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An Interview with Rita Capponi from Grand Central Palm Springs

Welcome to Reservations! Where we talk about restaurants. Today we have a special guest who just opened a new location in Palm Springs. Find out how she markets for new customers


Jeff Harrison [00:01]: Hey, good morning. Welcome to reservations. I’m Jeff Harrison. We have another exciting day today because I’m joined by a very lovely lady. She and her husband own a business here in Palm Springs and there’s some uniqueness about this because. Well, I’ll let her tell you, but first of all, I want to introduce Rita Capponi. Rita, come on in.

Rita Capponi [00:19]: All right, thank you.

Jeff Harrison [00:20]: Hey Rita. Thanks for joining us today.

Rita Capponi [00:22]: You’re welcome.

Jeff Harrison [00:24]: Hey Rita, tell us before we get started and get into the kind of dive into the hard stuff. No sound. It can be hard. Tell us a little bit about, hey, why a restaurant? You have a background in restaurants so you know it. Was it just a passion, tell us a little bit about you and your business.

Rita Capponi [00:37]: Well I have a periphery in hospitality and in retail, so sort of from the outside and then did some events. My husband is an apps person and our third partner, Aaron Rogers, is the chef and designer and the creative person that has made our food already within two months. So well known.

Jeff Harrison [00:58]: So that’s pretty cool. So you know, here’s a great takeaway gang. Hey, when you don’t have the talent, why not go out and find it and say, hey, let’s be part of this together, and you know what happens is so many business owners Rita as you know, is they open up a business because they have a passion, there’s chef, right? But then they have no knowledge of marketing and all this stuff that goes into it and it’s overwhelming and they fail. So this is a great takeaway. Make sure to write it down, look at your strengths, and then find the people who have the strengths that you’re missing and pull them out together and have a great combination. Right?

Rita Capponi [01:30]: Yeah, and I feel like, with the three of us, between us, we compliment each other and make up for whatever weaknesses we have and create the strain.

Jeff Harrison [01:38]: I love it. So, so it means, hey, you’re not back in the kitchen cooking.

Rita Capponi [01:41]: No, no, I’m not an Aaron is the designer and incredible and he’s got some wonderful team back there and we really specialize in freshness. I like to say it’s California, fresh seasonal twists like that. Thank you. I had to work on that one and we really wanted to take into account Vegan people celiac because it’s getting harder and harder to find places that just don’t scrape things off of lettuce and say, here it is, and vegetarians now we don’t have a lot, but we’re really looking to figure out how we can enlarge that scope.

Jeff Harrison [02:18]: Now I want to dive into the fact that, and stop me if I’m wrong, but most of the time when a restaurant opens up a new restaurant, they tend to find a place that’s already existed as a restaurant and it’s gone out for many reasons, from the grease trap to whatever to the stoves, but your location is different. Tell us about that.

Rita Capponi [02:37]: Well, I did have a history of the department store.

Jeff Harrison [02:40]: Oh, okay.

Rita Capponi [02:42]: In this building had been empty for almost 13 years. It was formally Desmond’s department store and the bones were incredible and I just looked at it and we all looked at it and said, this is something that could be beautiful and it’s in the center of downtown.

Jeff Harrison [03:00]: We’re right here, right here in the heart of a gang. We’re on it. We’re on a little side street. What’s the name of the side street? Plaza Plaza.

Rita Capponi [03:07]: This is La Plaza,An Interview with Rita Capponi from Grand Central Palm Springs

Jeff Harrison [03:08]: La Plaza, so it literally is in the heart of palm springs and it’s one of these places that you wouldn’t expect it. Now tell us the name of your restaurant.

Rita Capponi [03:15] :Okay. It’s grand central Palm Springs. And why is it grand central Palm Springs? Because first, we’re in the center. We have a clock. It’s the original clock from 1936. It’s inside the restaurant. And most of us grew up in cities where we would meet under the clock. My husband’s from New York. I’ve lived in large cities and you always said I’ll meet you at 12 under the clock. And I thought. That was a great way to do it. And we also wanted a place where people could come make it through the home and come together because we come from a large family, Italian, Irish. Aaron grew up cooking for the family. So the table is where everything happens.

Jeff Harrison [03:54]: Gotcha, Gotcha. So the fact that it wasn’t a restaurant, did that give you some advantages over settling for, hey, this is where the kitchen was and that kind of thing. It means, or

Rita Capponi [04:04]: I can’t answer that, I can only tell you when you take a prehistoric slash historic building and you have to bring it up to code there are the challenges. and I know I have Amnesia now, so I’m not looking, I’m looking forward. So that’s kind of how we looked at it. But yeah, here’s a lot of challenges. I think there are challenges opening up any restaurant, even if you’re coming into one and you want to make it different or when you’re enlarging it, you’re still going to run into the same myriad of issues.

Jeff Harrison [04:35] : Now let’s talk about your timing. Most of the time when you open a restaurant, now we live in a Palm Springs area. If you’re not familiar with Palm Springs is very, it’s very seasonal, right? And that’s why this gonna be a very quick interview because we’re going to start, we’re going to start glowing here in a minute. We’re going to have what you call it earlier. The glow behind.

Rita Capponi [04:54] : Yes. The glow behind us. Yes. That will be the sun coming up.

Jeff Harrison [04:57]: Absolutely. The reason is a timing is so important because there’s that thought of, Hey, I want to open the business when the season is peaking when there are most people here. You did a little differently. Tell us about.

Rita Capponi [05:08]: Well first we opened when we could because we had a lot of setbacks. But, secondly, we opened because in Palm Springs now there is so much that goes on in the summer. It’s no longer everything shuts down. There’s nothing going on. Convention Center’s been incredible, a lot of events and there’s a lot of good food here and beautiful hotels, so we get probably on weekends, 30 to 40 percent of our businesses are from out of town. It’s Amazing

Jeff Harrison [05:34] :Wow. Now we’re here and this is. I don’t know how to exactly think of this week because you know people were fired and fireworks last night or Wednesday is the fourth of July. Do you see an influx of people into it?

Rita Capponi [05:46] :Yes. We call it this seasonal week for fourth of July,

Jeff Harrison [05:49]: Like the seasonal week. Okay, cool. Cool. So tell us a little bit about the food now. You said it’s,

Rita Capponi [05:54]: It’s fresh, fresh California seasonal twists. So we have, first of all, our waffles are the most photographed of anything I’ve ever seen. We had an amazing cauliflower steak. It literally looks like a steak Pomodoro sauce and gnocchi and people love that. We have the steak sandwich and a steak salad. So. And we have and we have breakfast all day, so and we have amazing tea’s France. Everyone loves the coffee. So we really do try to go for what seasonally happening. We have fruit that comes as sides that it’s fresh every day. Our Desmond Burger is a

Jeff Harrison [06:43]: Oh a Desmond Burger, named after the former location

Rita Capponi [06:46]: It’s a burger with prosciutto and we have an incredible vegan program.

Jeff Harrison [06:49]: Would you say that word again?

Rita Capponi [06:51] :Incredible vegan program.An Interview with Rita Capponi from Grand Central Palm Springs

Jeff Harrison [06:52]: No, no, no.

Rita Capponi [06:53]: Prosciutto it goes with Caponni.

Jeff Harrison [06:57]: A true Italian would say that. So tell us about, tell us how are you marketing your restaurant? What unique things are you doing? Or maybe one unique thing that you’re doing to market your restaurant to say, Hey, I need to feel the bums on it. Put the bums in the seats.

Rita Capponi [07:09] : Well, first of all, just so you know, we have lovely people who come to our restaurant. No bums.

Jeff Harrison [07:13] : No. When I say I say that because I know Andrew from Australia will always say bums in the seats. He’s been in the hospitality industry for like 20 years.

Rita Capponi [07:20] : Our version is butts in the seats.

Jeff Harrison [07:22] : I didn’t want to say that as it might be a family shoot.

Rita Capponi [07:24] : Okay. All right. I’m so sorry.

Jeff Harrison [07:25] : I didn’t mean bumss like street bums like that.

Rita Capponi [07:29] : So what are we doing? Well, first of all, we wanted to open softly so we could get the kitchen staff together and figuring out our menu. So, we’ve done a soft opening. We’ve had phenomenal facebook. There’s tremendous in Palm Springs. It was veryFacebookacebook groups that are neighborhood Palm Springs eats. So we’ve had beautiful support from that and Yelp has been still kind to us.

Jeff Harrison [07:55] : It’s a four letter word

Rita Capponi [07:57] : And then we’re going to start enlarging it as the seasons exist, and we’re doing a lot of events. We’re working with some profits.

Jeff Harrison [08:06] :So you’ve got many different fingers into the community to make it work. I love that. Now you said something about the convention center. Do you to do anything with the Convention Center?

Rita Capponi [08:14] :They’ve been wonderful to work with us and they give good advice. They give good information. They tell us what’s happening. They make suggestions. They do incredible, reach out to tourists, to writers from around the world. So any are in town. They’ll suggest different restaurants to go to. There were amazing.

Jeff Harrison [08:32] : So before we leave, tell us one thing that maybe if we’re just walking by grand central, we don’t know about grand central, you’d like us to know.

Rita Capponi [08:43] : That it, anybody who’s ever watched D.r Who, you walk into the Tardis phone booth and everybody goes so much bigger than it looks. Well everyone walks in and goes, it’s so much bigger than it looks.

Jeff Harrison [08:58] : On that, I was talking to John, your husband the other day and he said, you know, you’re growing into the space. So it’s not like you tried to open up this massive space and immediately put tables and chairs. Everyone did you?

Rita Capponi [09:10] : No, we wanted to see how it worked. We’re not going to add that many more tables and mostly they’ll be outside, you know, as the season gesture and then we have an event room in the back, which we’re already starting to take reservations for events. So we’re growing. We’re growing into us a little bit.

Jeff Harrison [09:26] : Well Rita, I want to thank you so much for joining us today here on reservations and I think you’ve dropped some value bombs to help people and you just don’t want to say because the sun’s hot. She’s brought some fire to the show today. Tell us how people would find you, like what is a website? You said something yelp your location

Rita Capponi [09:42] : It’s a grand central website. and that’s the best way. Grand Central Palm Springs.

Jeff Harrison [09:51] :

Rita Capponi [09:52] : Yes.

Jeff Harrison [09:52] : Okay. Grand Central Palm Springs Dot Com.

Rita Capponi [09:52] : Come see us.

Jeff Harrison [09:53] : Hey, I appreciate it. I’ll let you get back in it because I know you’re just dying to get in the kitchen. No, no, we’re dying to get in the AC. Rita, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thank you. And thank you for joining us for reservation is make sure to join us again tomorrow. We will not be on air tomorrow. Wednesday. We are going to take our own explosive time off in between time. Make sure to catch us tomorrow because we’ve got some information I think you’re going to enjoy. It’s all about, hey, using facebook to attract your ideal customers. Thanks again for joining us. I’m Jeff Harrison was swing point media and reservations.

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