The road to success might necessitate sleeping on an air mattress for six consecutive nights in one’s business.
Just ask The College of New Jersey Class of 2009 graduates Tom Armenti and Kevin Gabauer, the owners of restaurant Fat Shack. The duo earned $250,000 from investor Mark Cuban on the television show Shark Tank, in which business owners explain their business model to investors while competing for money to invest in their businesses.
“The idea is everyone in New Jersey knew what a fat sandwich is,” Armenti, Fat Shack’s president and CEO said. “I took that concept and turned it into a quick-service restaurant for dine-in-, take-out, and delivery. We have a storefront. We deliver.”
Armenti started Fat Shack in February 2010 from a bagel shop in Ewing. Fat Shack’s Vice President and CFO Gabauer worked in insurance for four years before he joined Armenti.
Armenti recalled being home for the summer while in college and said that he and his other friends ran a kitchen before he started Fat Shack.
“I had known throughout college that I was going to do my own thing,” Armenti said. “I could not imagine working in an office.”
Now, the two operate 14 Fat Shacks in total: 10 in Colorado, three in Texas, and one in Washington State. They have since closed the Fat Shack in New Jersey but said they do plan to return their business to the Garden State.
“My goal was to build this into a big company,” Armenti said. “Once Kevin came on board, we began to grow and franchise. Shark Tank fell in line years later.”
The business partners encountered challenges in running a restaurant.
“Tom and I were in our early 20s and signed a commercial lease for years,” Gabauer said. “We knew we would be successful even though we had to convince others.”
Armenti encounters people who think running a restaurant is lighthearted fun and games like a social hang-out.
“People think it is so much fun,” Armenti said. “We work 100 hours per week. I blew up an air mattress and slept in the back of my new store. I love what I am doing. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.”
Now that they appeared on the television show Shark Tank, they are planning to open new stores.
“We are still working our butts off now that we have extra exposure,” Armenti said. “We are taking Mark Cuban’s advice and plan to expand to 30 or 50 restaurants.”