July 7, 2014

New CNBC series 'Restaurant Startup' gives teams chance to win investment money

PASADENA — A study by Ohio State University reveals that 60% of new restaurants don't make it past the first year and 80% shut down before they reach their fifth anniversary.

TV personality Joe Bastianich and chef/restaurant operator Tim Love want to change those odds for the better. In the new CNBC series "Restaurant Startup," they invest their own money in restaurant concepts that they believe can beat the odds and make money.

In the opening episode, Seattle's Kraken Congee and Portland's Ramy's Falafel Fusion pitch ideas. Teams are given the keys to a working Los Angeles dining establishment, where they get 36 hours and $7,500 to launch a pop-up restaurant. They have to come up with a winning menu, a branding campaign and a business plan.

That might seem like too little time to get a restaurant up and running, but Love says any good owner should have done months of work on the business plan before getting the keys. Then it's just a matter of logistics.

"I always say this every day: If you can't describe a restaurant that you want to open in one sentence, then you can't be on my show," Love says. "So if you can't execute it within three days, then you're in the wrong spot as well. You haven't thought it through enough for us to even look at your investment."

Each week, two teams will battle to get the best reactions from diners. The feedback from diners will be used by Bastianich and Love to decide whether to put their own money on the line.

Bastianich is best known outside restaurant circles as one of the three judges on "MasterChef" and "MasterChef Junior." Love owns several restaurants in Texas that are known for their urban western cuisine.

Chef and restaurateur Waylynn Lucas, who will be a mentor on the show, says there is a reason new restaurants open daily.

"People need food to survive. It's a necessity. Cooking, eating, dining out, that's something families do. It holds a very special place within people's hearts, so I feel that they're always going to strive to want to do that for a living," Lucas says.

Even with the teams getting support from Lucas, there's no guarantee their restaurants will be in that 20% that celebrate a fifth anniversary. For Love, the test is not as much the work done in the three days as it is looking at the people who have presented the plan.

"The concept is part of what that person is. And so we take all things into consideration. We also coach them on the way through. Waylynn takes some tasks that we give to them and she goes and makes sure that they're accomplishing some of those tasks," Love says. "I started my first restaurant with $70,000 of my own money. I hammered every nail. I painted every wall. I sanded every floor. We want to see if those kind of people have that kind of drive, because that's really what I want to invest in, somebody who wants to get something done and has the ability and drive to put it behind it."


"Restaurant Startup," 10 p.m. Tuesdays on CNBC


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