Owners: Fresh Cutt Carving Grill
14622 Ventura Blvd #103
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Yelp: 4.5 stars
Interview Date: Saturday, July 10, 2010
Diana and Karina Shishalovsky, the owners of Fresh Cutt Carving Grill, emigrated to the U.S. as children and grew up in the restaurant industry. “Our father and other family members have always owned restaurants,” says Diana. “So we grew up doing everything from printing up menus to hosting and serving.” Today, the sisters are running their own restaurant, with a lot of support and input from their father. “Our father has helped us with so many things about the restaurant,” says Diana. “He has been a great resource for us.”
Sure enough – when I was invited to taste the food and asked who developed the recipes, the answer was: “Our father.” But this restaurant is definitely Diana and Karina’s. During our interview, Karina’s eyes never stopped watching the employees.
“About five years ago we began experimenting with food together – throwing dinner parties,” says Diana. “Everybody loved what we were making, and we felt like there wasn’t a great, healthy and fresh option out there.” After a few years of experimenting with recipes and refining their concept, the sisters settled on their concept of offering made-to-order wraps, burritos, and sandwiches using fresh ingredients and slow-roasted meats. “Our menu has changed many times since we opened,” says Karina. “We have altered our recipes and created some basic combinations on the menu to help people feel more confident about their choices.” Diana adds that “some people are overwhelmed by choices, so we added combinations and recommendations to help them.”
The restaurant has been compared to Chipotle – mainly because of the setup of the service bar, where a variety of fillings are in view and guests select their choices as they go down the production line. “But Chipotle specializes in Mexican food, while Fresh Cutt offers a variety of choices such as American, Mexican, Mediterranean, and so on based on the options you choose,” says Diana.
Diana, the older sister, graduated with a Business degree from Cal State Northridge, and Karina is completing her last semester in the same area of study. Karina is the restaurant manager – spending Monday through Friday, and often weekends at the restaurant. Diana conducts more of the business management and marketing activities. She is also 8 months pregnant, as you can see from the photo!
Fresh Cutt was opened in August 2009. “About 90% of our customers are ‘regulars’,” says Diana. “Once people find us, they keep coming back, but it can be hard to attract new people with all of the competition.” To bring in new guests, the sisters have done some PR, advertising, and special events. They are active on Facebook and Twitter, and have used Groupon, which was useful in increasing the number of Yelp reviews for the restaurant.
“I really like every aspect of running a restaurant business,” says Karina. “I like everything – working with people, running it – it’s not easy, and can be stressful, but I like it.” She smiled a little and added that she wakes up and falls asleep thinking about the restaurant. The most stressful part, she says, is making sure that employees show up as needed and perform up to standard.
For Diana, the best part of having a restaurant business is “the challenge of running a business and finding new ways to get more people in the door to try what we have to offer.”
“The restaurant business is hard – it’s competitive,” says Diana. “Trying to make every customer happy is really challenging, but we do our best and are really proud of the fact that our food is consistent.”
Diana and Karina are hoping to franchise their concept, and held an event a few weeks ago to attract potential investors. One prospective investor is looking likely, and they are hopeful that they will be able to expand soon. But no matter how much they grow, “we always want our customers to think of us as high-quality, fresh, healthy food,” says Diana.