Local Spotlight: Mike Simms
If you have ever wondered through the streets of downtown Manhattan Beach and stumbled into a a packed restaurant, chances are it may be owned by Mike Simms or someone in his family. A third-generation restaurateur with names like Mimi's Cafe & Lazy Dog in his heritage, Mike's family knows their way around building successful restaurant brands. Between he and his brothers, Mike's number-one local hit parade include Simmzy's, Tin Roof Bistro, and MB Post.
We recently sat down with Mr. Simms to see if he’d open his kimono a little regarding his growing empire and thoughts on the Manhattan Beach food scene. We learned some of his insights on owning a successful restaurant, as well as discovering that his newest venture is craft beer brewing for their restaurants.
1. What do you see as the next hottest trends in LA?
I would say food wise, its going to be a continuation of the current path of focusing on local produce and products as much as possible. That shift started about 10 years ago. There is a great book called The Third Plate that describes that shift, and I think that will continue for a while because there is still so much room for that to grow.
Also, I’d say another big shift will be in hospitality. With a focus going from, not just food, but to hospitality as a whole and how to add value to your restaurant through great service. I forget where I heard this, but service is what you do to someone and hospitality is how you make them feel.
2. Anything new coming up for any of your restaurants in 2016?
Manhattan Beach in particular, at least housing market wise as you know, is at a spot where I feel is right at the top of a curve. So for now we are just going to sit tight and get better at what we currently do. If opportunities come up we will take a look at them but for now we are really content with the size that we are. We are just focusing on driving operations and improving our hospitality.
3. What to you think of the no tipping trend that some top restaurants are adopting. Is no tipping something you see becoming the norm?
We have put a lot of consideration into the no tipping arena, also referred to "hospitality included". With minimum-wage increasing to $15 an hour in many cities and expected to in California, the benefits are starting to outweigh the disadvantages, namely being able to shift increases in hourly wages from front of house to back of house. "Hospitality included" puts more money in the pockets of often the hardest working people in the restaurant. There are no plans on the books for us to go that direction as of now, but I believe the industry as a whole will be there in the next decade.
4. For families wanting to move to Manhattan Beach, if you could warn them about one thing, what would it be?
I would say don’t believe that all of the people being nice to you is fake, it’s actually true. Accept it with open arms and jump into the community and great things will happen.
The people here are very genuine and interested in bettering their community. In Los Angeles as a whole you get a lot more transient people, in and out of the city that don’t have the same commitment and buy-in to the community as Manhattan Beach residents do. As I began to get married, have kids, and open business, that is what I was amazed at. I believe that contributes to why we are successful. I believe the community is so enthusiastic about where we live.
5. Why no expansion into Hermosa & Redondo Beach?
We’ve been looking at opportunities as they arose and we’ve taken shots and nothing has really stuck. There really isn’t any particular reason. There are certain locations that if they opened up I would definitely jump on them. It's just about being in the right place at the right time.
6. What’s your favorite place to eat besides your own restaurants?
It's tough to choose just one but I love Darren's in Manhattan Beach and also Love & Salt, we used to eat there when it was Cafe Pierre. Outside of the South Bay though, if I could go to Bestia in Downtown LA once a month, I would be a happy camper.
7. Whats the best business advice you’ve ever been given?
I think it would have to be from my dad who told me “Don’t teach a guest what they want. Give them what they want.” There's a tendency to do what we want and then teach the guests. But if you want to be successful, you have to find out what they really want. For example, if you ask a group of people what kind of coffee do they like, 9 out of 10 times they will say rich, dark, bold coffee. And when you watch them they drink weak, white, milky coffee. So you have watch their habits and see what they really want. For us, craft beer in Manhattan Beach was that for us. There were no examples of a craft beer focused bar in Manhattan Beach and there were a ton in Los Angeles. So we took a shot at that it and turned out to be successful. We didn’t teach them anything we just brought it to them and they accepted it with open arms.
8. What’s the next evolution in your restaurants?
We are going to be brewing our own beer. The time has come. When we first opened up I plotted on a chart how many beers were available to us and it was manageable. But now there are so many available, its only going to get broader. So as a result, our guests are having a hard time deciding because there are too many options. So we want to cut through that and give them one solid option of beer brand, and that would be ours. We will start off with a couple of beers and then grow from there.
So as I said, we're not growing unit wise, but we are expanding the value to our guests by brewing our own beer and reinforcing hospitality. That is our plan for this year and most likely next.
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- The Tin Roof Bistro is one of my favorite local restaurants and has been my go-to eatery since it opened, always a great and consistent experience. We even had a 70 person party their a few years back using their private room off of the patio, which was a super successful event. I also love the easy parking. Bartenders and wait staff are all A+
I really like the our growing restaurant scene, especially when my westside friends tell me they’re driving "all the way down here" for dinner—oh god, anything south Venice Blvd is like the dark side of the moon to them.
I really love how our choice of foods is getting healthier and tastier at the same time. Adding some super high quality local brew choices to the mix will only add to the evolving sophistication of palettes in the 90266