When he and Lance Popke, 27, worked together in a restaurant, they spent countless hours discussing how they would do things differently and better.
A couple of years ago, when Popke had the chance to purchase a Ric’s Grill franchise, the opportunity was too good to resist. To finance the venture he had to “beg, borrow, and steal” from his friends and family.
In addition to Ric’s, he started another company called LEP Management Services Inc. to provide business consultations for Ric’s Grills. He’s considering branching out to advise other restaurants.
So what does a new restaurateur with a booming new company do in his spare time? “I work,” Popke says straight-faced. “No, it’s true. I drive people crazy.”
“It is true,” agrees business partner Mancini. “His passion is making everything better. He’ll run off two hours sleep and work 14 to 16 hours.”
Mancini is a little more laid back when it comes to owning the restaurant. With a diploma from NAIT, Mancini started out at as Ric’s chef and designed the kitchen himself. However, for the business side of things, he defers to Popke, who took management studies at Grant MacEwan College.
“I plan on riding Lance’s coat tails for the rest of my life,” Mancini laughs. He may pretend to be less intense, but Mancini too puts in long hours at Ric’s Grill, winner of numerous culinary competitions.
“We both work hard, but you have to make time for yourself.” Mancini explains that he now has a reason to rush home at the end of the day—his son, Hudson, barely a month old. He points to a photo of the infant on his Blackberry. “I can’t wait to get home and play with him.”
The two entrepreneurs say they got more than they dreamed of when they opened Ric’s downtown in 2003. Designing a functional, attractive restaurant in the historic Metals Building was a huge task. And, they weren’t completely prepared for constantly training transient restaurant staff.
With Ric’s running smoothly, the partners are looking at changes in their personal lives. Both are engaged to be married: Popke in October and Mancini in March.