Our very own Dan Simons recently sat down for a two-part series with OpenTable/Open for Business’s Winston Lord, co-founder of OpenTable’s revolutionary guest data and email marketing integration venture, Venga. On the table to discuss: Dan’s road to restaurant ownership, building a hospitality brand, lessons learned, and two main themes: Authenticity and Entrepreneurship.
Since opening the flagship Founding Farmers restaurant in Washington, D.C. in 2008, Dan and his co-founder/partner, Mike V, have built their brand on a commitment to American family farming and serving high-quality, delicious food and drink made from scratch, whenever possible.
As the brand has grown, so too have the lessons learned.
In the early days of their restaurant business, Dan says, “We confused passion, commitment, work ethic, and courage for wisdom, experience, and ability. We used those first ingredients, and we made the recipe and it just, frankly, wasn’t good enough. And the hundreds or thousands of forks in the road that you’re not wise enough to know you’re taking – you can end up really far away from where you wanted to be.”
Dan and Mike V vowed to, “Stay in the fight.” Seven restaurants and many lessons later, they have built a successful brand by maintaining an Everything Matters mantra. It’s the full experience that matters most. From the quality of the food and drinks they serve to where their ingredients come from to investing in their teams to provide guests with exceptional service to their commitment to sustainability, recycling, and their mission to help eliminate single-use plastic strawsthrough the non-profit, Our Last Straw, that Dan founded last year… “No detail is too small,” he says.
“I think some of the most important decisions in any of our lives, the biggest moments and the biggest tears and all of that,” Dan says, “happen around the table.”
We couldn’t agree more.
*photo: Dan welcomes every opportunity to engage with guests. Here he is doing just that @Founding Farmers King of Prussia.