Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk about the habits that lead to success.
We’re continuing our conversation this week with Martha Hoover, 57, and focusing on the business principles that have guided her over 23 years as owner and operator of the Patachou Inc. family of restaurants. The learning curve was intense: Hoover had no practical experience in running a restaurant—or any business, for that matter—as she was hustling to open the original Café Patachou in March 1989.
“The fact that I didn’t have restaurant experience ended up to be one of the best things ever, because I was not trapped or held back by the norm of the day, in terms of how food was being delivered, prepared and served,” Hoover said.
She immediately struck a chord with from-scratch cooking that emphasized fresh, farm-to-table ingredients long before the concept was chic. She discusses getting the first location off the ground in this week’s installment of IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish.”
The former attorney for the Marion County Prosecutor’s sex crimes division was determined to make it work. “I’m not a believer in ‘Plan B’; I am a ‘Plan A’ girl all the way,” she said. “My feeling about Plan B is that if you have one, you’re very likely to fall back on it if things don’t work out from the very beginning.”
Today, seven restaurants from downtown Indianapolis to Carmel operate under the Patachou Inc. umbrella, with two more slated to open by the end of 2012 (see inset graphic). Hoover also has aggressive plans to open as many as six new restaurants by 2020, at least in part by venturing outside central Indiana.
In the video above, Hoover discusses the deliberate pace of the group’s growth through its first 23 years, despite offers from deep-pocketed investors who were eager to help lift its profile.
“People want to invest in the company and they are very sincere as to what they can do to grow my business,” Hoover said. “The problem is that they want to grow the business in a way that does not adhere to our vision and our principles. They’d have to dumb down everything we do.
“What we do is complicated. Making food the right way, with the right ingredients from scratch and getting it to the cafes is a complicated system. Mostly investors see all kinds of way they can cut costs. … This isn’t the cheapest way to do things. But it’s what we consider the only way to do things.”