Bon Appetit

Pity Jordan R. Bernstein; part of his job involves testing the best restaurants in the city

Published in 2014 Southern California Rising Stars — July 2014

Jordan R. Bernstein says it’s a misconception that 90 percent of restaurants are destined to fail.

“You have to structure a deal that really allows the people with the proper skills to actually use them,” he explains. “Give the chef who has run a back-of-the-house restaurant full control of back of the house, and the general manager control of front of the house. You don’t want a financial investor trying to say what the menu should be, or what vendor you should use.”

Bernstein, an associate at Michelman & Robinson in Los Angeles, helps new owners navigate the restaurant landscape. His clients include award-winning chefs in Southern California and restaurants that are expanding single concepts to other locations.

“All my clients know that I am completely immersed in that world,” he says.

He grew up in New York City, where he acquired an eclectic palate. At the University of Michigan, Bernstein and his friends taught themselves to cook gourmet food: soft-shell crab meunière and tagliatelle cacio e pepe. After Brooklyn Law School, he started out his legal career litigating, and gradually built up a solid restaurant client base.

He knows businesses can fail—he worked at Bear Stearns before it imploded—and advises careful planning, structure and funding for his startup clients. “My No. 1 piece of advice for them is to take a deep breath, slow down, and focus on what you really want to do,” he says. “You have to take the steps to properly fund yourselves and make the proper strategic choices. Do your homework before diving in.”

Bernstein’s homework involves testing the hottest restaurants. “That’s one of the perks of the job,” he says. “It’s also how I meet clients. I’ll just go someplace, and if I don’t know someone there, I’ll focus on who I believe is in management, and figure out a way to introduce myself.”

So would he ever start his own restaurant?

“You need to be fully committed as a business owner,” he says. “For a full-service restaurant, you’re either going to be working early in the morning to set up shop or working through the night to service.”

He adds, “At the right point I’d do it.”

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