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underground restaurants

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

so its hard to run a restaurant financially stable, too many taxes and fees and rules...

anyone running an UNDERGROUND restaurant ? personally its been on the back burner for a long long time... just park a well equipped food truck in a warehouse, good waiters, great food, set price, no menu, "secret" location. Bring our own gas and water (just like location catering for those that do that ;; ) Like a pop-up but with more pirate in the mix, total pleasure, total profit.

Anyone tried this ? I really want to hear your stories.

post #2 of 18

Sure, think about it all the time when I'm paying my taxes, rules and fees. Then I realize, here in the states, once the pull you food license you can never get another for life. They won't even issue one to anyone associated with you in a venture.

Like Pirates, life was good when they had total pleasure and total profit,  Although most were hung or killed once their business became public. Just make sure you bury your treasure.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #3 of 18

They are called pop ups and they happen in actual restaurant spaces.  So you might run a pop up on a Sunday night in your friend's bistro.   But no, do not run an underground restaurant.  The risks are way too high.

post #4 of 18
Like underground gambling trucks, dens, and other ops,
it's your client base itself that's the biggest security leak,
and what ultimately does you in.
All it takes is one happy customer who shares his experience
at a family gathering, his wife''s aunt''s brother in law Tom
catches wind of it, who happens to work for the health dept,
or FDA, or some other authority, and before you know it
you're shouting "ARRRRRGH!" as they haul you away in irons.
post #5 of 18

Besides if someone gets sick and decides to sue you you're basicall SOL.  If you haven't noticed, people always blame their illness on something they ate, and they're always quick to say food poisoning whether they know for certain or not.

post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by akat View Post

so its hard to run a restaurant financially stable, too many taxes and fees and. ...

So I, the legit. operator has to pay "all that stuff", but you don't because? Why? Because you comb you hair differently than I do? Maybe you feel you deserve not to pay "all that stuff" , but I do?

When I was catering I had home based competition every so often who would underbid me by as much as 50%, and I would regularily call up the health inspector to "check them out", and they would invariably shut them down. Don't be suprised if this happens to an underground place, and don't be suprised its a legit restaurant calling in the complaint to "protect his turf".
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by akat View Post
 

so its hard to run a restaurant financially stable, too many taxes and fees and rules...

anyone running an UNDERGROUND restaurant ? personally its been on the back burner for a long long time... just park a well equipped food truck in a warehouse, good waiters, great food, set price, no menu, "secret" location. Bring our own gas and water (just like location catering for those that do that ;; ) Like a pop-up but with more pirate in the mix, total pleasure, total profit.

Anyone tried this ? I really want to hear your stories.

You don't know if it can be done until you try.  Just lay low and keep it small.  Worst case situation, you get caught and play stupid and pay people accordingly to walk away.  It's a risk that you do things legit, pay your fees and taxes and pay the bills or take the bigger risk, maybe make real money but the real possibility of paying fines.  In OZ, can't imagine jail time for something like that but I can see big fines.  There are always ways around things,  you are inviting lots of friends over every night and you enjoy cooking for them and they give you donations for your non profit business???? 

post #8 of 18

What? A "well equipped food truck" isn't cheap by any means. Once you 've gone that far, why not go legit?

post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by hookedcook View Post

You don't know if it can be done until you try.  Just lay low and keep it small.  Worst case situation, you get caught and play stupid and pay people accordingly to walk away.  It's a risk that you do things legit, pay your fees and taxes and pay the bills or take the bigger risk, maybe make real money but the real possibility of paying fines.  In OZ, can't imagine jail time for something like that but I can see big fines.  There are always ways around things,  you are inviting lots of friends over every night and you enjoy cooking for them and they give you donations for your non profit business???? 

Great response! I guess the practical thing to do would be to find out exactly what kind of fines you'd be looking at before you got started. Personal bankrupcy is a (deleted), and to be avoided at any cost. Shouldn't be hard to get that information, easier than say... looking for a simple ice cream recipie?....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #10 of 18

Speaking as somebody who has been working as a pop-up for the last two years :

 

Its not as easy as it sounds.  Go figure.

 

What you "gain" in avoiding fixed costs creates its own challenges.  Such as a maximization of actual income.  You will not have the benefit of a really good night, your profit potential will max itself out.  You don't really have the luxury of rolling prep from one service into the next so over preping is a thing of the past.  You sell what you can, no more no less.

 

You would also find yourself constantly hustling, trying to find an audience, maybe growing it.  Keeping them involved and keeping them in "the loop" about upcoming events.  Your audience will be people that want to go, you cannot count on whim or happenstance to get people in either. 

 

You will also find yourself running round looking for venues to host you.  At least in my area, that is a constant challenge.  As much as you may get frustrated with leaseholds being at the caprice and mercy of "one off" venues isn't exactly fun either.

 

Your options of food purchasing will be very limited.  Again, hustling, running around getting most of your product by hand.   

 

Welcome to wonderful world of "cash only."

 

I should say at this point, I have never gone "underground" (and let's not kid ourselves, that's just code for illegal).  I have a registered company name, tax obligations, insurance and a lease on a catering kitchen.  I still need garbage and pest control services to maintain my food licence. Granted, my monthlies are much lower than a bricks and mortar spot, but it still ain't cheep. 

 

One of the big things to consider is that you really need to offer your audience something that they can't get from a traditional restaurant.  Not just different either, but something so unique that your offering is stronger than the security that a restaurant implies.

 

Mind you, if you are willing to work at it (and please, play by the rules) it can be really rewarding.  I have been able to build a bit of public profile beyond what being head chef at popular restaurant xyz ever did for my personal "brand."  This has lead me to make many business ties that I wouldn't have otherwise.  Several of these have lead to me opening my first restaurant early in the new year.  But if you go illegal on this sort of project kiss all of that resume building good bye.

post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 

wow, replies ! great !

i was thinking it would be an "invite only private party", perhaps that people buy "tickets" too... 

Of course the whole thing is a legal nightmare if we get busted but only IF we get busted. I`m of the generation that would go to allot of "warehouse" parties, out of the many many parties I can only recall getting raided twice and shut down once, but in both those cases it was the sound-proofing that let us down, never the "customers" ratting us out.  this venture would be about  FUN ! just good adult food related FUN where we can do as we like.  eat unpasteurized cheese, young no label wine and only take cash ! I understand the risks and we would make sure EVERYONE involved does as well.. and they are still up for it !

It would have to be a side project for everyone involved, no one could ONLY work like this. its not a living but a little bonus with allot of fun in the mix.

I do own a "real world" place as well and pay all that money and do all that paper work and its doing just fine but I think this type of thing would be a real buzz for everyone involved.

Oh yeah , FoodPump, it would be a one night only deal, hit it, lick it and quit it.... Then do it again in the next season, maybe that could be the hook, the BEST of the season. Out of all the many many many people I have worked with only a few would not want to be involved with this type of thing and I wouldn't want them anyway. It would be a blast ! I`m sure somewhere, someone is doing something like this.. or very soon they will be.


Edited by akat - 11/23/15 at 4:25am
post #12 of 18

I'm guessing you didn't read Allan's response. If you are in a legit business you should already know there is no hit it and lick it etc. When the ocean is calm things go pretty well. But when the swells come rolling in.' one good day', 'one slow day' if you don't sink the boat you're successful.

You set up a one night deal, spend money for truck ,food,etc. When you're standing in your truck with your thumb up your arse you figure some other food truck has pulled right in front of your entrance and is practically giving away the food from the volume.

I'm not so sure you own something and do everything that comes along with it. Now I'm spending 20% of my time to work for the government. Collecting monies for them, transferring funds to them,

Fed, State, local, paperwork, which reminds me, If you get one guy that doesn't like his meal and he just happens to work for the IRS. Your screwed. They can say they think you've been doing this for seven years and owe them 450K. You just can't say oh no, this was the first time. They'll freeze your assets, etc. Remember, that organization has the right to enter your home without a warrant and you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. That can take a while, and you have no recourse if you loose your business, home, cars. If you spend a butt load of money on an attorney and win, their response will be, opps we made a mistake, have a nice day. Then audit you for the next 19 years.

Just some food for thought.

I do attend a pop up every once in a while if I know the Chef, but those guys are flying by the seat of their pants trying to organize things, working their butts off.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #13 of 18

akat,

 

Your clarification is interesting.  So you aren't planning on this being a real source of income, more a fun "food jam"  for like-minded chefs/cooks?  Well, you ought to be able to handle that pretty simply.  I get the idea of just wanting to "one off" something every four months to try out some stuff you normally don't get to try.  

 

If you already have a terrestrial kitchen then you are already insured (likely with some coverage for off site catering, if not, get it) and certified.  So the "underground" aspect is really only extended to some of the food you want to serve?  Well, tread carefully.  Especially with regards to two aspects:

 

1)alcohol.  Unpasturized dairy is one thing, booze turns you into a bootlegger and in Canada you would be looking way more than a fine.  You could do time, you could loose your legit business.  I would not go there!

 

2) Just because something is "edgy" doesn't mean its good.  If you come across a small producer who is making a limited run of an amazing unpasteurized cheese, well, that might be a risk you want to take (I can't speak to your mind set there).  But if you become determined to serve raw cheese and then go searching for one to fill that column, that is wrong headed.

 

If you try something like this do it as above board as possible.  Invites are one thing but I suspect you might be surprised at how limited your uptake will be.  Even then, if you want to expand your personal brand as you imply, you will need web and social media presence.  If you can secure enough RSVPs from blind invites alone, odds are these will be people who already know you, so your are preaching to the converted only.  No social capitol is gained.  You want people who unfamiliar with your work.  You will need a wider net.  And that will push you "above ground."  Again, that is where you want to be.  You can't be hush-hush about something and expect it to boost your profile or create buzz.  Have you ever seen a resume with "Voted Best Meth Dealer, 2011" on it?  And, if I, as a restaurant chef, saw a resume from somebody who has been skirting the rules I had to follow to undercut my business, well, guess where that resume would be filed...

 

The tickets idea is a solid one and one I strongly recommend.  PayPal, Eventbright, are great solutions for managing this sort of thing.  And open up credit card sales for advance purchases.  If you think that doesn't matter, you need a rethink.

 

Now, "underground" is a potential for marketing.  You can sell the aura of a culinary speakeasy while being a safe and insured environment.  The thing you have to think about is, will the market for "edgy" be a demographic  that can pay.  And pay for a food experience.  If you are pre-booking than you are pretty much looking at sit down, fine dining experience.  Either a long form menu that would double as the night's entertainment.  Or a three course with a flip.  Do you think the wharehouse dance party crowd would be up for a three hour sit down diner?  I dunno...

 

Skip the food truck.  You want a van(s).  You will likely need table/chair rentals (not to mention plates, cutlery, etc) so you want something to cart that stuff around.  Focus on portable cooking pieces (induction burners, circulators, anything that can run on household power).  Build a portable "kitchen" setup, it will serve you well over time.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hookedcook View Post

You don't know if it can be done until you try.  Just lay low and keep it small.  Worst case situation, you get caught and play stupid and pay people accordingly to walk away.  It's a risk that you do things legit, pay your fees and taxes and pay the bills or take the bigger risk, maybe make real money but the real possibility of paying fines.  In OZ, can't imagine jail time for something like that but I can see big fines.  There are always ways around things,  you are inviting lots of friends over every night and you enjoy cooking for them and they give you donations for your non profit business???? 

Great response! I guess the practical thing to do would be to find out exactly what kind of fines you'd be looking at before you got started. Personal bankrupcy is a (deleted), and to be avoided at any cost. Shouldn't be hard to get that information, easier than say... looking for a simple ice cream recipie?....

 

Or advising a CT member on smuggling .....Importing ingredients .

 

mimi


Edited by flipflopgirl - 11/23/15 at 8:49am
post #15 of 18
A one night fling at an abandoned warehouse? Don't forget to include at least 3 portable toilets for female guests and two for the males in your plans...
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

A one night fling at an abandoned warehouse? Don't forget to include at least 3 portable toilets for female guests and two for the males in your plans...

Ha!  Oh yeah, almost anything can be worked around but toilets were always the line that could not be crossed!  

post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanMcPherson View Post
 

akat,

 

Your clarification is interesting.  So you aren't planning on this being a real source of income, more a fun "food jam"  for like-minded chefs/cooks?  Well, you ought to be able to handle that pretty simply.  I get the idea of just wanting to "one off" something every four months to try out some stuff you normally don't get to try.  

 

If you already have a terrestrial kitchen then you are already insured (likely with some coverage for off site catering, if not, get it) and certified.  So the "underground" aspect is really only extended to some of the food you want to serve?  Well, tread carefully.  Especially with regards to two aspects:

 

1)alcohol.  Unpasturized dairy is one thing, booze turns you into a bootlegger and in Canada you would be looking way more than a fine.  You could do time, you could loose your legit business.  I would not go there!

 

2) Just because something is "edgy" doesn't mean its good.  If you come across a small producer who is making a limited run of an amazing unpasteurized cheese, well, that might be a risk you want to take (I can't speak to your mind set there).  But if you become determined to serve raw cheese and then go searching for one to fill that column, that is wrong headed.

 

If you try something like this do it as above board as possible.  Invites are one thing but I suspect you might be surprised at how limited your uptake will be.  Even then, if you want to expand your personal brand as you imply, you will need web and social media presence.  If you can secure enough RSVPs from blind invites alone, odds are these will be people who already know you, so your are preaching to the converted only.  No social capitol is gained.  You want people who unfamiliar with your work.  You will need a wider net.  And that will push you "above ground."  Again, that is where you want to be.  You can't be hush-hush about something and expect it to boost your profile or create buzz.  Have you ever seen a resume with "Voted Best Meth Dealer, 2011" on it?  And, if I, as a restaurant chef, saw a resume from somebody who has been skirting the rules I had to follow to undercut my business, well, guess where that resume would be filed...

 

The tickets idea is a solid one and one I strongly recommend.  PayPal, Eventbright, are great solutions for managing this sort of thing.  And open up credit card sales for advance purchases.  If you think that doesn't matter, you need a rethink.

 

Now, "underground" is a potential for marketing.  You can sell the aura of a culinary speakeasy while being a safe and insured environment.  The thing you have to think about is, will the market for "edgy" be a demographic  that can pay.  And pay for a food experience.  If you are pre-booking than you are pretty much looking at sit down, fine dining experience.  Either a long form menu that would double as the night's entertainment.  Or a three course with a flip.  Do you think the wharehouse dance party crowd would be up for a three hour sit down diner?  I dunno...

 

Skip the food truck.  You want a van(s).  You will likely need table/chair rentals (not to mention plates, cutlery, etc) so you want something to cart that stuff around.  Focus on portable cooking pieces (induction burners, circulators, anything that can run on household power).  Build a portable "kitchen" setup, it will serve you well over time.

If you are looking to do a food jam for like minded Chefs and Cooks, you just need to move down here. These type of food jams are very popular here. Whether it be out at someones ranch with all sorts of game available, and there is always a good ole boy in the area that dries or smokes out his assorted sausage. We have a get together at a popular mozzarella factory every so often after work. There is no pay pal or credit cards, you just bring something out of the ordinary for others. We had a party last summer out in the country(we have a lot of country down here) I would say about 300 foodies showed. There were hogs buried in the ground to cook, whole goats in old fashioned hand made clay ovens, an area of maybe 12' X 12' of coals and some Indian cooks had at least 20 Tajines going. They are usually all one offs organized by someone or some eatery. They run from 7-8am to 7-8 the next morning because everyone works different shifts.

I'm planning one now. I just finished a welding class at the local CC and started building hog traps. I'd like to get and cook 20 - 30 hogs all different ways. Met a cook at Roys who says he wants to do his style 3 ways.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 

WOW, great replies from everyone, thank you very much ! I have much to think about. I still have some contacts with the location catering crew I worked with years ago... it could happen !

Once again, thanks very much for all of your actually useful and thought out replies !

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