In this episode, we have an interview with Matt Kirschner, the owner of Red Knapp’s Dairy Bar in Rochester, Michigan. The restaurant, established in 1950 by the original Red Knapp, has stayed true to its roots through generational ownership. Matt took over the business three years ago, promising to uphold the legacy left by the Knapp family. Matt’s journey in the food service industry is one of twists and turns. From being offered equity in a pizzeria at 22, to working in fine dining during the COVID-19 pandemic, he always had a desire to own a business. Eventually, he found his opportunity with Red Knapp’s.
Marketing for Red Knapp’s has been unique and interactive. One notable approach is Matt’s social media series, where he hands out milkshake samples in public spaces like Target and Oakland University and asks people to rate them. This has garnered significant attention and customer engagement. Another creative marketing initiative involved adding unconventional ingredients to burgers, a tactic that even caught the attention of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay on TikTok.
Matt discusses an innovative marketing strategy where he offers free milkshakes to anyone who follows him on Instagram and agrees to be featured in a video. This series alone, sparked by a random customer, has brought in impressive views and substantial food sales, proving the ROI of his social media efforts.
Matt also delves into his history and the driving force behind his business. With a background in entertainment and a deep-seated desire to entertain and educate, Matt leverages social media not just for financial gain but to fulfill his personal vision. He emphasizes that even small mom-and-pop shops can benefit immensely from dedicating time to social media, citing his own success as proof.
On a more serious note, Matt talks about his community outreach programs. Once homeless himself, Matt feels a deep responsibility to give back to the community. He started with an annual coat drive six years ago, which has since expanded in scope thanks to big-name donations. Additionally, he has been visiting shelters to provide food and essentials for the last three months. Matt believes in balancing the fun, engaging aspect of his business with meaningful community contributions.
Matt reveals a glowing 30% year-on-year growth rate for his restaurant, a feat he attributes primarily to organic content. While Matt’s passion isn’t driven by the financial bottom line, he’s keen on leveraging paid advertising methods to catapult that growth rate to potentially 60 or 90%.
When probed about his long-term strategy, Matt paints a bittersweet picture. He sees the eventual fate of his restaurant as part of a bigger life plan. Matt signed a five-year lease with an aim to gather sufficient capital and experience for his future ventures. In a somewhat emotional reveal, he talks about prepping his loyal team for life after the restaurant—some of whom are already taking those steps.
Additionally, Matt brings up his concerns about the fragility of the current economy. Anticipating the possibility of a downturn, he’s already designed an “emergency menu” that could offer more affordable meals.
Outside the restaurant world, Matt has another exciting chapter unfolding. He and his wife have recently embarked on an e-commerce business journey as they also start their family. Moreover, Matt wants to continue entertaining and educating people through his personal brand.
On a lighter note, when asked about his favorite milkshake, Matt roots for the classic chocolate malt, elaborating on his preference for fresh-scoop ice cream over soft serve.
Guest: Matt Kirschner
Host: Felix Bazgan