Jonathan Makar, who had worked as a stockbroker for two years, plowed $30,000 of his own money and another $300,000 from investors into a 50-seat restaurant in Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square in 2006. He called the place Snackbar and has obsessively catered to customers ever since. Makar, 29, who lives above the cloth-napkin restaurant, says he lets patrons sit as long as they want and his staff makes sure to know customers (and their kids) by name. They even know the kind of Champagne customers drank at their weddings. His hospitality paid off. Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters, which had been headquartered a couple of blocks away, tapped Maker to open a second Snackbar at its Space 15 Twenty mini-mall in Hollywood last year. The California location is about four times larger, and 75% of its business is daytime, corporate, and takeout. Still, Makar says he has been able to keep doing what worked in Philadelphia. He makes sure staffers remember the names of customers. He calls repeaters if they haven't ordered lunch, goes out of his way to prepare their favorite dishes, and even has the chef bake a cake and bring it over to patrons. "I might be forgoing a certain amount of revenue that day but it all works out," he says. Indeed, despite the recession, Makar says revenue from both places should come to about $2 million this year.
—Stacy Perman (posted on Nov. 24, 2009)