Delo: ... business, so they have a good time. I mean, it's good.

Julian: Right. It's no difference than throwing a party. If you throw a good party, people are going to call their friends and stick around. If the party sucks, they're going to leave.

Delo: 100%. All right. Well, let's have a bit of fun right now.

Speaker 3: You're listening to the Bar and Restaurant Podcast where hospitality lovers come to listen and learn with expert David DeLorenzo.

Delo: All right, we are back with another podcast, the Bar Restaurant Podcast, and this is the Delo, that's me, and my special guest today is Julian Wright. Hello, Julian.

Julian: How's it going, Delo?

Delo: It's going well.

Julian: Is it the Delo?

Delo: It's the Delo, yeah.

Julian: My bad.

Delo: So those that are watching on film, which are probably few and far between, but I have one of Julian's new shirts on. What does this mean?

Julian: Well, have you ever heard of après-ski?

Delo: No.

Julian: Apparently you haven't skied in France, or Canada, but anyways, it's a term that simply means hit the bar after you've been skiing all day. So it's kind of our tongue-in-cheek version for Kähvi Coffee. Instead of skiing, you could do some yoga, probably at MonOrchid which is where Kähvi is located. And then either hit the bar for a coffee drink or juice drink or an alcohol drink if you're in the mood to start boozing it up at nine in the morning.

Delo: That's perfect, and that makes sense. And they're very good quality shirts. I know you like-

Julian: Yeah, that's Sport-Tek, baby.

Delo: ... your quality. You have your Peddle Haus shirt on today, so-

Julian: Also Sport-Tek.

Delo: Also Sport-Tek. So there's a little advertisement for Sport-Tek. All right, let's get started with ... let's just say you're pretty much an Arizona boy. I mean, really.

Julian: No. I mean, I'm technically an East Coaster originally for high school and first year, but I've now lived in Arizona much longer than I've lived in any other state. So I feel pretty grounded here and definitely feel like Arizona's home.

Delo: An ASU grad. What was your degree?

Julian: Journalism.

Delo: Ah, look at that. So from journalism to-

Julian: Yeah, I think it's about 20 to 30 years too early to make a career out of it, but that's what I went to school for. But had a focus in photography, did a lot of video.

Delo: And before your first operation that you fully owned out here, which was Jack's Tie Bar, which we'll get into in a minute, what was your introduction to the hospitality industry?

Julian: My first restaurant was at a place called Salad Alley across from where I lived in Philadelphia back in 1988. And I got the job there because my girlfriend was working there making tons of money as a server. I can't remember if I had any other jobs before that. I think I did work at a grocery store, and that was basically minimum wage.

Julian: So, it sounded fun, she was enjoying it, so technically that was my first foray into working in the industry. But when I came out to Arizona, I worked at the Buttes Resort at the pool, which was a lot of fun, as a bartender. And I believe I went to the Islands Grill on Mill, which ironically became our first Peddle Haus location, opened that in my Hawaiian shirt and short-shorts and my perfectly white starched socks and my notepad, back in 1993.

Julian: And then I went on to open Bandera in Scottsdale, which ironically I ate there for dinner last night. And that was really the first place I saw what I would consider professionals in the industry. These guys were driving pretty nice cars, wore pretty nice sport coats and taking it seriously. They operated at a level I had never witnessed in the restaurant business.

Delo: Yeah, a little different than Islands.

Julian: Yeah. Islands is probably considered successful in its own right, many locations, but it was a different yeast than working for the Houston's Corporation, so that's kind of where I first considered it. I remember working there and interviewing at places like popular Outdoor Outfitters, if you remember them back in the day. I was really into the outdoors and camping and-

Delo: You still are, you just don't have time for it.

Julian: Yeah, I totally am, but at the time, I was literally thinking about making a career out of it. But retail's just pretty boring, I hate to say. At least for my attention span. And I like the restaurant industry, I like the people.there's obviously a lot of humans involved. I like the comradery of working in the trenches and sometimes taking bullets with your fellow servers and bartenders.

Julian: And so I ended up going into their management training program. I still remember my salary for some reason, which was a whopping 28 grand a year.

Delo: Wow.

Julian: Granted, this was the mid-90s. So, that was the first time I seriously considered as a career.

Delo: And then, basically, you just got the momentum from there. You had the bug. You're like, I want to-

Julian: Yeah. Although, I'd say two months into management training, I actually had ... I was really second guessing my choice.

Delo: Really?

Julian: Because while Houston's is incredibly good at operating consistently a high-quality product, they're not known for company culture. And I remember I was working so much I gave my dog away and before too long, was pretty miserable and I just was like, "No, this isn't for me."

Julian: So I actually just up and quit, moved to the Virgin Islands, which was basically the exact opposite of the stressful environment I'd just been in. I mean, I did take a job in a restaurant. There weren't too many people around at the time because they just had a gnarly hurricane, so-

Delo: Oh, wow.

Julian: ... all the people that go there for a season, like you might do in a Colorado ski town or something, had all fled. So got a job in a restaurant there, but month or two later, I left the island and moved in with the parents in Chicago. And at that point, had ... I mean, I don't think I had any interest in the restraint business. I was kind of like, "All right, what am I going to do now?"

Julian: I didn't want to go to film school in LA, because it just seemed like not my vibe. So I was in Chicago just temping.

Delo: Really?

Julian: Literally. I went to one of those temp agencies and they put you in different companies and you go work for a day and do-

Delo: That's crazy. In the 18 years I've known you, or 20 years, I never knew that. That's crazy.

Julian: I mean, it wasn't for a long time, but it did give me the opportunity to go look under the hood of a lot of different companies and how they operated, how their company culture was, what their day was like, what kind of people were there.

Julian: All I remember is this one healthcare company I worked for, which it was one of those bigger ones. I don't remember the name, but they'd hand me this stack of 400 applications for doctors or whatever and I'd just sit there and-

Delo: In a cubicle?

Julian: Yeah, a cubicle, data entry. I just made a game out of it, like how fast can I knock out this pile-

Delo: Tetris.

Julian: ... which isn't normally how these temp folks were approaching the job. I mean, I think I was inputting three to four times the amount of information that any temp person had ever put in-

Delo: Oh my God.

Julian: ... because it was purely a way to make the painfully slow day go by. And I just turned it into a game.

Delo: Do you think some of your employees do that at your places now?

Julian: I don't think so, but I wish they would. I think the restaurant business has got that face pace, so it attracts people that like that, like myself. It's not boring cubicle work, and I think that's why a lot of people are attracted to the restaurant business.

Julian: But anyways, pretty quickly realized that was not for me. And then it was kind of like, all right, how do I get back into the restaurant business? And was thinking maybe working in a corporation using the skills and the experience and the information I got at Arizona State University, but one within the restaurant industry.

Julian: So, my girlfriend and I at the time who had met at Bandera, we just, kind of on a whim, moved to Boulder, Colorado. That was '95, 6-ish. We loved the town of Boulder because there was a real outdoor component to it. It had obviously a little bit of a hippie flair, a lot of good live music venues, but didn't really have a target company. I was thinking about Einstein Bagels, they were located out of Golden, Colorado, or somewhere close.

Delo: Was that the beginning of them?

Julian: Yeah. They had just started mid-90s. There was a lot of restaurant companies that included Chipotle, Boston Market, and the restaurants at the time were sort of the equivalent of tech companies today recruiting young talent, ping-pong tables in their office, great company culture, expanding rapidly, pushing, innovating their brands. And that was attractive to me, so that was kind of my game plan to go get a job at the office of Einstein's Bagels and just see where it went.

Delo: You could get up and move pretty much anywhere, just because you were free. So you were young, you were 20s, 20s-

Julian: Yeah, I was mid-20s. So that's actually where I ended up going to work for what's now QDOBA and Chipotle just had the five locations at the time, so that's how small they were.

Delo: Wow.

Julian: They're both from Denver-

Delo: Wow.

Julian: ... [crosstalk 00:10:10]-

Delo: Wow. Is QDOBA still around?

Julian: Yeah. They're still going strong, as far as I know.

Delo: So you go there, you get a gig, and don't you get in good with the owner?

Julian: Well, my girlfriends' sister had dated the co-founder of ... it was called Zuma back in the day. I had just read an article on one of my news feeds about how QDOBA had changed its name three times and why, and navigating that with franchisees. And I was there for all three of those-

Delo: Wow.

Julian: ... it was kind of interesting. At any rate, I met the guy and he only had one burrito store, but was killing it. He had zero restaurant background, he was like a Merrill Lynch guy and he partnered with the chef who I'm still in touch with today.

Julian: And they started QDOBA and they didn't have a corporate office, really. I think it was him and one other guy working out of a small office. And so that was kind of attractive and I just took an assistant manager job at their first store making 22 grand a year, so I was going backwards in my pay.

Julian: I try to tell young people, come to work for me or interview for me. There's so many different ways you can go in this business. You can go with really well, big, established corporations and move a little slower. You can maybe take a step back in some cases but get in with a company that's got the culture and the growth rate that turns you on. Or you can go take a job you hate that pays a ton of money, so those are kind of your options.

Delo: So true. So you go through all that, and then through that, you end up back in Arizona, because you're opening up a branch out there?

Julian: Yeah. I pretty quickly became the director of franchise operations, mainly because I was pretty adept at writing manuals, so I ended up going to work as assistant manager. These guys were practically just putting cash in the garbage bag. There was no systems, no training, nothing written down-

Delo: Oh, wow.

Julian: ... and yet, they'd already sold franchises. So I kind of volunteered to clean up some stuff, put systems in place. So I did all that, and that led me to the path of becoming the director of franchise operations, which all that really meant is I was the liaison between people that had bought a franchise in Milwaukee, for instance, Phoenix, I think Kansas City, and the corporate office.

Julian: So whatever information they need, I had to bird dog it and get their answers. One guy I was interacting with was a guy that bought, I think all of Arizona or at least Phoenix and Tuscan, when I asked him if he had ... who I was going to be working with, do you have a director of operations down here in Phoenix? He said no. It was just him and his partner. And he was basically semi-retired. I think he was already in his 60s or 70s.

Delo: Oh, wow.

Julian: I'm not even sure why he was doing it, but he was kind of a business junkie guy. So he said he didn't, I said, "Well, I used to work for Houston's, I know those guys burn out. Tell me what your package is." And he said ... I think it was 10% of the company, company car, pretty decent salary, and it sounded like a lot of autonomy, so sounded pretty good to me. So I actually ended up-

Delo: Going over there.

Julian: ... flying down here to meet him and I ended up getting the job and taking that job instead. So that's kind of what brought me back to Phoenix, which was fine with me. I mean, I loved Denver, it was killer, but this was a much better opportunity for me financially.

Julian: And so I came back to Phoenix in '97-ish, and then I started to open up ... at the time it was still called Z-Teca.

Delo: Wow. And then basically graduated from there and went and opened up 100% your own spot, which we talked about Jack's, and then ... Jack's kind of parlayed into the Library, which was really your breakout place. I mean, that's-

Julian: Yeah. Well, despite all the things I had done, even as the vice president of operations and really doing most of the heavy listing with Z-Teca here in Arizona, there's still things I hadn't done. I hadn't negotiated the lease, I hadn't ever raised money, I had never had to write a business plan. I'd never been in charge of everything.

Julian: So that was the case with Jack's, but we got it off the ground for two years, sold it. This is early 2000s, and at the time, the whole DJ scene was really starting to go nuts here. In fact, I was just listening to a podcast, Joe Rogan and this guy, I forget his name, but he just-

Delo: I was listening to it too, the DJ guy, the big heir or whatever?

Julian: No, I'm talking about the guy who's a documentarian. He did-

Delo: Oh.

Julian: ... a three-part series, I think, called Sasquatch, but it's nothing to do with Sasquatch. It's about marijuana industry in Northern Mendocino County.

Delo: Oh, okay. [crosstalk 00:15:13]-

Julian: But he was living in Phoenix in the mid-90s.

Delo: Oh okay.

Julian: In fact, he told a story about the whole ecstasy bust with Sammy the Bull and that whole thing. And I was around during that time, being the 90s in Arizona, and then that trickled into the 2000s. At any rate, the whole scene, if you will, when I had Jack's was really going that direction, a lot of DJ clubs and stuff. And I was kind of sick of it.

Julian: That's kind of how the Library idea was born, like you guys go do that fast lane DJ thing, we're going to be over here selling pitchers of beer and playing rock and roll and going back to a more nostalgic vibe and a lot more fun, in my opinion. So that did lead to the Library, and the Library was pretty successful.

Delo: And the Library, it transferred over to New Mexico and you did a stint out there for a little bit and opened a couple places out there, and then decided F-Albuquerque.

Julian: Yeah, not right away. I mean, the recession rocked me pretty hard, both in Arizona, Long Beach and Albuquerque where I had businesses and houses at the time. And Albuquerque, right around the time that governor Richardson ran for presidential candidate in '08-ish, if I remember. Maybe it's '12. I can't quite remember. But he put on a sheriff hat and he was going to clean up the town and at the time, they had a lot of DUI issues and a bunch of other stuff, so the Library got caught in the crosshairs, and the liquor board was up my ass. It just left a sour taste in my mouth.

Julian: It must've been '08, because I remember I had just opened La Bocca on Mill and it was struggling. Everything was struggling. And I just had to let a couple things go in order to not lose all three. I was very close to letting Tempe go and just focusing on Albuquerque, but-

Delo: [crosstalk 00:17:16].

Julian: ... thankfully, I decided to come back to Tempe and let the stuff in Albuquerque flop in the wind, but salvaged La Bocca and that's what brought me back to really concentrate on Mill Avenue and Tempe back in 2008 to ... pretty much '08 on, basically.

Delo: You've been doing that ever since, so I mean, you opened up Handlebar, which was across the street from La Bocca. You had Canteen. And then as of recent, you now have your brewery, which is a little bit different from the nightclubs, but the breweries have become really popular all over the United States.

Delo: And you got an amazing brewer as well, so you put together a dream team for this brewery, and it's, like you said, in the old Islands location and is really become the heart of Tempe right now. But now, you've gone off the grid, per se. You have a place in Chandler, which another Pedal Haus. But now you've gone off the grid, per se, and you're now really implanting your flag in downtown Phoenix. So what do you got going on over there?

Julian: I mean, I would say downtown Phoenix is still on the grid.

Delo: Yeah. Well, off the grid for you, because you being [crosstalk 00:18:30]-

Julian: I'm branching out, but it's not as far as the North Phoenix spots I had-

Delo: Yeah, that's true.

Julian: ... if you want to talk about geographically, or even the vibe of Roosevelt Row I think is more similar to Tempe than any other location I've done. But there's a lot going on down there and it all bore out of some friends of mine that own Truth North Studios, I think they call it, but they started developing down there. And if we're going to expand Pedal Haus, we got to branch out.

Julian: And we started that conversation probably two years ago, a while ago. Well, well, well before COVID. And they had brought the MonOrchid building, which is an iconic kick-ass building down there that's go a lot of history in the art community but also has badass wood trusses and just screams brewery.

Julian: So we started chipping away at putting a Pedal Haus there, and that kind of led to some other things, including the Lucky's indoor/outdoor bar we have and Sake Haus, which is in the same building. But I'll have a decent little footprint in Roosevelt Row and I've been spending a lot of time down there. I moved my office down there, which is also in MonOrchid's. So just in the last week I've been to two community meetings. I just like the vibe down there. So I'm actually very comfortable down there, very happy that we made that decision.

Delo: You've always been a big advocate for localism and being a part of the community, and even on Mill Avenue you had, I think, La Bocca Day that the mayor of Tempe gave you, so a lot of cool stuff ... that maybe you'll be the mayor of Roosevelt.

Julian: Yeah, I don't think so, but as I have done in the past in Tempe, I do like to really get to know the community. I'm still in Lucky's and Pedal Haus quite a bit.

Delo: So you're definitely involved. What is it that you can tell, let's just say, young people wanting to get into the restaurant business, albeit work or ... I mean, what's a few key, I don't know, phrases of advice you can give to them based on what you've experienced so far?

Julian: If they want to open their open spot?

Delo: Yeah, or even work for a place. I mean, come in and interview.

Julian: Well, it's high intensity. It's a boxing match. I use that as a description. You got to be able to put in the work, you got to enjoy that intensity, and certainly if you're going to try and open your own spot, which a lot of people aspire to do over time, which isn't always what it's cracked up to be. You're the last person to get paid, just keep that in mind.

Julian: But if you are going to try to be an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry, you just got to be resilient. You got to be able to get knocked around a little bit and-

Delo: It might look sexy from the outside, but the inside is [crosstalk 00:21:36].

Julian: Yeah, there's probably more humans involved per dollar of revenue than any other industry, and if you don't have a pretty good handle on interacting and social interactions with other humans, whether it's the people working for you or the people you're selling your product to, don't even bother.

Delo: It's interesting.

Julian: It's so human intense. I happen to love humans, so-

Delo: Yeah, same here.

Julian: ... I get a kick out of traveling to Europe by myself and going to a bar and forcing myself to meet people even if they don't speak my language. I enjoy that, but that's probably to some extent just helped me along in my career, but that's pretty important.

Julian: And then you also have to be able to really, not only multitask, but it's you can't get tunnel vision on your food or your drinks or your location or your food costs. There's a hundred little things that go into the success of a restaurant.

Julian: And I see a lot of times, the mistake managers will make is they'll only pay attention to a couple of them. Meanwhile, your boat's taking on water back here and they don't even see it.

Delo: Yeah, slowly [crosstalk 00:22:49].

Julian: The other thing that I think a lot of people miss getting into this business, and some are natural but most aren't, is just the vibe, how important lights and music are. It's typically the difference between, a lot of times, successful restaurants and not. If you could pick one thing that's consistently not there from a successful compared to a not successful, in my opinion it's vibe.

Julian: I've seen places that were not successful in the end that actually had pretty good food or pretty good location or pretty good service or pretty good name, but they didn't make it. And if you look at the ones that are consistently successful, including Postino and Fox and Houston's, I mean, you walk in there and there's just-

Delo: You have to be present.

Julian: It's like a blockbuster movie, it's just everything is sinking and I know, because that's what I like to focus on. Pedal Haus, I don't think necessarily our customers totally even picked up on it, but I always call it the social blanket, it just feels good in there. The music's at the right level and it's just loud enough to where they're having a good time and they stay for one more drink. They invite the friends there instead of leaving to meet their friends. And those little subtitles make a big difference.

Julian: So really important to pay attention to vibe if you do want to own your own place some day.

Delo: And it's all about referral too, you want people to refer people to your business, and so if they have a good time and the food's good-

Julian: Right. It's no difference than throwing a party. If you throw a good party, people are going to call their friends and stick around. If the party sucks, they're going to leave.

Delo: 100&. All right. Well, let's have a little bit of fun right now, some questions for you. All right-

Julian: Go ahead.

Delo: ... [crosstalk 00:24:28]. All right, you have to choose between one, is it music or lights?

Julian: Let's see, that's a tricky one.

Delo: I had to stump you first.

Julian: Oh yeah, good. I'd probably go with lights.

Delo: If you could only see the pain-

Julian: [crosstalk 00:24:51].

Delo: ... on his face right now. Really? I'm surprised.

Julian: I know.

Delo: You're a big music guy!

Julian: Here's the reason, I've seen a restaurant with virtually no music but tons of people fill the room with that ambiance, but if you don't have the lights right and it's too bright, it just ... in other words, if you have a room, a bar, restaurant full of people and there's a lot of chatter and the lights are right, you'll be fine. But if it's really bright and the music's bad, I think you'll be worse off.

Delo: Wow. I love that. Galaga or Pac-Man?

Julian: Galaga, for sure.

Delo: Ms. Pac-Man?

Julian: No.

Delo: No? All right, still Galaga. Jean jacket or jean shorts?

Julian: Jean jacket. Although, I have thought about cutting up some of my jeans lately.

Delo: It is coming back.

Julian: I remember when you used to wear them.

Delo: I did, and it wasn't cool. So, I still have them.

Julian: You had the big three quarter-length jorts, if I remember correctly.

Delo: Yeah, you have the picture to prove it. Aliens or the Loch Ness monster?

Julian: As far as which would I rather see or which do I think exist?

Delo: Both.

Julian: I definitely think there's a better chance aliens exist than the Loch Ness monster.

Delo: Which one would you rather come up against?

Julian: Probably aliens.

Delo: They're pretty cool. [crosstalk 00:26:12]-

Julian: Give too many shits about the Loch Ness monster, personally.

Delo: Snorkeling or skydiving?

Julian: Snorkeling.

Delo: You went out with sharks-

Julian: I've done both. Well, I've been in the cage with sharks. I did see one shark in the wild snorkeling, but ... when you see them out there in the water, it's less unnerving than when you can't see them in the water. The water's murky or dark, especially if you know they're out there, maybe see a little fin, forget that. But if you're down and you can see, they're a little less threatening.

Delo: And you're bleeding, it's all good. [inaudible 00:26:48]. If you had to eat snails or crickets, which one?

Julian: I would probably eat the snail.

Delo: It's like escargot.

Julian: With enough butter and salt. I've eaten crickets and I didn't like it.

Delo: A mug of beer or a glass of good wine?

Julian: If it's really good wine, wine, but I probably drink 50 beers for every glass of wine I drink.

Delo: Does part of you want to redo a wine bar again?

Julian: No.

Delo: No?

Julian: No.

Delo: Did that?

Julian: Yeah. Not for any other reason than I have a lot going already, more focused on Sake and beer these days. An elegant glass of wine is hard to beat though.

Delo: I can understand that. Would you rather drive a Ford Bronco or a Porsche?

Julian: Ford Bronco.

Delo: And then, where would you rather be stuck, in Mexico or Hawaii?

Julian: Mexico.

Delo: Really?

Julian: Oh, big time.

Delo: You just like the culture and the ...

Julian: Yeah. I mean, I love the culture, I love the food. Hawaii, granted, there are lots of parts that are super remote, but it's also super touristy, super expensive and much smaller. Mexico's got a lot more diversity and just as beautiful beaches, in my opinion. That's a pretty easy decision for me.

Delo: Is that where you're going to retire?

Julian: Possibly.

Delo: Awesome place to go.

Julian: Big fan of the Caribbean portion of Mexico, so like Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, kind of enamored with [Eas Le-mor-her-es 00:28:32] lately, which I've not been to, but I do fantasize about eventually having little beach huts somewhere, so I'm scoping them out.

Delo: Very cool. All prepared. It's like the financial planning, but it's the living planning.

Julian: I think I got five to eight good years left in me, and then I'll be a washed up, old restaurant guy that should just be put out to pasture.

Delo: Well, save that-

Julian: Right, Christian?

Delo: ... room for me. Well, this is awesome. I appreciate you coming by. Where can people, I don't know, find your restaurant group online or what's the best way to get-

Julian: Well, Pedal Haus is the brand most people are familiar with, that's not too hard to find as long as you spell Haus, H-A-U-S. And then if you're roaming down around the Roosevelt Row area, hop into Lucky's indoor/outdoor or invite you to come over to MonOrchid. I'll get that going in a couple months.

Delo: That stuff will be all open this year, so-

Julian: I think we're going to be open by September 1st.

Delo: People are starting to come out, so that's great. All right. Well, thank you, Julian. I appreciate it. I hope you guys all enjoyed this podcast. This was sponsored by Bar Restaurant Insurance, my company, and Local 480, and if you can, please subscribe and give me a five star, that'd be really cool. And Julian would like it too.

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