INSIDE DISH: Papa Roux pops after stumbling at the start

April 30, 2010

Welcome back to IBJ’s new video feature, “Inside Dish: the Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is the east-side Cajun hotspot Papa Roux, the bold brainchild of novice restaurateur Art Bouvier and his wife and co-owner, Colleen. Fed up with his high-pressure corporate IT gig, Art ditched the regular paycheck and benefits to open an eatery in 2007 based on the cuisine of his native New Orleans.

The first couple of years wouldn't be described as "the big easy." The Bouviers consistently lost money as they figured out the best combinations of hours, menu items and promotions. Originally hosting take-out only in a small concrete storefront, they added indoor dining and silverware as money became available. After an early review commented on the drab atmosphere, they enlisted customers to start doodling on the walls.

At first, the Bouviers were happy with just a few hundred dollars in the till each day. In the video below, Art describes how Mardi Gras in 2008 and 2009 brought scads of customers who turned into regulars. Business grew by leaps and bounds, and then exploded when the New Orleans Saints marched to the 2010 Super Bowl. Now lunches bring between $1,000 and $1,500 per day, and dinner on Fridays (the only night it's offered) can spike the day's take to $3,000. After nearly three years, the Bouviers have finally passed the break-even point.

Operating with a bare-bones mentality, the Bouviers have become accustomed to creating no-cost marketing ploys, low-budget decor and do-it-yourself promotions. In the video below, Art shows off the results.

More Dish: Notes from the back of the napkin

Papa Roux
Concept: High turnover lunch spot specializing in mainstream Cajun cuisine, such as po’ boy sandwiches and creole stews over white rice.
Location: 8950 E. 10th St. (Post Road and 10th Street)
Phone: 317-603-9861
Web site: www.paparouxindy.com
Founded: July 2007
Owner(s): Art and Colleen Bouvier
Start-up costs: $25,000
Annual sales: Total sales in 2009: approx. $110,000; projected sales for 2010: $300,000 based on increase of business due to improved marketing and promotions, as well as higher visibility during 2010 Mardi Gras and New Orleans Saints’ NFL championship run.
Daily sales: $1,000 to $1,500, and $2,500 to $3,000 on Fridays with dinner.
Seats: 45 inside, 10 outside
Employees: 4 (not including owners)
Good to know: Papa Roux’s offers dinner on Fridays, and otherwise is a lunch destination open between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


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