Anil Margsahayam is one of the five founders of Stag Dining, a full service event production and catering company combining excellent cuisine, art, and sustainably sourced ingredients in a festive, yet sophisticated atmosphere. Sustainability is truly at the core of the company and the group is dedicated to making sustainable decisions for their venue, decor and food. They take pride in sourcing local fare from organic farmers and ensure that each dinner is a zero-waste/landfill free event.
Stag Dining began in 2010 and has been a client of Friday Consulting since June 2013. Friday Consulting has worked with their team on financial modeling, accounting, operations, and human capital management.
We chatted with Anil about the Stag story and what challenges the group has overcome in starting their sustainable food business.
What was the inspiration for starting Stag Dining?
Collectively, the Stag team has known each other for about 20 years. Matt, Jordan, and Ted all went to high school together. Emory, Matt, and myself met in college at USF and Jordan and Ted have worked together for years as chefs. We’ve all been lifetime friends and over the years have become interwoven. We each bring a vast array of skillsets to the table and we decided to think about ways we could pull all of our talents and experience together. Our first thought was to do some type of food truck and from there we began asking ourselves questions like, “What type of food truck would we want?” and “What would it take to pull something like this off?” After some thought, we decided to take a step back and started hosting dinners. The idea for these dinners actually ties back to something we used to do throughout our friendship. We enjoyed breaking bread together, celebrating friendship, nature and feasting together, family style. Organizing the dinners and events seemed to be a really natural transition from what we were already doing together for fun. We started hosting these intimate dinners that became so popular that we put the truck on the backburner and focused just on the dinners.
In the midst of our first year of business, we developed a great relationship with Adrian Grenier’s SHFT.com. They filmed one of our events featuring Aloe Blacc in the Summer of 2011. The event was so fun to put together that they invited us back to the Sundance Film Festival that winter to work with Ford Motors. Ford was at Sundance to highlight their sustainable materials initiative and asked us to tell their story through food in a supper club environment. We carefully wove Ford’s vision into our dinner using all sustainable and local ingredients from the Salt Lake Valley. What transpired was a magical night that featured great stories by Peter Glatzer and Adrian, complemented perfectly by an unplugged set from Aloe and Joel Van Dijk. Diners had a great time, we rocked Sundance, and came back to San Francisco with ambitions to evolve our business into a full-service event production and catering company.
Now, we have an amazing product thanks to the magical talents of Jordan and Ted, but also because of the experiences we create, which ties back to our own tradition of family style meals and communal gatherings. I really think it’s this aspect of our company that helps us stand out.
What challenges do you/have you faced while building Stag Dining in relation to finance, human capital, and/or operations and how has Friday Consulting helped you overcome these challenges?
At the most basic level, a lot of our financial reporting lacked the pin-point accuracy we were striving for. Shivani has really helped us keep track and analyze our books, her industry expertise has given us a lot of new insight to our performance. Working with Friday Consulting has definitely helped us run a tighter ship. Shivani has also worked with us to evaluate our company as a whole and how we work together interpersonally, so we can be more efficient.
From a human capital management perspective, as we’ve continued grow, it has stretched our company to manage every aspect of our expansion. Shivani has helped guide us through the process and create a financial model for scaling our business. Creating this structure has allowed us to build out our team and bring on a new Friday Consulting bookkeeper as well as additional employees to help us optimize our company performance. With these recent additions to our team, we’re already seeing better efficiency and growth in our business.
What advice do you have for food startup entrepreneurs just starting to build their businesses?
I think it’s important to be able to bootstrap something and start working on it with your team as quickly as possible. It’s also important to identify and utilize expertise and experienced professionals early on like Shivani, who can help get the key business structures in place. Lastly, you really have to be able to build key people and essential roles into your business plan. You may initially have team members that say they can take on many different roles, but it’s not sustainable or efficient to have team members wearing too many different hats.
To learn more about Stag Dining visit: http://stagdining.com/.