Slow Cooking a Personal Restaurant Concept
Jessica and Thad Kittrell began creating the concept for their restaurant business almost the moment they met 14 years ago. At the time, Thad was the executive chef and food and beverage director at The Capital Club in Columbus, where Jessica worked as a banquet captain while she completed her degree at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.
For years, as they moved around the country with Thad’s culinary jobs, they dreamed of opening their own brewpub. When they moved back to Columbus to start a family soon before the Great Recession, they continued to dream about their future restaurant. They settled into suburban life in Dublin and began raising their family. Thad worked as a chef with Brio; Jessica worked in finance at Abercrombie and Fitch.
In 2010, with the economy recovering, they started hunting in the Short North for a location for their brewpub. As they searched, Jessica wrote a comprehensive business plan, relying on her business training and a couple of business textbooks to guide her. They worked with Huntington to complete their SBA loan application.
But they couldn’t find a space they were satisfied with.
Then, in 2012, they were driving on Sawmill Road in Dublin when a recently closed restaurant caught their attention. They stopped to check it out and learned that the property was available for lease and all of the equipment was for sale.
“I just had this epiphany,” Jessica Kittrell said. “We didn’t need to be in the Short North. We needed to do what we know, for people like us—suburban couples and families who want a great place to eat close to where they live, a place that’s kid-friendly with a good kids’ menu.”
By this time, the couple had saved more than $100,000 to invest in their business. With the opportunity they found on Sawmill, “we knew we could swing it with our assets and an SBA loan,” Kittrell said.
Huntington SBA Product Specialist Nathan Ray, who helped the Kittrells obtain their loan, said, “The Kittrells had a very solid business plan, and they had put together a dream team to make the business happen: Thad is a great chef with a lot of experience, Jessica is a great business manager. And Thad’s father is a general contractor; he was on board to build out the space to their specifications.”
Just 12 weeks after finding the Dublin location, they opened their first 101 Beer Kitchen. From the beginning, the food has been what they’d always planned: seasonal and prepared onsite in a both casual and comfortable setting. They delayed starting a brewery, though, partly due to the additional expense, but simply couldn’t add it later, as the restaurant was too busy, and they didn’t want to give up the dining space.
“Even when we first opened, we thought we’d eventually start a brewery,” Kittrell said. “But we’ve decided that we’ll focus on what we do really well—run our restaurant—and support other craft brewers.”
By 2014, they’d begun plans for a second restaurant. “We never thought we’d have more than one location,” Kittrell said. “But we have really good team members who want opportunities for growth. With only one restaurant, we didn’t have opportunities to offer.”
They opened a second 101 Beer Kitchen in March 2015, this one in Gahanna. “I honestly didn’t think that having two restaurants would be twice as much work,” Kittrell said. “We were working with the same concept and the same menu. But I grossly miscalculated how much work it would be.”
Within three months of opening the second restaurant, they hired a controller, and, soon after, a head chef for each restaurant. Today, with 120 employees, Jessica manages all business aspects of the restaurants; Thad oversees the cuisine and operations.
This month, they’ll open a third 101 Beer Kitchen in Westerville, and hire 60 new employees. “I’m a little concerned about how much the third restaurant will change our lives,” Jessica Kittrell said. “But we have a wonderful staff, and Thad and I are a good figure-it-out team. We’ll figure it out.”
SBA 7(a) loan details:
First loan: Dublin restaurant
- Loan: $365M Term loan
Second loan: Gahanna restaurant
- Loan: $1,082.5M term loan
Third loan: Westerville restaurant
- Loans: $1.446M term loan; $50,000 line of credit