A group of recent University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduates are turning hard work into success as owners of a trendy new dining spot near campus.
Kitchen on KIinton was created by Tre’Jan Vinson, Corey McCoy, Avery Bell and Jared Johnson in the fall of 2016 as fraternity brothers in Kappa Alpha Psi when four of them set out to own their own business.
“We all realized we wanted to be entrepreneurs and we had a couple of ideas of businesses we wanted to start,” Vinson said. “Eventually, it boiled down to Avery and Corey deciding we wanted to sell plates. We tried a few things out like pastas, chicken, fish and boiling crawfish, but the chicken is what stuck.”
“We kind of started just for fun, cooking wings and eating them because we all liked them,” Corey McCoy told KATC. “Eventually, our friends kept asking for it to the point where we realized we could open a successful business.”
In 2016, they began providing catering services to a number of local events. As the money poured in, they decided to funnel it all toward construction of a food truck, courtesy of Bell’s father.
“We saved up enough money to get our food truck built,” Vinson said. “Avery’s dad actually built the food truck. We bought a plain trailer, and he built the truck from the ground up.”
On Aug. 31, the company opened its stationary location across from campus, which will be used in conjunction with the food truck. They occupy the building previously reserved for Linebackers on University Avenue. The owners also described challenges with staffing the restaurant, starting with six, and eventually working their way to 35 people. They said they are just beginning to realize how challenging it can be to keep a staff and keep it organized.
Early reviews from customers of the chicken joint are positive. With 157 reviews, the business registers a perfect 5 out of 5 rating, according to Facebook.
Reece Theriot, president and founder of Fulcrum Sales & Marketing and university business professor, said he attended the restaurant’s grand opening. He complimented Kitchen On Klinton’s ability to stand out in a crowded Lafayette restaurant space and the eatery’s quality of food, service and lively atmosphere.
Theriot said the atmosphere is what makes KOK so special.
“I think what makes KOK different is they are serving a younger crowd,” Theriot said. “I think they represent a place for people who didn’t necessarily have a place before—a place to hang out, to eat good food, to meet new people that are like them. It’s a younger, diverse, fun crowd.”
Theriot said he thinks a major challenge for any startup business is financial decision making, and the ability to set up a secure foundation early so that bad deals don’t
get you later.
“That’s why startup businesses should have a lawyer, and that’s expensive,” Theriot said. “Their lease agreements, those are big decisions tied to big financial consequences. Getting the right lease, buying the right equipment, structuring their business correctly, all of those checks and balances that you learn in business school are important. Those are the kinds of things that they need to pay attention to, and I think they are.”
Theriot did warn against the dangers of rapid growth and a business becoming too much to manage too quickly for Vinson, McCoy, Bell and Johnson at KOK.
“Those guys are phenomenal, and they’re surrounding themselves with good people,” Theriot said. “I have a special place in my heart for them. I’m nervous that they’ll grow too quickly, and when you grow too quickly, the beast starts to get created and it gets kind of out of control...If they were to ask me ‘Hey Reece, what should we think about?’...I would say, ‘Rapid growth is a great problem to have, but it could be dangerous too.’”
A constant theme for the foursome: sacrifice.
“You have to be willing to lose a lot,” Vinson said. “You sacrifice time, events, parties, money and relationships.”
“How successful do you want to be versus your personal life, and how you want to balance it,” Bell asked. “People just see the good side of success, but with something being so successful, it takes a lot of your time and energy...It’s not a cakewalk.”