Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”
Our subject this week is Kelties, a Westfield-based eatery that has evolved from its original incarnation as an etiquette-training
school with limited private events and catering to a lunch-and-dinner restaurant that relies on catering for close to half
its total sales.
Owner and chef Keltie Domina, 49, remains optimistic despite a recession-driven decline in sales that resulted in a $55,500
loss for the first six months of 2010. Over the seven-year life of the restaurant, Domina has relied on a talent for shifting
strategy when circumstances demand. When etiquette classes couldn't pay the bills, she returned to her roots as a chef
and opened for lunch. Given the opportunity to move into a higher-end space, she scraped together $250,000 for start-up costs
via a variety of avenues, including small-business lending, savings, credit cards, and $65,000 in personal loans from employees
and local businesspeople.
Domina has adjusted to the current economic climate with several shrewd cost-cutting moves. She has renegotiated the eatery's
lease with the space's landlord and worked with vendors to defer payments on goods and services. The restaurant has shed
four employees, placed paper sheets on top of white tablecloths to cut down on cleaning expenses, and put the kibosh on gifts
to local organizations like donated food and gift cards.
"As much as I love doing that, I have to think about the employees here and the longevity of the business," Domina
In the video at top, Domina discusses the origins of the restaurant, how employees and fellow businesspeople helped finance
the move to Kelties' current space, and how cost-cutting measures and a recent uptick in sales have brightened her outlook.