As Seen in Cornell Hotel School Magazine – By Cydney Peters – Spring 2005
For Jacob Zimmerman ’03, success is just a click away. Zimmerman is preparing for the launch of his latest business venture —RestaurantGuide.com, an online restaurant guide he has created.
Zimmerman plans for his site to serve as a world-class restaurant guide, providing everything a user needs to choose a restaurant with links to additional resources such as reservations and online ordering systems. For an annual fee, RestaurantGuide.com will host menus, pictures and information on a restaurant.
Although similar guides exist, such as Zagat and CitySearch, Zimmerman is confident that he has carved a unique niche.
“We are an alternative advertising directory for restaurant owners and an easy-to-navigate guide for users without distracting pop-up ads,” he said. “Everyone is trying to make money. We are too, but our focus is on adding value for restaurant owners. That’s where we are different.”
Zimmerman is a third-generation restaurant business entrepreneur. His grandfather, Arthur, was founder of Zim’s, one of the largest privately held restaurant chains in the San Francisco Bay Area for nearly half a century. He also was part of the first group of inaugurates into the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s ‘Restaurateur Hall of Fame’ in San Francisco. Jacob’s father, Steven ’73, built California’s largest restaurant business brokerage, Restaurant Realty Company, and has facilitated nearly 400 restaurant business transactions since 1996.
“My son definitely has the entrepreneurial blood,” Steve said. “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.”
In 1999, Zimmerman’s grandparents provided the seed money for Zimmerman’s first business venture, Restaurants For Sale Online (www.restaurants-for-sale.com) — a still-thriving online resource for buying and selling restaurants, bars and nightclubs. That initial investment was conditional, however, on Arthur’s insistence that his grandson return to school and complete his degree.
“Having that kind of support is priceless,” Jacob said.
When Jacob arrived at Cornell as a transfer from the University of California system, he already had a strong measure of business smarts.
“My real-world experience helped me a great deal while I was at Cornell because I knew what I needed to ‘pull’ from each class,” said Zimmerman. “I was less focused on the actual letter grade than on learning what was going to be helpful to my future.”
Zimmerman cites two Hotel courses that have proved especially helpful to his personal and business success: Professor Mary Tabacchi’s class on Management of Wellness in Business and visiting Professor David Chappell’s class on Strategic Management.
“Professor Chappell’s class taught me to find value and think outside the box,” said Zimmerman. “My RestaurantGuide concept is totally different from what is currently available on the Internet. I’m adding value to every component of my site to make it a mutually beneficial experience for both the users and the restaurant owners.”
Zimmerman has this advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “The hardest part is finding a concept you truly believe in. If you take care of all the personal issues in your life first, everything else will follow. Enjoying your work and work environment is natural once you find the right concept.”