Ben Siegel | Crain's Austin

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Ben Siegel

Background:  

Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden opened in 2012 in the heart of Austin’s Rainey Street and has more than 100 craft beers on tap and offers a variety of handcrafted sausages. The beer hall and beer garden currently seat about 450 at communal tables and regularly features live music from local acts. 

The Mistake:

I underestimated our potential for success. 

When you’re planning a business in the beginning, you’re forced to make a lot of guesses. It’s easy to talk yourself out of the real potential you have to be successful.

When we first began planning construction of our restaurant, we designed a kitchen for a 150 to 200-seat maximum restaurant. Today we have 450 seats. And so that created a tremendous amount of problems when trying to operate. We ultimately were forced to conduct an entire remodel of the kitchen, which created an incredible amount of operational difficulties we had to rise up and overcome.

Every entrepreneur is going to build a financial model, and you can be overly aggressive and put yourself in a situation where you can’t be successful. Or, you can be overly conservative. What I didn’t understand as a young entrepreneur is that we were literally going to be designing our facilities based on assumptions made in this model.

So, I was conservative with the size of the kitchen because I thought it was the right thing to do. I went to the market with a conservative financial model and didn’t fully appreciate the implications down the line. We ended up designing a kitchen one-third as big as it needed to be based on the potential for the space I was moving into.

Looking back I believe we didn’t allow ourselves to truly envision the success we ultimately realized and as a result, built a facility that was not adequate for what ultimately transpired.

Since we started adding tables relatively quickly, we started seeing problems in the kitchen. So three years after opening, we had to shut down the restaurant to expand the kitchen. It was a pretty crazy process. We were supposed to be closed for 10 days and ended up being closed for 30 days. We survived but it wasn’t easy.

It’s easy to talk yourself out of the real potential you have to be successful.

The Lesson:

Looking back, I see you need to leave yourself options. If I were to do it over again I’d have given myself enough physical space to add equipment so that I could more easily grow into my full potential.

In February 2014, we purchased the lot adjacent to us on Rainey Street and in March of this year we finally broke ground and are under construction with a pretty large expansion. So as I’m working now on this significant expansion of the restaurant ­ – we’ll be adding standing room for another 700 people – I’m definitely allowing myself room for growth or expansion that I might need long term. I’m super-cognizant of giving myself room to expand and not hamstringing my potential to be successful.

 

Follow Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden on Twitter at @BangersAustin.

Pictured: Ben Siegel | Photo courtesy of Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden.

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