Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business, coming to you today from The Breakfast Klub. I know most of you in Houston know all about this place – those outside might not – but I’m very pleased to have as my guest Marcus Davis, the Founder, the CEO, the Director, the Producer, everything; Marcus, welcome to The BusinessMaker Show.
Marcus: Thank you sir. Thank you, it’s my pleasure, thanks for coming out.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about The Breakfast Klub.
Marcus: Yeah, The Breakfast Klub is a place of culture and community. It’s a place for all people. The thing that I enjoy most about The Breakfast Klub is that it’s a place where in one corner you may see, uh, two CEOs hashing out a multi-million dollar deal and in the other corner you’ll see two college students working on their final exam. And so it’s a place that you come and enjoy and embrace one another and enjoy that camaraderie that we yearn for. It’s a place for building community; that’s our goal, that’s our effort, that’s our desire and I believe that’s who we are.
Russ: Well, and I think from everything I’ve seen, heard and tasted in here you’ve accomplished that quite, quite well. And in addition to all those things you just said there’s quite a good breakfast served here as well.
Marcus: Yeah and we do have some food here.
Russ: Right. In fact I think the first time that The Breakfast Klub got on my radar was a – was a big article in the Houston Chronicle and it was about the unique breakfast. So give our audience an overview of the menu.
Marcus: So we – we have a unique breakfast. We have our – your traditional breakfast of your grits, eggs, bacon, biscuit, things of that nature, but what I wanted to do was pull from what people were familiar with. So in the East Coast – Southeast region – there’s a dish called fish and grits that people like Floridians and Georgians and people from parts of Louisiana were familiar with.
Russ: Fish and grits?
Marcus: Fish and grits. And then there’s another dish that’s originally from the East coast, up north, the wings and the waffles or the chicken and waffles that was made popular on the West Coast, but from the East Coast. And, you know, we wanted to bring those dishes to the city of Houston and have people enjoy them. Now some people were familiar with them either from hearing about them or familiar with them from their childhood and we wanted to be able to – since Houston is a migratory city – we wanted that person that’s from Georgia that’s relocated to Houston to say I want what my dad used to make me for breakfast, hence fish and grits on the menu.
Russ: My goodness. So we’re in here today on a weekday – on a rainy weekday but you often pack this place, day after day after day, right?
Marcus: We have a steady crowd regularly. We have our weekends are just crazy – Saturday, Sunday, Friday, yes there’s the infamous line out the door around the corner, but we also have opportunity – plenty of opportunity – for people to visit and share with us during the week. Where, like I said, where I always encourage people to – I was with a friend of mine on yesterday – new friend of mine, our sons are on the same, football team. He said he had a great day and I said what makes for a great day? He said get up early, start with a great breakfast, take your time, plan out your day, and I said you’ve been reading my book, that’s what The Breakfast Klub is for you know? Unfortunately he did it at home instead of doing it here, I’ve just got to move him more – one more step closer.
Russ: Right, right, really cool. Well like, there’s also been some pretty famous people that come in here, right?
Marcus: You know there was this guy named Russ Capper that was in here that everyone just went wild about, you know? They were knocking down the doors to get in. We’ve had our fair share of well known people from athletes to actors to musicians and the – I use the term well known versus celebrity because the everyday customer is the celebrity for us.
Russ: Okay, that’s cool.
Marcus: That’s the person that – that we celebrate and so, those are the guys that build this community. And it’s fantastic to have Beyonce stop by, you know.
Russ: Well, and there’s a stage back there too isn’t’ there?
Marcus: Yeah, it is, it is, they shy away from that, they shy away from that. It’s fantastic to have the likes of James Hardin or Dwight Howard or, you know, that’s cool and I enjoy it, but I most enjoy the celebrities; the people that make up the fabric of the…
Russ: The customers.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah.
Russ: Well sometimes I think about what you’ve accomplished here and I wonder if it would work in other cities and I wonder that not to be critical but Houston’s pretty cool and pretty unique, don’t you think?
Marcus: I think it is and of course from the inception I’ve thought about will we do this in other places meaning other areas of the city or other regions of the state or regions of the country. Can we do this in other places? I believe so. Will we do this in other places, ultimately I believe we will. How we do it is the driving factor. It’s something that I believe we can do in terms of duplicating flavors, I have no doubt that we can go to the Heights and put the same seasoning on the food. I have no doubt we could deliver the same piece of chicken, the same fried fish, but what I do want to do is when we go to that place I want to have the same impact on that community as we’ve had right here in Midtown. So when we do go to the Heights I want to be an intricate part of what they’re doing in that city and part – in that region – I’m sorry – of the city and participate in it.
Or if we do go to Dallas or if we do go to Austin or San Antonio, we want to have the same impact in that community, building community as we’ve had right here in the city of Houston.
Russ: Right. Well that’s so interesting, I mean it’s…
Marcus: Did I plug the Heights enough?
Russ: I think you did. I think they’re listening over there and saying whoa, where’s it going to be, where’s it going to be?
Marcus: Call me, email me if you want us to come let us know.
Russ: Man, I think it might work very well over there
Russ: Alright, so: expansion.
Marcus: Well, as I mentioned, the void in the marketplace was our desire – It was our desire to fill that void in the marketplace in that past, and now, moving forward, there’s a desire as an entrepreneur that I’ve recognized that can and needs to be filled. Our company is growing, and in the direction of the duplication of TBK– yes, there will be other The Breakfast Klubs across the city, and the state, and possibly even a region of the nation. In addition to that, we have other concepts under our belt; we have a Caribbean restaurant, we have a bar and lounge, we have another southern concept that we’re creating, and so we’ll continue to duplicate the current concepts, create new concepts, and even acquire some other concepts that we’ve got our eye on. So, this is something that I believe is important.
We have a food line that we’re rolling out; currently in store and online you can buy our seasoning mix, our coffee beans, our pancake and waffle mix, the batter for our fish, the batter for our chicken, and we currently sell that in store. But, in the future, we plan to sell in the stores; in the grocery stores. So, we’ve begun some discussions with some of the grocery chains. We’ll be in the airport in the coming months.
Russ: With the restaurant?
Marcus: There will be a TBK inside of the Intercontinental Airport in 2016, as well as there will be a product line of TBK products in Hobby, inside of the gift shops.
Russ: Wow, this is big.
Marcus: Yeah, this is the direction that we’re going in and, you know, this is important to me, Russ, because I like to fill voids. And one of the voids that I’ve figured out as an African American and as a businessman, I look for models to follow and to compare and to try and see how I develop my company. And while there are models out there, I found very few models for me; of people who look like me. And why is that important? Why is that important? Because, I can look at what some of the other guys are doing; what Tillman is doing, or what Chris and Harris are doing, and that’s great, but there’s a young African American male at the middle school up the street that, in the future, wants to run a large restaurant company and he has no model to follow, nothing that looks like him. My hope is to fill that void to where he can say, I want to build a company with 15 stores that stretches from Texas to Florida. And I’ve seen it done before, so, I know I can do it.
Russ: That’s fantastic. That’s cool, that’s really cool. But it’s interesting, the culture here, what you’ve accomplished and that that’s important to you where ever you might go. Was that important to you in the very beginning or did that evolve? I mean…
Marcus: I believe it was important on the surface in the beginning. So in the beginning location, location, location. My experience, my training in restaurant, in business had taught me you’ve got to find a great location that allows people to get to you, that is accessible, that’s growing; all those great things that I learned working in food and corporate. But I also had the opportunity to work, uh, and understand the value of being an intricate part of the community where you are. So yes I wanted to get to a place where you could, uh, pull in easily off of Highway 59, um, but I think, you know, embedded in that was this desire to how do we work with the local schools that are in the area, how do we work with the local little league teams that are in the area, how do we work with the local causes that are happening in the area; pros and cons of getting involved in those issues.
Russ: I mean, you know, but when you look around in here, I mean the artwork that you have showing the people your help, I mean it all sort of, you know, weaves the picture of the culture but take me back more to the beginning. I mean, did you – when did you start The Breakfast Klub?
Marcus: When did I start – you know, as an entrepreneur that’s a tough question because, you know, the laymen or those on the outside see starting as what day did you open?
Marcus: As an entrepreneur we see starting as the day the seed was planted in your head and you blend in the fertilizer. So that began years ago as, you know, I’ve always wanted to be in this business, my dad was the best cook I’ve ever met in life and my brothers and I would always talk about the opportunity to put his flavors in front of other people. Because I grew up in a house where people were always coming over, people were always asking what did your dad cook today? I had a seventh grade teacher who looked at me with glowing eyes, not because I was a sharp student, but because she wanted to know what my dad packed in my lunch for that day and I began to try to negotiate extra points for trading off sandwiches.
Russ: All right, good deal. And all this was in Houston too, right?
Marcus: All of this in Houston, I’m born and raised in Houston, from grade school on to college. I grew up in Northeast Houston and I stayed here for college, went to Texas Southern University where I got my undergraduate degree and locally; I mean I’m a local guy so don’t really plan on going anywhere.
Russ: All right so how long has this restaurant been in operation?
Marcus: So this restaurant has been in operation for, in the fall of this year – 2015 – we’ll celebrate our 15th – our 14th year in business.
Russ: Wow. And the restaurant business is tough Marcus, you know. I mean you’ve got that inventory thing, you’ve got the people thing going on all the time. Everything in here’s got to work every day.
Marcus: Yeah, I probably should have followed your track record where I could manage products and fewer people, you know, and systems and – but no, I love people. I absolutely love people which is why I’m in this business and 90% of what we do is about people; about the customers that eat here – that dine here – or the team that – that serves the people that dine here. But yes, it’s a tough business and you have to have a passion for it. I believe you have to have a passion for whatever you want to be successful at. But this is one I have a passion for and it’s what weathers those storms of this is a tough business.
And I celebrate the fact that we’ve been here for 14 years and, we’ve beat a lot of odds. You know, in the beginning you’re trying to hit those milestones, most restaurants close within the first 12 months, so you make it and you wipe the sweat from your brow. And then you get to that 18 month and then you get to that – I was just reading – re-reading an article that was written on us about our 16th or 17th month in business and it’s great to reflect on those days. But, you know once you hit those 1 year, 2 year milestones, and then the 5 and then the 10 and now we’re coming up on our 15th year then you start talking about what’s going to happen long term for the company as a whole, not just for this one particular unit.
Russ: Sure, sure. Well you’ve already mentioned, you know, expansion, I mean do you have a specific plan right now or is it just testing the waters?
Marcus: I do have a plan. We, you know, 14 years ago I realized that there was a void in the marketplace for a breakfast concept in Midtown a breakfast place in the city that – that does what we’re doing. And I also realized that there was a void in what I called an urban eatery, which is there are certain cities if you go to those cities there’s a – there’s an urban spot that you have to stop at. So when I go visit my daughter at Howard in D.C. next month I have to stop at a place called Ben’s Chili Bowl, right? And if I go to New York, 14 years ago there was a place you had to stop at called Sylvia’s, right? And so Houston didn’t have that place or if you went to Chicago there’s a place called Harold’s Chicken that you have to stop at or Roscoe’s in L.A. So we wanted to fill the void that Houston didn’t have that space in, you know, pop culture or pop urban culture.
Russ: Yeah, the only one of those I’ve been to besides this one is Roscoe’s in L.A. and it was interesting, man whew.
Marcus: It was very interesting.
Russ: There was a culture and there was a great breakfast and it was popular, really cool.
Marcus: Well I’ll say – yeah, we won’t say great breakfast, we’ll say okay. I mean you are sitting in one of the best breakfast restaurants in the nation.
Russ: Yeah, I know, absolutely I know that. So, what’s interesting too about you is that this thing where you involve the neighborhood and stuff has gotten you out in the community playing a role – lots of roles – so share some of those things you do that people might not know outside of the restaurant.
Marcus: You know, I’m a former educator, the son of educators; my mother was a teacher for 30+ years, my father was a teacher and an administrator for 30+ years, so I understand the value of education and the importance of it. And so, you know, one of the things I believe is important to us is participating in the schools that are – that are in our area so from the start we began to work with different schools in the area to be of whatever assistance that we could be. Going in and speaking to the schools and talking to the kids or providing some sort of packages for the school or going down to the school board and fighting for the school on a particular issue.
So I believe those things are important. I’m excited now because we just finished, uh, our new pencil for our backpacks next year; we’re working on next year’s school term where we’re going to do our – because we’ve supported backpack drives and school supply drives in the past. Well I challenged my Marketing Director to – we’re going to do our own with our – so a kid will be sitting in class with a TBK pencil writing and I’m trying to make it scratch and sniff where if they scratch it will smell like grits and butter. I don’t know if that will work or not.
Russ: I’ve got to see that, great idea. And you also have your own radio show and you participate in another one too, right?
Marcus: Yeah, I hot a local radio program here in the city on Magic 102.1, the largest urban station in the city and dealing with what’s happening in the community, what’s happening in – with local politics or even national politics.
Russ: And that’s every Sunday morning?
Marcus: Sunday morning, 9am on 102.1 – selfless plug.
Russ: There you go, that’s okay. Well it’s okay because you and I talked about – I started sharing with you my perspective on open primaries to solve problems.
Marcus: Open primaries.
Russ: If you ever have that on I’m going to call in.
Marcus: You know what, I’m going to drag you in. I’m going to have you come in. You know, we deal with things like this past show we dealt with, uh, the upcoming election that’s going to have the – the civil rights ordinance on the ballot.
Russ: Also known as the HERO.
Marcus: Also known as HERO, and it’s also going to have the term limit proposal.
Russ: Hurray for term limits.
Marcus: Hurray for term limits and hurray for term limits that are productive for the people.
Russ: Absolutely. Well Marcus I really appreciate, uh, you having us drop in.
Marcus: Well thank you, I appreciate it.
Russ: We get to order after this?
Marcus: Oh yeah, yeah. I’m glad you decided to order afterwards instead of before.
Russ: Well I might be asleep then. I come out of this place very contented. But I really appreciate it.
Marcus: Thank you sir, I appreciate you
Russ: You bet, you bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Marcus Davis, the Founder and CEO of The Breakfast Klub. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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