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 five locations and has been popular in Louisiana for 20 years. Do you own all five?
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 six 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 restaurant 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 a maintained ice cube production 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 successful 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! If you are looking for an inexpensive ice machine solution, Easy Ice is the way to go! Hands-on management is another biggie. The owners have to be there all the time — real-time all the time, I say — to run a successful restaurant.
Share this Post