’ll find pictures of refugee camps, a lot of them I took myself and you’ll find that if you were to go to like a refugee camp in Greece, Lebanon, Palestine, you know, pick pick your country, that you find falafel, because falafel is cool and vegan and hipster in the US. But in those camps, people are eating falafel because it’s a very cheap, affordable source of protein. Okay, so when you walk into my store, you’re reminded, and it says, you know, refugees, you know, we every meal, you buy help support refugees, and there’s pictures. It doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, in your mind, you’re going to be like, what exactly is a refugee? And what is the plight that they go through? So, obviously, being in LA, or being in DC 99% of my customers already know what A refugee is. But when I opened falafel linguine Oh, my first door, I was like, I’m definitely as soon as I get an opportunity. I’m going to take the falafel link brand, to the Midwest, where, you know, oftentimes, I know from my friends growing up, I was the only Palestinian kid they knew. Right? I was only, you know, again, I my family was not refugees. But as a as a people. The Palestinians are the largest refugee population in the world, that I would one day open a restaurant in Kansas. And the opportunity presented itself. There was a, you know, a pizza place down in Lawrence that was going out going under, and a couple of my buddies who still went to K u. And we’re working in Lawrence called me and said, bro, you’re not going to believe this. The you know, the famous pizza shop in town is going bust. And they’re shutting down. Why don’t you bring falafel link to to the neighborhood. And you know, again, like random, right, like, but I’m from Kansas, you know, and it just made total sense. So a couple phone calls later, I did a deal. And, you know, we’ll be opening it up, but stores not open yet. We’re doing construction now. We’re doing our fit out. And we’ll be open in May. And I’ll be there personally, I don’t go to all the openings anymore. But that will be a location that I will be at. And it’s one of the locations that I’m most proud of one because it’s in my home state. And to because I know that the traditional customer who walks through those doors may not really understand why and how they can support refugees and I’ll give them what I call bites an opportunity to have bite size impact.

Ressa 29:24
I like the word bite size impact the play on words. That’s good. So what type of location you’re you’re in malls you’re in open air, you have a bunch of different type of locations. This

Ashkar 29:35
this is a you know, every college town in America has like where the kids go bar hopping.

Ressa 29:42
Yes, it’s like right in the street location,

Ashkar 29:45
street location. You’ve got some you know, brownstones you’ve got some bars. It’s a freestanding building, you know, row house, row row house style, you know, location across the street is the you know, the The famous club, the street is Mass Ave, you know, everybody, I think every college town has a mass average, you know, the equivalent and you know, it’s it’s for us, it’s our ideal location. Because college university students are kind of segment market. That’s our bread and butter and we’re excited. It’s you know, 1200 square foot location, plenty of room to, you know, to get to lines, our new model has two lines, it’s all takeout. No dine in quick, fast, affordable and fresh.

Ressa 30:33
You do delivery?

Ashkar 30:35
You know, we don’t we, to this day have not done a delivery deal. We might, I’m working on our own delivery where I have college students pick up products from our store and take it back to campus, and then they get falafel bucks in exchange. So we’ll probably just launch that program. But we haven’t done you know, I don’t believe in DoorDash or Uber. Like, I don’t believe it.

Ressa 31:04
Okay, because the fees and all that. Yeah, it’s

Ashkar 31:07
not just the fees. You don’t build community by letting a stranger make money off your community. Okay, and that’s what door. So the guy like we’re in DC, the majority of the, the door Dashers and Ubers. Guess where those guys live? They don’t live in DC. They live somewhere else. And they drive their cars into my backyard. And they make money on me. And then they take that money, and they go spend it somewhere else. Okay, that’s not okay. Especially in a time of COVID, where every dollar inside of a micro economy counts. Right? So I’m not about that. But you have to understand the economics. You’re literally taking money from me and you’re not reinvesting it in my neighbor. you’re reinvesting it in some other community. That’s not how you build strong economies. And that’s not how you build community. So I just, I don’t believe in so I don’t subscribe to to the service.

Ressa 32:14
Wow, I have never heard anyone put it like that you don’t build community by leveraging letting someone else leverage your community to make money and bring it somewhere else that is really, really profound. Going back to the store. It’s opening soon, which means you probably signed this deal. During COVID.

Ashkar 32:36
Oh, yeah, I’ve done five deals now. Gary COVID.

Ressa 32:40
Did five deals over COVID? This was one of them. When during COVID Did you sign this?

Ashkar 32:46
Probably right in the thick of fix six months ago, you know, seven months ago?

Ressa 32:50
Okay. Your friends told you the pizza guy wasn’t making it school was closed. He went out they called you my assumption you have locations with major landlords across the country, me Eastridge and others. Is this landlord that or is he different?

Ashkar 33:08
Yeah, this was you know, more of a, you know, regional landlord. But, you know, these guys are painting, Chris, like, like, the towns that goes I mean, I guess if you’re there, Imagine owning a piece of real estate, where every day, there’s the hustle and bustle of foot traffic. Every day for the last you know, 20 years, you’ve owned this building. And you know, people are like, actively walking across the front of your Senator, or your building. And then you wake up one morning, and it’s zero.

Ressa 33:44
I don’t have to imagine it. It happened to me.

Ashkar 33:47
Right? Yeah. And like, and like, I wish you guys are institutional, right? But imagine like, it’s your, you’re used to seeing that building every day, as a regional player, maybe like even a national. And then like tomorrow, nobody. Next week, nobody. Next month, nobody. You start to believe that this is a permanent fixture of reality, that something has changed. And it’s like anyone who trade stocks, right? And I’m trading maybe, maybe because I’m a trained, you know, finance guy. But it’s like, when your stock is failing, like and it’s down 70 points. You’re like this shit ain’t never coming up. But the the the opportunistic mindset is it’s on sale. Right and I doubled down you know, and that’s what I feel like is happening with all the locations. Like I bought a location and I almost feel bad about it. I’m I’m going to tell you where West Coast I bought a business from somebody four months ago, who today’s he’s looking at me like this. And we’re friends. He says I can’t believe I sold you that bit. Business. And I’m like, why not? And he was like, Dude, you’re gonna, you’re gonna kill it. And I would have killed it if I just waited, because things are starting to slowly open back up. And I’m like, Well, you know, you were scared, and he guys wealthier than I am. I mean, it’s not, it wasn’t a money situation. But you know, if you’re a pessimist COVID killed you. If you’re an optimist COVID might be the best opportunity that you’ve ever that you’ll see in your lifetime. And that’s how I view true story.

Ressa 35:27
True story if you’re a pessimist COVID was really troubling if you’re an optimist, while COVID was troubling for everybody. But if you’re a pessimist from a business perspective, COVID could have put you out if you’re an optimist, you could have found opportunity, there’s no doubt about that. These falafel locations, what, what are they? What is the average unit do and like sales per square foot or sales? What are they? How do they compare, you know,

Ashkar 35:54
these numbers are kind of skewed. But you know, if we’re not doing $1,000 A square foot, you know, something is, is wrong. But, you know, that being said, we take very small footprints, as well. But you know, I mean, we will look, here’s the thing, and I’ll tell you a story, like I ran about the store how to, you know, one of Starbucks and Schultz success, how to keep their coffee fresh, and they’re like, every 30 minutes, they put the timer on, and if the coffee’s not sold, they throw it away. That stuck in my mind. And one of the reasons people think like our falafels, some magical recipe or something, I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s good. But because the reason we’re so successful, it’s because our price point is so low, and our food that keeps our falafel, fresh, because we’re so busy, right? So I’ve got to do those numbers. Otherwise, the model doesn’t work. Because if I’m not selling fresh falafel, you know, the product won’t meet the standard. So you know, we’re doing okay, and we all like I kind of, I like to look at it as a, as a combination of like, volume, relative to to footprint, you know, and that’s how we’re evaluating all of our sights.

Ressa 37:06
On on this Kansas location, you’re going to open and it sounds like you’re gonna open in summer when school’s out. So potentially, you could have a slow start. And hopefully, as your staff gets cooking and going September rolls around, you’re cooking with gas is that?

Ashkar 37:23
Yeah, we’re actually I’m sitting on for buildouts right now that I’m not even open. I’m just like, I mean, it’s pretty insane. People think I’m crazy. But I’m just like, like, literally, you know, their stores are done. Papers up, side is up. But we’re like, not open, and I’m waiting for mid August. So as soon as college is back, we basically will open overnight, and people will be like, what happened? How did you do that? You know, and we’re excited about that. But yes, we’ll be open and, you know, we’ll do enough business to cover the bills. And then once the, once the schools open up, and hopefully, these vaccines are rolled out, we’ll be able to really ramp up on our volume. Good luck, man, I think you will, this is great story. How many locations you think this can get to? I mean, I’m probably going to get us to 30. Myself, and then I’m going to hand off to somebody who can take it to 1000 I mean, if you look at it from a, from a retail perspective, it has similar economics like a little Caesar, and I’m just looking at it from you know, no product or anything. But you know, in terms of like occupancy costs speed of build out, you know, Chris, I can open a store 90 days, you know, start least to open. So, you know, it’s like, there is no limit on fully supply chain integrated. So you know, it’s like, order guide products to get delivered three days a week. And then it’s just so simple.

Ressa 38:57
There’s riches and niches. And with that, I got three more questions for you. Can you go quick? Yeah, go ahead. What extinct retailer you wish would come back from the dead. Oh,

Ashkar 39:07
oh man. I mean the sandwich I liked the most of them. DLT for McDonald’s, but retailer. Try come back. I’ll think about that. Give me another last item

Ressa 39:17
over $20 that you bought in a store? Like food? No any item any retail item.

Ashkar 39:25
pair of Toms Shoes All right.

Ressa 39:27
From where was it? Nordstrom? Nordstrom. If you and I were shopping at Target and I lost you would I would I find you in the

Ashkar 39:37
cookware that’s that was easy. That’s that’s cookware brand that I wish would come back from the debt. I would say aw, but I guess I just found out that aw is still alive. I grew up on the on the on the Frito Pie, you know

Ressa 39:54
Frito Pie. I’ve never had it. No.

Ashkar 39:57
Oh my goodness. You I thought you were a retail guy. I’ve never had Frito Pie they take a bag of Fritos, okay? You open them they put chili on him. Like inside the bag. You take a little mini bag of Fritos, chili cheese sour cream lettuce, tomato taco sauce in the back.

Ressa 40:19
Well, we’ll keep that as the answer. You got to go to your kids. This was great. Thanks so much. Thanks, Chris. Bye bye. Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode

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