Lola's Fine Kitchen Heats Up in DSM
Hannah Elliott, chef and managing partner at Lola’s Fine Kitchen, shared how she began the business with Greater Des Moines Partnership Director of Small Business Development Christina Moffatt during the latest Small Business and Startup Stories podcast.
Elliott, who is known as Lola to friends, family and staff, explained how the term stand for grandmother in the Philippines. While she is not a grandmother herself, her own Lola lived with her until she passed away when Elliott was in her 20s. She, too, was a cook like Elliott, making the love of cooking a family affair.
Elliott said the business is about family, and more specifically, eating together as a family. Her parents are Filipino and Pakistani so she wanted to infuse those creative flavors into recipes for her own restaurant. Her brother had already begun selling their mom’s sauce locally, giving it out to friends who really liked it starting in 2015. Now the sauce is sold nationwide and a few countries outside the U.S. The restaurant opened in June 2018 and has persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic and 2021, which has had its own unique difficulties following 2020.
Streamlining During COVID-19
Before the pandemic really set in here in the states, Elliott reached out to friends in Asia who were already grappling with it there. She went ahead and set up delivery options through third-party sites like DoorDash before the demand increased. Lola’s Fine Kitchen closed for two days before Elliott pivoted to curbside pickup for a month. She also started selling to the co-op and created demand that way. As takeout became the norm, the business became more efficient. Elliott said she has learned the most regarding staffing. She now knows what they can do and what they can’t do, that she doesn’t want to push the staff too much and she knows what the restaurant needs. She also said that she’s learned that you can use third-party sites to your advantage. When you become a favorite of a site like DoorDash, you can benefit from extra marketing that helps get your name out there.
Elliott also discussed balancing family and business, her business’ location in the Prairie Trail neighborhood in Ankeny, new challenges as an established business, branding through social media and other marketing and advertising opportunities.
Find out more about Lola’s Fine Kitchen here.
Listen to the entire podcast above.
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Startup Stories DSM
Startup Stories DSM is a podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs who share both their victories and failures on their paths to success. It is produced by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.