Cooking up a restaurant

At Work

at work

Sheila Laderberg, co-founder and general manager, Punk's Backyard Grill, Annapolis

January 18, 2009|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $40,000

Age: 27

Years on the job: Two

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How she got started: After completing a bachelor's degree in religious and African-American studies at the University of Virginia, Laderberg decided to go into the hospitality industry.

She worked as a line cook, oversaw a high-end boutique and eventually ran a bed-and-breakfast. She then opted to go back to school and earned a master's degree in hospitality management at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration in New York. It was here that the concept for Punk's Backyard Grill developed with two colleagues, David McCabe and Jeffrey Sloan, who later became her business partners. While still in school the three worked on refining the idea and through market research found that the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area was a good match for the restaurant.

Typical day: Punk's Backyard Grill will open this month at Westfield Annapolis Mall. For more than two years, Laderberg and her partners have worked on lining up investors, finding a site and developing the concept. She said it took about $1 million to get the restaurant off the ground and ready to open.

Construction began in the fall and since then Laderberg's work slowly moved from a home office to the restaurant site. Most days start about 7:30 a.m. She said her day includes working on "big picture" issues such as branding the restaurant and developing a growth strategy. She also is involved with the "nuts and bolts" of running a restaurant, such as hiring employees and ordering supplies.

"We're trying to get this up and running, so we're focusing more on the operational end at the moment," Laderberg said.

Although she says there has not been a typical day so far, much of her time is spent making plans for the opening and marketing the restaurant and managing administrative tasks. She believes the business will succeed despite the recent economic turmoil that has hurt the restaurant industry. Laderberg said they would manage expenses carefully but would also focus on quality products and service.

Employee training will also start soon. She estimates she puts in about 80 hours a week.

Once the restaurant is open, Laderberg will split general manager duties with McCabe.

The concept: Re-creating the classic American backyard cookout.

"This is what people do in their backyards," Laderberg said.

The menu consists mostly of cookout favorites such as burgers, chicken and lamb served with sides like macaroni salad, coleslaw and potato salad. The restaurant also will serve beer, wine and other drinks.

The good: "Just seeing it happen. It's really rewarding to have an idea, work hard on it and see it realized."

The bad: "The blinking red light on my BlackBerry. It's constant."

Her menu favorites: Flat iron steak sandwich and potato salad.

Philosophy: "You care about what you're putting out, and you put your customers' interest first."

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