The Aquagrill Finds Business Success With SCORE Mentor
Starting a restaurant in New York where locals spent $3.75 billion at restaurants last year alone, is a very risky undertaking. But for Jennifer and Jeremy Marshall teaming up with SCORE mentor Tom Apperson was just what they needed to move from chef and wine steward to successful restaurant owners featured on CNN and in Gourmet Magazine. www.aquagrill.com
Since opening in February 1996, Aquagrill has earned more than 100 rave reviews including a two-star rating in the New York Times, numerous television appearances featuring Chef Marshall, and a two-minute television segment on CNN touting the impact of SCORE's start-up business counseling and mentoring assistance.
In 1997, Aquagrill received favorable reviews in Gourmet magazine. Also in 1997, Restaurant Hospitality magazine honored the Aquagrill with the award for the third best short wine list in America. In 1998, New York Magazine featured Aquagrill on the cover of its 1998 Guide to Dining Out. According to Tom, the Aquagrill has far exceeded the Marshall's expectations.
Aquagrill continues to grow, both in popularity and reputation. "We get about four to five reviews a month in local newspapers, industry publications and travel guides," says Jennifer. "We were even featured in a documentary on seafood for Hungarian TV." The restaurant has also earned a number of well-deserved rankings, including the Zagat Guide's Top 30 Manhattan restaurants. "Zagat's rankings are particularly gratifying because they're based on consumer evaluations and comments," Jennifer explains. "They also named us the Best Brunch for 1999 and 2000."
Although SCORE mentor Tom Apperson, a former international banker, knew that Jennifer and Jeremy had what it took to launch their seafood restaurant with their organization and focus, he also knew starting a restaurant is the most difficult business to break into. Tom was, however, confident the Marshalls would succeed. He helped the Marshalls approach lenders for the $300,000 loan they needed to get started. "They had a terrific business plan, but needed help with the financial portion. They didn't know what steps to take to get funding," Tom says.
According to Jeremy, "Tom helped us by relaying clear and concise direction with the packaging and preparation of our business plan. His guidance and direction on how to formulate a cash flow analysis, balance sheets and operating projection helped us present a sound business plan that would impress lenders." Apperson helped the Marshalls weave the text and numbers together to come up with an excellent, comprehensive plan. "In fact, we were offered three different loans and consulted Tom about negotiating more favorable rates from the lender we chose," Jeremy says. There's more to come too. Jennifer and Jeremy, who is also giving cooking classes for Macy's, are working on developing a line of Aquagrill food products. "Our SCORE counselor Tom Apperson is helping us with that idea," Jennifer says. "They're wonderful people to work with."