Part Three: Chef Andy Husbands-Moving on to the Next Thing

The Smoke Shop is one of Andy Husbands' latest concepts.

Read all parts in this series: Part One | Part TwoPart Four

We asked Chef Andy Husbands about his decision to close Tremont 647 and move on to his next project.

So, I’m about 20 years into my old restaurant. I knew I wanted to do something different. It wasn’t that I wanted to reinvent myself. You know, try doing anything for 20 years. It was time. Five years ago, me and this guy partnered, and we were like, let’s do something together. We both admired each other, and had different strengths and skills. Originally we were thinking about doing a Japanese Izakaya. I love Japanese Izakaya, that’s what I’m going to do. It begs the question – what do you know about izakaya? About this much [holds thumb and index finger an inch apart]. I could make a couple dishes. There’s a lot of history and knowledge that you have to have. And time to learn. 

My partner looked at me and was like “why are we not doing barbecue?” And I was like “I have never thought about opening a barbecue restaurant. Give me a couple days, let me do some research. Let me think about this.” And I came back, and I was like “I think I want to do it.” I didn’t want to…don’t know how to say this…I didn’t want to shit where I eat. My love of barbecue is so deep. I didn’t want to make it just a thing. Really wanted it to be special.

I didn’t want to do something I wasn’t passionate about. Just because I am passionate about izakaya, it just doesn’t mean I can cook it. I’m very passionate about barbecue. And I have been successful at it, and so, that’s how I get here. We knew we wanted to open up multiple units. And so now we’re working on our fourth unit. We couldn’t be prouder. It’s certainly a challenge every day, but, you know, that’s how you get here.

It makes it hard when you’re passionate. You’re not too easy on yourself, are you?

I tried to explain to my younger employees that nobody’s telling me to go to work. I don’t have a schedule. And that’s a place that you earn, and you get to. It’s a passion. More than just barbecue. When I talk about barbecue, to be clear, I’m not just talking about smoking meats. I’m talking about hospitality, about a way of life. Barbecue is a noun, right? Not just a verb. It’s an event. I just love the process.

Andy Husbands' restaurant is a barbecue lover's dream

Focusing on Childhood Hunger

Tell me some of your thoughts about charity. You probably get ten asks a day. How do you determine what to support? How to support? And on the other side, what kind of support are you getting now that you’re in need?

Wow. Let me answer the latter question. A lot of the people who we’ve helped throughout the years have bought gift cards and helped promote us in different ways. Just because they’re charities, they don’t necessarily have any money either. They’ve been giving us a lot of support, promoting us, things like that. We’re always thankful for that partnership.

In the very beginning, I had partnered with Share Our Strength, which their hashtag is #nokidhungry. It made sense to me. I come from a family that was federally assisted at some point. Had the cheap school lunch. And I just think it’s important to give back. 

I think giving back in a food-hospitality way makes sense to me. Other people focus on diabetes or cancer, and I think that’s really great. The thing is restaurants are more than food. They are the neighborhood living room. They’re a place of celebration, of gathering. It’s important to recognize that, and to give back in that way. 

I think it just ties together; it just makes a good puzzle piece that just goes together. So, for me, childhood hunger is something I’ve been focused on, even more so now that I’m a father. Tremont 467 donated over a quarter million, in cash, in the 20 years it was open. I’m very proud of that. It’s a team effort. 

When people are asking us, pre-COVID, post-COVID, to donate, we have the things that we focus on, which are really charities for children. I’m also a member of the Rodman Celebration, which is about children’s charities. So that’s our focus. It’s nice that we’ve aligned with that. It also enables us to say “no, “thank you for the ask, ask us next year. But just so you know, this is what we do.” We’re known for donating and being active. And it makes us able to say no. Look, I can’t support every charity. I would love to, but we have a business to run.

Can-Do and Cashflow

You’ve mentioned encountering challenges over your career. Which did you find the most challenging, and what did you learn from them? You’re here, 30 years in the business, quite successful. That’s not easy to do.

I think you have to have a positive, Can-Do attitude. That’s how I get through life. I think the biggest thing I’ve had to learn, which has to do with all the things I’ve talked about, 9/11, the bombings, COVID, my one piece of advice is cash flow. Understand cash flow. 

You often hear, these guys in music, they have a big single in music, they think they’re the cat’s meow. They think they’re going to have this money, and have this money forever. That is a rare, rare day. Same with restaurants. 

There are some restaurants that just print money all day long. But most restaurants have a cycle. And even the ones that print money have a cycle. They all have a cycle. In New England, at least for us, this is a normal time. We’re doing great, we’re doing great, spring and summer, it’s barbecue season. And fall’s doing pretty good. It slows down a little bit in winter. Slows down a lot in the deep winter, in January.

So, you need to plan this stuff out, just like you do at home. Don’t spend when you don’t need to. Put cash aside. And for me, what I did at my restaurant is, I got ahead of my bills. Say I had 30 days to pay on something, I would pay in 15 days, try to keep everything at ten to 15 days – still having that 30 days available to me so if things got tight I could stretch a little bit. Above all, that’s probably one of the most important things I ever learned was cash flow. It’s something people don’t talk about in a restaurant, at all. It’s so important.

Read Chef Andy Husbands | Part Four: Advice for Beginners, and Responding to Comments

Follow The Smoke Shop BBQ