327: Turning a dinner club into a successful restaurant with Joshua Kulp and Christine Cikowski


In this episode, we discuss: how to scale from a dinner club to a brick and mortar operation, why they chose Tock to handle reservations with their dinner club, treating growth like a marathon, why you should invest in system and culture training before you open your restaurant, implementing bottom line change, managing work-life balance, and being clear about expectations.

Joshua Kulp and Christine Cikowski are the chef partners behind Honey Butter Fried Chicken located in Chicago, IL. What started as a Sunday Night Dinner Club has evolved into something truly amazing. Since 2013, Honey Butter Fried Chicken has believed in awesome ingredients, stellar service, and strong community, They also believe that you should feel good about your food—where it comes from, how it’s prepared, how it is served and by whom.


Show notes…

Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.


“Be genuine and helpful.”


“All advice is autobiographical.”



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Resources Mentioned

tocktix.com– Tock is revolutionary software built to fundamentally change the way restaurants run their business. Tock is an entirely different kind of software company. We have restaurant people working on tech and tech people working in restaurants. Tock is faster, more compatible, always up-to-date, and constantly improving. Restaurants have used crappy software for too long. Get ready for Tock.

Zingtrain.com– Seminars & Workshops. What We Offer · Schedule & Registration · We Can Help You Choose. Personalized Training. Training · Keynotes · Meet Our Trainers.

Career Challenge or Failure

Christine struggled early on finding work-life balance. She had become accustomed to taking week long trips prior to opening their restaurant, and when they got SUPER busy after opening, she did not have time for herself. When she did make time for herself, it was too much time. You need to find then adopt to the sweet spot of work-life balance.

Knowledge bombs

  1. Which “it factor” habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?

    • Christine: will not quit
    • Josh: being thoughtful about what he’s doing
  2. What is your biggest weakness?

    • Christine: loving too much
    • Josh: being too in his head and not in the moment.
  3. What is one piece of advice you have for leading others?

    • Be a servant leader.
    • Become able to adapt to the unique learning styles of the people you’re teaching.
  4. What’s one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?

    • Look for decency and respect for other people.
    • Get a feel their heart.
  5. What’s a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?

    • How to expand the company while maintaining what makes it special in the first place.
    • Move very slow and always make the best decision for you people and company
  6. What’s one thing (besides food) your restaurant does well and separates you from other restaurants?

    • The way they treat and develop their employees.
  7. What’s one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?

    1. A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading)
    2. A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading)
    3. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
    4. A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to the Power of Beliefs in Business (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading)
  8. What’s one piece of technology you’ve adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?

    1. Slack Team communication for the 21st century. Organize your team conversations in open channels. Make a channel for a project, a topic, a team, or anything—everyone has a transparent view of all that’s going on.For sensitive information, create private channels and invite a few team members. No one else can see or join your private channels. To reach a colleague directly, send them a Direct Message. It’s completely private and secure.
  9. With all the knowledge you have now if you could go back in time and give your past self one piece of business advice, What would it be and why?

    1. Start exercising now, you’ll thank yourself later.

Contact Info





Instagram/twitter: @HoneyButterChi

Instagram/twitter: @SundayDinnerChi 

Facebook: @Honeybutterfriedchicken


Thanks for Listening!

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Huge thanks to Joshua & Christine for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!