Thursday, September 10, 2015

Q&A with founder of Café Prima Pasta

What makes your family business experience unique? Everyone in the family plays some role at the restaurant, whether it is officially, such as my father in the kitchen or unofficially with my brother working on our web site and social media. 

How is it different from running a "typical" small business? With a family business, everyone is deeply invested in the outcome but not for personal gains. In a family business you get to spend time with your loved ones, share an incredible experience and have a lot of fun.

What do you love about family business? I love the feeling of gratitude that we share as business owners and that trickles down to our customers and the community.

What do you hate about family business? When someone is traveling, or away from the restaurant for too long, there is a sense of emptiness because each person is so important to the entire company.

What's a myth about family business you'd like to debunk? Family businesses stay in the family- according to a study conducted by PwC, only 55 percent of family business owners intend to pass their business to the next generation. Cea has a wonderful son, who he would love to have take over the reigns of the restaurant, but is not limiting the business to having only him as the owner. 

What three things have been key to your success? Maintaining affordable pricing and hi-quality ingredients- we have not changed menu prices in more than 10 years.  Treat everyone like family and  be able to give a little to receive a little. 

Would you advise others to go into family business? Running a business in general is not easy, when you include your family, there is a greater sense of responsibility and ownership. It is important to do everything out of love; where there is love, there will always be success.

What difference has being a family business made in your sales? There are so many people from many different parts of the world in Miami. Many of our customers choose to dine with us because they truly feel connected to our service and product and will frequently say our restaurant feels like home. Sales continue to increase and 2014 has been a record year for us.

What difference has your family business made in your community? When Café Prima Pasta opened in 1993, no one wanted to spend time on 71st Street. It was dark, dirty and deserted, and the only appeal was a movie theatre. Cea overcame many obstacles to keep the business running in an area of town that saw very little promise. He not only wanted to have a successful restaurant but improve the North Miami Beach neighborhood. His first initiative was to petition to install street lights, so people would feel safer at night. After six months, North Miami Beach appointed Cea to its development board of directors. Within the first week of improvements, Café Prima Pasta hosted celebrity guests including Madonna and Gianni Versace for dinner. When people such as the Kennedys, the Damons and other local families have dinner at the restaurant, it reflects that the business truly brings people together. 

Would you advise a couple to start a business together?  Yes, but make sure you have a set plan and have divided responsibilities in a way that each person can play off of their strengths. One heated discussion or disagreement may not only reunion a business but also a relationship.

Do you incorporate your children in your family business? Why or why not? How old are they? What are their roles and responsibilities? We are very open to incorporating children at our business. It is important for children to learn to be respectful, kind and work with different people. Kids love working in the restaurant;  at 17, they can start serving desserts and clearing tables. Our business is about building something on the foundations of love, generosity and care to share with future generations.

What's a day in the life of a family business (share a rough outline of your family and business daily life)? Our family business is like spending each day at a family reunion. Cea starts his day at about 8 a.m. taking calls with vendors or suppliers. By mid afternoon he is scheduling or facilitating meetings with the restaurant’s GM and chef to square away any special dishes or promotions. From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. he is at the restaurant greeting guests, assisting with tables and chatting with loyal customers. The entire Cea family dines at the restaurant nightly at about 8 p.m.  

Do you think family business should be a priority for others (lawmakers, service providers, college students...)? Why or why not? More important than  family business, law makers, service producers and college students should support an entrepreneurial mindset and small business.

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