Randy Daniel – Restaurateur, Partner in OMW Restaurant Holdings

Randy Daniel joins Discover Lafayette to discuss his career in the restaurant business, an endeavor he has loved since his first gig at 14 years old working in catering services.

Randy is a principal partner in OMW Restaurant Holdings, the owner and operator of La Pizzeria, as well as Kat Daddy wings, a delivery-only restaurant. OMW is the operating partner of Mercy Kitchen, Palmyre, and BJ’s Pizza House. Each restaurant offers a unique culture and cuisine.

Service as a board member for the Louisiana Restaurant Association, as well as being President of its local Acadiana Chapter the past four years, has given Randy greater insight to the common struggles restaurant owners face. He says, “It is a daily struggle to make money throughout the state of Louisiana. The average restaurant makes about one cent on each dollar of sales, although of course there are some who do much better.”

Prices have skyrocketed with inflation and post-COVID market forces. The industry has seen a 20% increase in food costs, a 30% increase in labor costs, and insurance premiums have gone through the roof. Even if a restaurant’s sales increase, the business may not see a profit. Also, Randy says, “We’ve gone from a cash society to a credit card society, which increases the cost of doing business. I’m personally dead set against the customer having to cover that. You bake it into the cake. There are restaurant owners trying to figure out how to pass it on. If you have a restaurant with $1 million in sales, you’re paying about $40,000 in processing fees a year.”

“I always used to have a mathematical formula to figure out how much to charge for a dish. That multiplier doesn’t work anymore. Not because the math is off, but because customers aren’t willing to pay what it costs to cover the actual cost of the dish. A restaurant’s number one competitor is grocery stores, because customers aren’t willing to spend.” Photo by Scott Clause of the Advertiser.

Randy brings years of experience to OMW Restaurant Holdings, having served as director of operations for Double R Restaurant Group (former owners of Romacelli, POUR and Another Broken Egg locations), as well as 18 years with the Outback Steakhouse group.¬†Through his work with Double R Restaurant group, he worked closely with Stuart Ottinger. When Double R decided to dissolve, Randy and Stuart first operated their own restaurants before joining forces to bring unique concepts to Lafayette. Today, Stuart Ottinger, through his company, OPG, is the controlling owner of Mercy Kitchen and Palmyre restaurants; OMW is the Operating Partner. Randy credited Colleen Ottinger, Stuart Ottinger’s wife, for her incredible sense of style in creating the beautiful interiors of Mercy Kitchen and Palmyre.

Recounting his much-anticipated opening of La Pizzeria in February 2020: “I was in D. C. meeting with U. S. Rep. Mike Johnson in March 2020 and learned that the government would be shutting down on March 13. That was the most fortunate I’ve ever been in a meeting. I was able to fly home, sit down with my managers, and come up with a plan. I had to say, ‘We all have two choices; we can work seven days a week, stay open and keep as many hourly staff as we can, or we can close our doors.’ We didn’t know yet about PPE. To their credit, our managers said, ‘Let’s do it!” And, the restaurant survived.

Kat Daddy Wings, a “ghost kitchen,” was a result of COVID. Kat Daddy Wings sells prepared food for delivery only. It was one of the first ghost kitchens in Lafayette. With a mainly fried food menu, it was developed initially as a way for OMW to stay profitable during COVID. Randy hopes one day to see Kat Daddy Wings in a brick and mortar location.

Randy shared valuable lessons he learned after purchasing popular long-time restaurants La Pizzeria and BJ’s Pizza House, the latter of which was reopened by BOG Investments, and OMW as Operating Partner, about 2 1/2 months ago. “People don’t like change. At La Pizzeria, the most popular salad is the grilled pesto pasta salad. I came in and changed the chicken to a fresh chicken breast. The past chicken breast was heavily injected with hormones to make it tender. When a customer complained about it, I said, ‘If I wouldn’t serve this to my daughter, I wouldn’t serve it to you. She understood. But the mistake I made was to change the penne pasta to a cavitappi pasta. That lasted five days and I went back to penne pasta. When you buy a restaurant, make changes subtly. When we opened BJ’s Pizza House, I didn’t change one recipe! We worked hard to keep it the same.”

Mercy Kitchen was the ‘child’ of Stuart and Colleen Ottinger. “Colleen is one of the most innovative people ever. I don’t know where she gets her ideas but she is amazing! Mercy Kitchen matches high quality foods with high quality cocktails, and offers primarily shared items for groups, such as charcuterie boards, steak and frites. A new menu will be released in the near future. Mercy Kitchen is located at 1312 Verot School Road. Visit https://www.mercy-kitchen.com/menu for more information.

Palmyre, located in River Ranch at 201 Settlers Trace # 3011, is as “decadent as decadent gets! Colleen Ottinger was once again the brains behind it. We wanted you to walk in and feel as though you were walking into a bar in France.” Palmyre is lovingly named after Palmyre Billeaud, Colleen’s great-great grandmother. For more information visit https://www.thepalmyre.com/

OMW also caterers and just recently provided the food and beverages for Patty in the Park for over 4000 attendees. Each restaurant also offers catering for special events.

In closing, we want to thank Randy Daniel for sharing his knowledge of the restaurant business in Lafayette and Louisiana. Locally-owned restaurants are what makes Lafayette so special and are an important component of our tourism industry. We also thank Eat Lafayette and Lafayette Travel for partnering with us to produce this inspiring episode.