— Location really is everything in the restaurant business and Ryan Mitchell was willing to wait for the right one.
For the past 15 months, Mitchell, a former investment banker, has been working with his father, famous barbecue pitmaster Ed Mitchell, to open Que, a barbecue restaurant in Durham.
The Mitchells are setting up shop in a spot they couldn’t pass up: Diamond View III, a new office building at the American Tobacco Campus just outside the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and a short walk from the Durham Performing Arts Center.
It was a place they would have to wait for. The Mitchells’ initial target opening date was September 2013. But because Que has been dependent on the construction of the overall building, the process from idea to opening day hasn’t always been an easy one.
“I think the biggest challenge is when you’re going into a project that’s this big, like you’re going into the base of an office building, what happens is that everybody has to sing off the same choir books, and all of this stuff has to be completed before you get going,” Ryan Mitchell said.
After various setbacks and a schedule that “may have been a tad ambitious,” Ryan Mitchell says the Que now hopes to open around April 1 – just in time for the April 3 start of the Bulls’ minor-league baseball season. He’s counting on Que pulling in customers from the crowds that flock to American Tobacco to work, socialize and watch baseball.
Todd Guyette, a member of Foodservices Consultants Society International and principal at Colburn & Guyette food service consulting company in Boston, said finding a solid location, along with a concept that works in that area, are key components to opening a restaurant.
“Putting a dinner concept into a building that shuts down at 5 p.m. is a mistake,” Guyette said. “And that location’s potential customer base is sort of the key.”
Guyette said restaurants are risky businesses, and not doing due diligence on the front end can hurt the company down the road.
Guyette said that in new construction, owners need to time the purchase of equipment and materials such as exhaust hoods or custom stainless steel pieces so that those things arrive at the site at the right time in the process.
Equipment is something the Mitchells have had to work around.
They installed an elaborate four-story hood, exhaust and filter system that will allow Ed Mitchell to cook his barbecue without smoke and grease affecting the other offices in the building.
But creating a restaurant in a great spot using his famous whole-hog concept is Ed Mitchell’s ultimate goal.
“It’s taken a little longer than I thought,” Ed Mitchell said. “But it’s going to be worth it because the customer’s really going to get the real deal.”