Photo Credit: Josh Kopel

The hospitality world has been littered with questions since this pandemic has taken hold. And in a naturally fragmented field where so many small, independent operators may feel like they’re wandering through the dark, one industry vet is bringing some answers.

Josh Kopel, a Michelin-rated restaurateur and tech entrepreneur, has brought in some of the country’s biggest names to discuss hard-hitting issues around how businesses both small and large can effectively reopen. His podcast, FULL COMP, is now in its second season.

“What we need more than anything right now is tactical help in getting through this pandemic,” Kopel said. “We don’t speak in the abstract. We speak in the concrete about things people are actually doing…[FULL COMP] is a platform where we can have really candid, honest conversations with people whom I’ve looked up to my entire career.”

Some of those people include SBE Founder and CEO Sam Nazarian, Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer, best-selling authors Seth Godin and Jim Collins, and Focus Brands COO Kat Cole among many others. While many of Kopel’s guests are notable hospitality leaders, many more come from outside the industry, providing fresh perspective.

“[Restaurants] are a naturally fragmented business. You have a lot of owners and operators who work 80-100 hours a week in their own little worlds and we’re often so busy that we never think we have the time to talk to each other,” Kopel said. “Now their businesses are closed, and they have time and the ability to make big changes. If there’s a moment for the industry to make big changes, it’s now.”

Kopel, born and raised in Louisiana, began his hospitality career in the Alligator Bayou Bar [“it’s exactly as you picture it,” he jokes]. After rising through the ranks, he moved to Los Angeles with the intention of bringing a touch of the big city back down to Louisiana. He’s stayed in Southern California ever since doing quite the opposite, owning and operating Southern-inspired establishments that have accumulated just about every award in the book.

Then the pandemic hit.  Kopel’s most recent venture, the highly-lauded Preux & Proper in Downtown Los Angeles, recently closed its doors for good.

“I’m a parent. I’m invested in my staff and the community we serve…not knowing how to keep my family safe, my team safe, my patrons safe, it didn’t seem like the responsible choice to stay open,” Kopel said. The decision to close permanently came six months later, yet with that perpetual smile and hospitable Southern attitude, Kopel saw opportunity.

“All entrepreneurs have exceptional amounts of optimism, but for restaurant owners it borders on craziness. The day we closed, I turned to my wife and said ‘this can either be an opportunity or a curse, and whichever path we choose will determine what that will be. Let’s make this an opportunity.’” FULL COMP debuted
shortly afterward.

“Everyone was blaming the pandemic for the decimation of the industry, but I didn’t see that. That may have been the final blow, but that’s not the only thing that did it in for us,” Kopel said. He sees the Coronavirus pandemic as the catalyst that accelerated the inevitable demise of so many businesses that were already hanging by a thread. FULL COMP investigates the underlying factors that made hospitality so susceptible to failure, and how the industry can improve on these issues moving forward.

Supplementing the podcast is the FULL COMP Industry Guide to Restructuring, a physical manifestation of the of best practices shared by Kopel’s extensive Rolodex of partners.  

“There have been noble efforts made by so many different organizations, but I didn’t see a holistic guide out there that could guide me through a successful future. Through this show, I’ve had the pleasure to speak with such prolific people in the industry and ask them really pointed questions. This restart guide is the culmination of those conversations,” Kopel said. 

And while the restart guide and podcast cover a breadth of topics for success in the industry, Kopel was quick to hone in on the lowest-hanging fruit: marketing. From formatting your website to investing in beautiful photography and video, efforts to showcase the people behind the product will go a long way.

“The ‘aha’ moment for all of us is that the restaurant business is a business. If every other business on the planet is spending a ton of time and money on marketing their goods and services, why aren’t we? Why aren’t we telling our story?” Kopel said. 

FULL COMP can be found on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. The FULL COMP Industry Guide to Restructuring can be downloaded for free on JoshKopel.com.