I heart Benjamin Steakhouse in Manhattan, and I was so glad to learn that this popular power lunch and dinner spot now has a sibling in Westchester. I was curious, though, about the challenges of opening a second restaurant, so I rang up proprietor Benjamin Prelvukaj for his take on the opportunities and the risks.
Benjamin, what made you decide to expand your brand?
You always want to grow, especially when you can grow during a recession. It means you’re doing something right. It was an opportunity to meet a whole new audience.
And, how did you decide on a site outside city limits in Westchester?
I live in Westchester County! I live, like, five minutes away. But, it’s not easy to get a great location in Westchester. I always had my eye on this space. It was a hotspot, and then it died down. Still, I would go with my family and friends and eat and drink. I chatted with the owners and felt them out and asked if they would consider selling. At first they said no. And, then they came around slowly. We negotiated for almost two years. Luck was on our side, because the economy was getting worse and worse.
How long was the process from start to finish, once you had the lease?
It was very quick to open! We took the keys in June. Construction started in July. All (50,000 square feet!) of the building is brand new construction. We had people working 24 hours a day. We opened our doors on October 18, 2010, after a couple of weeks of a soft opening.
That seems quick!
The second location is actually always easier, because we were able to train everyone in our first location. It’s the same system, so it was a seamless transition. And, we got two longtime employees to join us there.
Did you face any challenges being outside New York City proper?