For Kyle Franson, the 2008 economic crisis that ended his nearly 30-year career in finance yielded an unexpected dividend: the impetus to open Rancho Capistrano Winery.
“The winery opportunity was a chance to reinvent myself,” Franson says. “I knew the margins from production to retail. The trick was creating a sales environment for the product. Making good wine is fairly easy; selling it in a crowded marketplace is the challenge.”
“I knew the margins from production to retail. The trick was creating a sales environment for the product. Making good wine is fairly easy; selling it in a crowded marketplace is the challenge.”Kyle Franson, Rancho Capistrano Winery | Owner & Founder
Food turned out to be the answer.
“We intended to open a tasting room with a few simple nibbles,” he explains. “Halfway through our tasting-room construction, we had the opportunity to build out a 3,000-square-foot patio and realized we were going to need a lot more food. So we went from flatbreads and cheese plates to salmon and ribeyes.”
Franson credits the transition’s success to Executive Chef Adrian de la Torre. “He took us from nibbles to winner of two straight best entrée awards and Best Restaurant in San Juan Capistrano. Ninety percent of the menu is his, but he’s always open to new ideas.”
Q&A with Kyle Franson
What sets you apart from your competitors?
KF: Fifty percent of our sales comes from our own wine. The added margins allow us to put more money into building our brand and our following. Producing our own wine adds cachet, as does our amazing patio and fireplace. People will pay for a great experience.
How do you keep building momentum?
KF: We put a lot of assets into social media marketing that conveys to customers what we’re all about. We also have about 1,200 wine-club members who get a free tasting when they come in. They invariably buy a pizza or salad or something to go with their wine, and that raises our customer base significantly.
What strategies do you use to mitigate rising labor costs?
KF: Our employee turnover is remarkably low. They might be able to earn a little more elsewhere, but I think they recognize that security and a great working environment are worth a lot.
“Our Shamrock Foods Sales Representative has helped us source items we unexpectedly ran out of, and has brought in consultants who’ve shown us better options and trends. The level of service we receive means everything to us. It has definitely cemented our relationship.”
How is Shamrock Foods helping to offset labor costs?
KF: We’ve moved to several pre-cut/pre-prepped items which cut down on hours and mean we don’t have to purchase and replace equipment as often. We use Menu Wizard to make sure we price accordingly. Certain seasonal items were killing our margins on some dishes, so we made changes. We might not have discovered the issue without Menu Wizard.
Are you implementing any food trends?
KF: We just recently got our brunch together. We’re always looking for items that meet the public’s dietary needs, as well as dishes that taste great and look great on Instagram.
Any planned strategy changes or additional concepts down the road?
KF: We’re opening a second location with some different menu items. We learned that menu creation largely depends on the kitchen you build, so we put a lot more thought into kitchen design.
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