The Funk Brothers: Entrepreneurship à la carteThe Annie Bailey's owners oversee eateries at Rock Lititz and Listrak
Running a restaurant is hard. Running four of them — including a catering business for roving road crews — would seem almost impossible.
But that’s what brothers Josh and Jake Funk do, sometimes for what seems like eight days a week.
In the span of four years, the Lancaster County natives have bought Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub in downtown Lancaster, started catering services for rehearsing musicians and their road crews at the Rock Lititz studio, and opened Gravie Kitchen + Commons at Rock Lititz’s Pod 2. Their company, TFB Restaurants & Co., also manages The Hub at Listrak, a Lititz-area technology company. The businesses collectively employ about 100 people.
The restaurateurs, both of whom have young families, feel like they have room on their plates for more.
One of the next items they plan to serve up is a yet-to-be-named restaurant at the under-construction Hotel at Rock Lititz. Many of the details about the new space are still fermenting, but they know the restaurant will take up about 5,000 square feet in the new hotel, which is slated to open around fall of 2018, and have about 100 to 110 seats, a bar and a staff of around 25 to 30 people. The decor will match that of the rest of the hotel and Rock Lititz campus, which has a soft industrial feel with subtle nods to the music industry.
The Funks also have plenty in the works for their existing eateries. They recently changed the name of their downtown Lancaster restaurant from Annie Bailey’s Irish Pub & Restaurant to Annie Bailey’s Irish Public House and revamped every angle of the business, from back-of-house operations to food and bar service.
The changes at Annie Bailey’s have included everything from new menu options to a new logo. They also added a rotating selection of cocktails incorporating ingredients from stand holders at Lancaster Central Market. The Funks donate $1 per cocktail sold back to Central Market. The restaurant also recently updated its outdoor deck with a new pergola and fresh decor.
The two brothers sat down recently with the Central Penn Business Journal to talk about their experiences operating in Lancaster and Lititz, as well as their hopes for the future.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What is your vision for the restaurant at the hotel?
Josh Funk: Our hope is to bring kind of a farm-to-table feel to this project. We kind of do that fresh local menu at Gravie, and we want to carry that over to the hotel/restaurant and make it accessible on an everyday basis. So people can eat there any day of the week, the price point isn’t too high, good cocktail menu, good beers, wine. We want to keep the menu small and seasonal. We’ll have a few things that will remain staples, but we want to really work with the local farms here to see what are the best flavors at the times they’re peaking and basically bring that to the table.
How does this compare to the look and feel of Annie Bailey’s?
Jake Funk: We use local as much as possible at Annie’s. Especially with tomatoes and other stuff, it’s always better to get it local. The tomatoes are Coke-can red instead of a faded pink sometimes. Here (at the hotel restaurant) we want to incorporate a little bit of everything. Farm-to-table, it’s an awesome concept, and it’s definitely a good way to go, but it’s hard to execute properly. So there always has to be a little bit of a blend in where you get all your ingredients from.
What’s it like catering for clientele at the Rock Lititz studio?
Jake Funk: We’ve had restaurants for four years now, and people say restaurants are hard to run. They are hard to run, but this tour industry, I mean, it’s crazy. We get numbers like 24 hours out. We know that somebody is coming in for this amount of time, but we don’t know how many people we’re feeding, what meals they want. It’s a hard industry, but everyone seems to love it. We get tons of comments on food all the time from people. They’re so sincere and happy they’re getting quality food because I guess they’ve been burned so many times before in the tour industry.
Josh Funk: I think the biggest challenge over there is to be flexible. Things can change on a moment’s notice. People can leave early, they can extend their stay, numbers can increase, they can decrease. And I think one of the biggest challenges we have is when you’re feeding somebody for let’s say 20 or 25 days, three meals a day, keeping them interested in what you’re serving — all the while making a business out of it and making sure that it’s run efficiently — (is a challenge) The crew, the production managers and stuff, those are our real clients (at the studio). Sometimes we feed the artist; sometimes we don’t feed the artist. But ultimately whether it is a crew guy, the production crew or the tour manager, we want them all to have the same experience.
How do you divvy up ownership responsibilities between the two of you?
Josh Funk: As most people who own restaurants would understand, you quickly become the CEO, COO, CFO. You are the IT guy, you are legal, you are HR, everything. I think for us, I’m a little bit more front of the house, a little bit more corporate, I do most of the accounting and all of that stuff, and legal and HR. My brother is more operationally based. His experience has been mostly in kitchens and things like that. We’re kind of a really complete owner-operator if you think about it. The fact that we have four locations and there’s two of us is great. And we both have the same basis of education coming from Penn State, so we really try to delegate responsibilities as they come in. We share an office at the top of Annie Bailey’s.
All of our company names start with three letters, and it’s TFB. When we were kids, we had wrestling mats in our basement — our dad was a state champion wrestler for Manheim Township (School District) — and in the middle of those wrestling mats were the letters T, F and B, and it stood for The Funk Brothers. So at the beginning of every single one of our companies it has those letters to kind of signify to us and everyone else that there’s a partnership between us. So we have TFB Restaurants, TFB Catering, which is up here at Rock Lititz, and TFB Property because we own the property at Annie Bailey’s.
What has it been like returning to Lancaster County these past four years?
Josh Funk: When we first bought Annie Bailey’s, I told people we were getting reintroduced to our hometown because we had left for so long and came back, and so much had changed for the better. It’s kind of the same way in Lititz. We grew up here, but until you really get involved in business and that kind of stuff you don’t really understand the whole workings of a town or city. So just as we got reintroduced to our city; we’re getting reintroduced to our town in Lititz.
What are your long-term goals?
Josh Funk: I would like to develop the third floor of Annie Bailey’s. I’d like to put another restaurant there. When that will happen is a great question. I just had a little boy, my brother has a 2-year-old, so we don’t necessarily have the bandwidth we once did. I think we’d also like to get into some management. There’s a lot of restaurants out there, and sometimes people who own them are looking for someone to run them a little more profitably. I think that’s something we’re really good at. With all the restaurants that are popping up, our hope is that people would see us as a team that can help them achieve their business needs.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about opening a restaurant?
Josh Funk: Don’t. There’s a running joke among most owners that any restaurant is for sale at any given time; ours is not, just so you know. It’s way more challenging than people would like to believe. Just when you think you have it figured out, there is a curve ball thrown your way, and you have to kind of realign what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, training people, marketing. I think it’s fun, but, my wife can attest to this, I never turn it off. You are on call 24/7, weekends, holidays, you name it, because you never know what fire you’re going to have to put out next. But it’s rewarding; it’s fun. It’s a ton of work, but you get to meet a lot of interesting people, and it beats the heck out of sitting in a cube every day.
About the Funk Brothers
Title: Owners of TFB Restaurants & Co.
High school: Manheim Township High School in Lancaster County
College: Both brothers are graduates of Pennsylvania State University’s hotel, restaurant and institutional management program.
Experience: Josh Funk worked for nine years at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Jake Funk spent five years working for the Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen chain in Chicago and Atlanta.