San Diego Home Cooking owner Mel Makaric originally finished school for theater makeup. Makaric opened the first San Diego Home Cooking location 15 years ago and has since opened four other locations in San Diego County.
Q: You're from Serbia, but doing a traditional American-style home cooking in Southern California. Why American home cooking, and why bring home cooking to San Diego?
A: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Even though our menu is mostly traditional American food, we also serve some of the eastern European comfort foods including goulash, cabbage rolls and stuffed bell peppers.
Q: During the last couple of years, you've expanded to a total of five locations. What made you expand in 2008-2011 when most restaurants were taking a conservative approach to growth?
A: We like taking risks. As most fine dining restaurants were unfortunately struggling we were booming because a lot of people were looking for great value at affordable prices, and that is exactly what we offer.
Q: The restaurant business is tough and highly competitive. Of all your options to start a business in America, why restaurants? What in your upbringing or background gave you the drive to enter this business industry?
A: Well I was brought up by two chemists, so my upbringing definitely didn't get me ready for this. However, my parents always had a passion for food and my mom is one of the best cooks, so now both my sister and I find comfort in cooking and cooking for other people. There is an old saying, "the way to people's hearts is through their stomach." I like to be challenged and I love to work so it only made sense to expand and keep on growing.
Q: A limited number of restaurant groups use their owner or actual founder to be the "face" of the business. You're on TV commercials for San Diego Home Cooking -- why did you decide to put yourself out there?
A: I am a very confident individual and I like to set a positive examples. And who else can better present me than myself?
Q: Speaking of TV and radio ads, San Diego Home cooking has been pretty consistent using these traditional media outlets for advertising. Why? It's rare to hear of locally-owned restaurants on TV or in radio, particularly ones that are not a national brand franchise.
A: I believe our unorthodox approach has brought us to where we are today, and our decisions are always made with a gut feeling, first.
Q: What do you consider the most important tool or resource you use to manage five restaurants versus when you had just the first location?
A: Hiring the right people. Our concept is unique since we don't have traditional management at each location, however our employees are hard-working, responsible individuals who take pride in their work, and majority of them have been with us for long period of times.
Q: What, in your view, will be the biggest challenge for restaurants in San Diego next year? And what's in store for San Diego Home Cooking?
A: San Diego is definitely becoming a foodie city. I think the biggest challenge for any restaurant is to keep up with all the new and upcoming trends in the food industry. As for San Diego Home Cooking, will get a little facelift here and there, but we will stay with our original concept and try to make that better every day.