Kirk Ruoff has spent the past 20 years turning one of New Jersey’s favorite leisure weekend activities, brunch, into a booming business.
The Turning Point, a chain of 14 upscale restaurants scattered across New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania that specializes in brunch, has truly become a fixture among residents of the state. Restaurants provide a way for people to enjoy lazy weekend mornings while enjoying brunch dishes such as ‘OMG French toast’ and Tuscan omelette, or healthier dishes such as zucchini spaghetti.
In addition to its 14 locations, the company has three other restaurants under construction, including one in Moorestown. It grew from humble beginnings in 1998 to an empire that currently employs over 500 people, including 15 executives at the Eatontown headquarters. In 2016, The Turning Point generated sales of $ 20 million.
In fact, the company has seen so much success and growth that it is currently exploring the possibility of franchising for the first time.
âRight now, the plan is to add three or four more locations per year,â Ruoff said. âWe are in the process of writing a new private placement note and (planning to) exit and do a capital increase for a Turning Point franchise. I have the exploration team together now, and if all goes well and the plan looks viable, we can sell franchises by the end of the year.
For Kirk Ruoff, profit wasn’t the only factor in creating a restaurant chain focused on brunch. Quality of life was also an important issue. When he acquired the first Turning Point, he was a manager of a local Chili’s restaurant, his wife was pregnant and the couple still lived with their parents. Ruoff found himself working regularly all day to make dinner part of the business, but after a few months he decided the restaurant should close at 3 p.m. everyday.
âBy the time we opened the first restaurant, I was working 15 hours a day and my wife was pregnant,â Ruoff said. âShe was like, ‘This is not a life and this is not what I signed up for.’ She wasn’t happy and I wasn’t really happy so I started working on a business plan to make a restaurant for breakfast and lunch. What bothers you about this job is ‘is working at night and having to finish at 1 or 2 am The hours we maintain now allow our employees to have a better quality of life, and we are able to attract a better quality of people. .
Ruoff added that franchising represents the next logical step in the company’s growth and envisions opening Turning Point restaurants in the tri-state area through franchising.
âYou want to try and maximize your sweat equity,â Ruoff said. âI’ve been doing this for 20 years. We have 14 successful locations, we’ve defined our business model, so now let’s go ahead and try to grow a little faster. We have perfected the concept of one story, so now I want to try and give people a business by selling my business to them.
Ruoff had the idea of ââbecoming a brunch specialist in 1998, when he acquired a 14-table restaurant, the Turning Point Coffee and Tea Salon, in the affluent town of Little Silver on the Jersey Shore. The restaurant specializes in premium coffees and teas, while serving gourmet lunches and dinners.
âWhen I acquired the restaurant, the idea was that the dinner part was not working there. The previous owner was making a profit on lunch and coffee, but not making a dollar on dinner. I saw that there was a need for an upscale restaurant for breakfast, and when we decided to only use breakfast and lunch, the store was profitable in two months. The idea of ââserving only breakfast and lunch has just taken off.
Ruoff, from Florida, almost immediately spotted a market for a restaurant in the state specializing in healthy brunches and decided to keep the restaurant open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
âIn New Jersey I noticed they only had fatty dinners, Perkins and IHOP, so I thought I could maybe keep the coffee and tea part and incorporate a breakfast part and lunch, âRuoff said. âPeople liked the name Turning Point, so I ditched the coffee and tea part and just kept The Turning Point, and decided to work only on serving healthy breakfast options. , lunch and brunch. “
In addition to an ever-changing menu, the restaurant’s decor should be welcoming, Ruoff said. Each restaurant has off-white walls, ceiling fans, a gourmet coffee bar, and wall decorations to create a special dining experience.
âWe really look for continuity when we look at the spaces we lease,â Ruoff said. âWe spend a lot of money setting up our space and making sure everything looks good together – the food, the service and the decor. You want the decor to match the level of the food. I put a pitcher of ice water on each table. People told me I was crazy for doing this and was losing sales of sodas and other drinks, and I said, “No”. When I go out, I want to have a pitcher of water on the table.
Ultimately, The Turning Point relies on the quality of its food and service for its success, Ruoff said.
âThe bottom line is that customers love the dining experience and they love the consistency of what we do,â he said. âThey have confidence in the ingredients we put in our dishes and they know this is a clean, well-run restaurant. We try to train all of our people to be welcoming.
âI don’t care if you don’t have restaurant experience – if you’re a nice, sympathetic person, we’ll hire you. “