What is the secret to Washington, DC-based award-winning restaurateur Andrew Dana’s success? According to the co-founder of James Beard nominated Timber Pizza Co., a Bon Appetit Best Pizzeria, and sister restaurant, Call Your Mother, recently named one of America’s best jewish deli’s by Food & Wine, it’s authencity.
Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine discussed Dana’s core focus–creating an authentic experience in every aspect of the restaurant from concept to music, design and food in this Talking With article.
What were some of your most challenging moments and what did you learn from them?
The most challenging moments of my career were also some of the best/most memorable and they happened while pulling all-nighters with my partner, Dani (Exec. Chef and Co-owner, Daniela Moreira). Sometimes it took all night working to make sure everything not only got done, but got done right. What I learned during those long nights working was that there is no way to “fast forward” your way to success. The only way to get there is through the wall (or staying up all night). Working harder than your competition!
There is no way to ‘fast forward’ your way to success. The only way to get there is through the wall (or staying up all night). Working harder than your competition!
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the restaurant industry today?
I think the biggest challenge is going from a “hot” restaurant to a “staple” restaurant. We live in a time of “hot” lists and “what’s new” lists. But, what do you do after you are “hot”? How can you sustain a long-term business? How are you relevant after being open for 3, 5, 7 years? I think that is the hardest thing to achieve for a restaurateur.
What do you love about working in the D.C. area? What are the challenges?
I was born and raised here. I love the city, the people, and the unique neighborhoods. It is amazing to see old friends and classmates come to my restaurants. There is also a real energy in the F&B industry in DC. Like something new and exciting is happening. So, it’s great to be a part of that. The challenges are, as I said above, how do you stay relevant? With so much new stuff always coming online, it’s important to not get left in the dust!
What impact does technology have on your businesses?
Technology is everywhere behind the scenes – we use it for scheduling, ordering, communication, etc! We use different platforms for all of these needs so that we can stay organized and be as efficient as possible. Gone are the days of paper and pencil inventory and that is a very good thing. We are working on making ordering and scheduling easier and easier so we can free up time for our staff to do the important things – take care of customers and make dope food!
How important are catering and delivery?
Catering is a huge part of our business. The restaurant industry is a tough industry. We always try to create as many revenue streams as possible to help lower the inherent risk of owning a restaurant. So, that being said, we offer catering, do farmers markets, wholesale, supper clubs, etc. – the more revenue streams the better!
What does authenticity in dining mean to you?
Authenticity in dining means being yourself. It does not mean making something the way it was made 50 years ago and it does not mean making something the way everybody else does. It means making what you want to make, how you want to make it! Authenticity shines through in this industry. There are a lot of copy cats out there, so authenticity is the way to really make your mark.
What goes into creating a dining concept that is authentic to you?
Dani and I just make stuff that we totally dig in a setting that we totally dig. That is the extent of our plan. Now, that plan might take a year to come up with, but when we do come up with the right concept for us – it means we are only doing what we like – not chasing a trend, or anything like that. We do it so we like it and I think that is the realest form of authenticity.
You have very distinct concepts. How do you maintain authenticity for both?
By working hard and doing what we love. We are not operating these restaurants for any other reason other than that. When you are doing what you love, and making products that we truly dig (we love carbs!), it is easy to keep it real.
Authenticity shines through in this industry. There are a lot of copy cats out there, so authenticity is the way to really make your mark.
Why is partnering w/ local producers important to you?
Above all because the products are awesome and taste better than anything else we can get. This is also our home, and the more these partners thrive, the more we thrive. It’s good for the local economy, local vibes, and for the finished product on the plate.
Where do you see your brands growing?
We just want to continue to make great products/spaces that fit into the neighborhoods we care about. We do not have another concept or anything like that planned out, but we said that 18 months ago, and here we are with Call Your Mother…so you never know,
What do you love so much about pizza?
EVERYTHING! Haha, but seriously it’s delicious, it’s fun to eat, and while it is so simple, it can be made 100,000 different ways. Also, my parents would always order pizza for me when I had a babysitter growing up as a bribe to behave, so it has been in my blood since a young age!