From ownership and operations to transactions and online guides, the Zimmermans have done just about everything in the restaurant business.
On January 1, 2005, Jacob Zimmerman, a 25-year-old graduate of the Cornell hotel-management program and an Internet pioneer, announced the launching of RestaurantGuide.com, his new online restaurant venture. This site will function as an internationally known world-class restaurant guide, providing everything a user needs to choose a restaurant and links to resources such as reservations and online ordering systems.
Although other online restaurant guides exist, Zimmerman is not worried about the competition. “Our name sells itself. It’s a no-brainer.” He continues, “What restaurant owner wouldn’t want to be found on RestaurantGuide.com?” The site currently receives thousands of visitors each month, and there are plans for an aggressive public relations campaign to commence by the beginning of 2006.
Zimmerman hopes to differentiate RestaurantGuide.com by maintaining a simple “Value Added” concept. Sites such as CitySearch provide guides to just about everything, not just restaurants. Even Zagat, a very popular restaurant site, has recently diversified into other industries, but also is more of a review site which limits its coverage of cities. “Both Zagat and CitySearch are great sites, and there are other good sites out there as well. I’m not looking to compete with them. We are just an alternative advertising directory for restaurant owners and an easy-to-navigate guide for users – without distracting banners or pop-up ads. It really is that simple!”
For a yearly fee, RestaurantGuide.com will host menus, pictures, and details about the restaurant. The site will also include links to an existing business site, and other sites that provide services such as online reservations, ordering, coupons, and gift-certificate sales. General membership is free and users will have the ability to easily log in and get information about restaurants or map directions to a particular location.
Zimmerman comes from a long line of restaurant business entrepreneurs. Arthur Zimmerman, Jacob’s grandfather, was the founder of Zim’s – one of the largest privately held restaurant chains in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1940s to early 1990s. Arthur Zimmerman was part of the first group of inaugurates into the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s “Restaurateur Hall of Fame” in San Francisco. “I have to be honest that I can’t even use the Internet, but I know Jacob has been successful and I’m sure that trend will continue,” said Arthur. The younger Zimmerman continues, “My grandpa Art is the best. I know it’s because of him that I’m able to do a lot of things. He and my grandmother were my initial investors, or I should say, ‘gifters,’ six years ago when I started my first business. The investment was conditional on me returning to school and finishing my degree, a task I accomplished. Having that kind of support is priceless.”
Steven Zimmerman, Jacob’s father, built California’s largest restaurant business brokerage, Restaurant Realty Company (www.restaurantrealty.com). Steven started Restaurant Realty Company in 1996 and has since facilitated close to 400 restaurant business transactions. “My son definitely has the entrepreneurial bug in his blood. When he started his first business at the age of 19, I wasn’t sure about it. Now, I think what he is doing is great and it is exciting to see him succeed where so many others have failed.” Jacob has served as the director of information technology for Restaurant Realty Company since 1998. This position led to the development of his first venture, Restaurants for Sale Online (www.restaurants-for-sale.com), in 1999. This site has become one of the largest online databases for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs for sale, featuring over 1,000 listings and over 9,000 registered buyers.
Jacob agrees that the first site was more of an offspring of his father’s company. “This new concept is all mine, and I can’t wait to see it through.” Steven will serve as a business management consultant on the RestaurantGuide.com board, but doesn’t anticipate being too involved. “He knows what he is doing, but I’ll be there to provide advice if he needs it” said Steven.