CRAVE CEO Kam Talebi sat down with Youssef Rddad from the Woodbury Bulletin to discuss CRAVE Woodbury and the CRAVE origin.
What’s the story behind CRAVE?
I was walking through the Galleria (in Edina) one day, and restaurant, Sidney’s had just closed down, and I thought ‘what a great location for a restaurant.’
There were like 10 other restaurateurs who wanted the space, so we threw our hat in and met with the owner of the Galleria, and told him about this concept I had in mind, which was an American-based restaurant with Sushi. Back then, Sushi was not mainstream, but I saw it as a trend that was coming. We wanted a menu that was more eclectic and healthy.
And that’s when CRAVE was born.
How did you get through those first few years during the recession?
I had made a commitment to open our second and third location in St. Louis Park and the Mall of America. So during financially turbulent times with the collapse of the market and real estate and homes, we had two restaurants that we were building.
The odds were not on our side.
I think what we did was we designed a menu and a restaurant that was an elevated dining experience but was very approachable and affordable. There’s something here for everybody.
Our restaurants were incredibly busy during a difficult time. At the end of the day, I think our success if attributed to our commitment to a family culture.
Anyone can come up with a menu and say I want to be in the business.
There’s always a secret sauce to running a business, and you have to do something and do it really well. For us, it’s a commitment to our customers and employees.
I never really wanted a big company since I’ve always been inspired by small entrepreneurs and working hard.
I grew up with nothing and so we wanted to really have people really like working for us. That’s something I won’t forget. In the early days and today, our employees really love working for us.
The (general managers) and executive chef really own that restaurant. They’re empowered to make decisions … I like to say that my keys and my checkbook are handed over to them. It’s their restaurant.
When asked about picking Woodbury as the 5th Minnesota CRAVE location, Kam said, “I was thrilled when this opportunity came about, and it’s been a fantastic year for us. We practice the same sort of overall strategy we do with any market: come in, open the doors, take care of the guests and be part of the community.”