Opening a restaurant after retirement isn’t always a good idea, but with smart decisions and zero debt Dennis Bratton has a success on his hands. Dennis, owner of Monjuni’s Italian Cafe in Monroe, LA, shared his recipe for success with Marketing Iceologist, Heidi.
The Iceologist: Thanks for taking the time to tell us about Monjuni’s Italian Cafe, Dennis. Monjuni’s has 5 locations and has been popular in Louisiana for 20 years. Do you own all 5 restaurants.
Dennis: No, I just own the one. Jimmy Rosso & his mama opened the original in Monroe 20 years ago and it’s still going strong. Monjuni’s has a long tradition here as a great Italian restaurant and after I retired 6 years ago, my son and I opened this place. We recently moved to a bigger building — we can seat more people and we own the building — it’s been really positive.
I can’t complain… we do really well. I have 20 employees and 80% of them have been with us since the beginning. We’re really lucky to have such good people.
The Iceologist: The Monjuni’s website says you serve 7000 meatballs & 1000 lasagnas a week — sounds like you run a busy operation!
Dennis: We sell a lot of meatballs! But I’d say we serve even more lasagna. We make 4 types (beef, chicken, shrimp & vegetarian). We do a lot of corporate catering from our restaurant and lasagna is usually what they order.
The Iceologist: How did you end up with an ice machine subscription from us?
Dennis: I’ll tell you, it’s a funny story. Tim (local rep) would come into the restaurant occasionally and I would tell him I had the most temperamental ice machine in town. Tim always said to give him a call when I’m looking for a new ice machine.
Well, the ice machine finally died and I called Tim and he did everything he said he’d do.
No other company represents the way you guys do — you made a believer out of me! I’ll never own another commercial ice machine again. I can’t own my own ice maker for this price! I tell everyone about you guys.
Ice is no longer my worry & that’s a big deal — especially in Louisiana. We go through plenty of ice down here. We make everything from scratch (pastas, sauces) and we use ice to cool food as we make it — we use a lot of ice. Ice machine subscriptions are worry free — a good product at great price.
The Iceologist: What was your biggest issue when you owned your ice machine?
Dennis: The truth is, the water in Monroe comes out of a river here in town and it’s not good quality — high minerals. We were spending so much money on special chemicals and cleanings and water filters — mineral deposits were killing us! It took too much time and money to clean the machines. Now I always have ice and your guys handle all the cleaning.
I think one of the best parts of your service is Breakdown Ice — I don’t have worries about ice anymore.
The Iceologist: Ok, I need to step back a moment. Earlier you said you opened Monjuni’s after retiring. Is this your second career?
Dennis: I was an engineer with Bell South for 30 years. I grew up in a family that owned a lot of restaurants and my son really wanted to start one, so we partnered.
I understood what it takes to run a success restaurant — there’s a lot to it! I’m working more now than before I retired, but I adore it.
The Iceologist: What are the best tips you can give to someone looking to open a restaurant?
Dennis: Don’t carry debt and don’t buy an ice machine! Hands-on management is another biggie. The owners have to be there all the time — realtime all the time, I say — to run a successful restaurant.