Danielle Young, Revival Eastside Eatery


Work hard and be nice.

-Danielle Young


What would you like for lunch? If you’re feeling a sandwich, maybe the Weight of Glory or the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Or maybe the Golden Calf burger, but then there’s the Eve salad…

Those who have been to Revival Eastside Eatery on Elm Avenue in Waco are familiar with this unique menu. Revival Eastside Eatery has been around for about sixteen months and has made a big splash with it’s not-so-typical menu names and delicious food.

One would think that successfully opening a restaurant with an outside-the-box menu in an up-and-coming neighborhood the owner would have to be born and bred an entrepreneur. One would sorely be mistaken.

Danielle Young opened Revival Eastside Eatery with her husband, Travis, in the summer of 2019. Originally from North Carolina, Danielle and Travis moved to Waco in 2011 so she could attend Baylor. She received both her master and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from Baylor. After falling in love with the city, the two decided to make Waco their home. Danielle soon took a role as Clinical Research Coordinator at Baylor while also seeing patients as a clinical psychologist serving children. Opening a restaurant wasn’t even a blip on their radar. 

Well, it wasn’t until it was.

This self described risk averse, research loving psychologist was simply enjoying life in Waco. She likes to say that Waco just kind of sucks people in after a while.

On one fateful night in 2017 Danielle and Travis were driving around Waco trying to find a place to eat dinner. They wanted to support a local business, but they also wanted something a little on the healthier side. One thing led to another and someone actually uttered the famous last words . . .  How hard could it be to open a restaurant?

The consensus between the two was instead of complaining about the lack of restaurant variety, they instead should do something about it. Afterall, how hard could it be? Danielle and Travis spent the next eighteen months working on a business plan for a restaurant. They evaluated if it was feasible, the kind of costs involved, what the competition would look like and who the customers would be. How hard could it be? Very hard. But the two soon started to dream of what could be.

The dream… a restaurant with unique food that’s fresh, tasty and is Texas-sourced; a place that’s not too fancy and kind of casual; somewhere with exceptional service and reasonably priced menu items. The dream wasn’t novel by any means, but Danielle and Travis felt it was novel for Waco.

The next big, big thing for Danielle and Travis to consider was location. Where would be the best place for their novel-to-Waco eatery? Danielle looked at the development of downtown Waco and felt that it made sense to expand beyond downtown. Elm Avenue was the perfect spot. Lula Jane’s was already an established neighborhood favorite, but there was nothing on Elm like the dream. Elm was deep in history and rich in culture. To Danielle and Travis, Elm was perfect.

They soon agreed that 704 Elm Avenue would be home to the dream. This particular property had been vacant for about ten years. It was previously the Waco Community Baptist Church. As the demo work on the building began, locals immediately flocked to the property to share stories and memories of attending the old church. It became clear that this dream-inspired eatery would also be steeped in that deep Elm history and culture. And what better way to pay tribute than to call the restaurant Revival! More specifically, Revival Eastside Eatery to also acknowledge the up-and-coming East Waco neighborhood. 

Since the building was an old church, the two decided to completely lean into it with the menu. And this is where the Weight of Glory and Technicolor Dreamcoat sandwiches come into play. Other notable mentions are the Golden Calf burger and the Eve and Garden of Eating salads.

This novel-to-Waco eatery became a hit. Word spread and Revival soon became a hot spot for locals and out-of-town folks alike. The eatery even received a nod from Magnolia.

Remember that question… how hard can it be? In less than a year of opening the unthinkable happened. In March 2020, restaurants were in a mandatory shutdown due to Covid-19. From the onset, Danielle and Travis were committed to do what was necessary to keep all of their staff. To say there was an immediate pivot in day-to-day operations is the understatement of a lifetime. At the time of the shutdown, the eatery didn’t even have online ordering. Literally overnight, an online ordering system was developed and “curbside pickup” became the new norm.

With the mindset we’re all in this together, the next task at hand became how to help the community. Families were now at home together. Parents were both working at home as well as teaching their children at home. With that in mind, the idea of Family Meals came into play. Keeping it as easy as possible with an “order today and pick up tomorrow” concept. The benefits of Family Meals were two-fold, not only did this give families room to plan ahead but it also allowed for the eatery to prepare without a significant amount of food waste. The Family Meals soon became a huge hit and ultimately helped carry the restaurant when the dining room was closed.

After the eatery was able to open up the dining room again, Revival continued with Family Meals. While not near as many orders are placed, it’s still a popular menu item.

In effort to be socially conscientious, Revival also made some front-of-the-house adjustments. Instead of counter-service ordering, customers are now seated and ordering is done table side. QR codes are affixed to the tables so customers can view a touchless menu via scan. While the initial implementation of the table-side ordering with QR codes was for social distancing purposes, Danielle likes the process and actually looks for it to continue.

Throughout all of the unexpected ups and downs the past eight months have thrown at Danielle, she continues the day-to-day mindset of work hard and be nice. A mindset that definitely helped make a dream come true.

Q&A

Question submitted by Dr. Boris Nikolaev, Entrepreneurship Professor
The restaurant business is very competitive. Were you aware of the risks when you decided to open a business?

Yes, and people thought we were insane for opening a restaurant. We were aware of the failure rates and did our own research. We learned a few things along the way. We learned some of the common causes for failure are:

  1. Renting and not owning your own space — rent can go up and you have no control
  2. Location. Location. Location.
  3. Underestimating costs

Question submitted by Dr.Peter Klein, Entrepreneurship Department Chair
How have the city’s specific development efforts on Elm Avenue either helped or harmed your business?

With TIF (tax increment financing) the mindset is there are small grants that can help renovate buildings. We were able to get a little bit of money to help redo the facade work. The city took care of new sidewalks. Elm Avenue will be under construction for the next 18 months, so it will be good and bad. Great improvements, but folks will have a hard time getting to the restaurant.

Question submitted by Bradley Settles, student
How do you feel about the current direction of the East Waco development?

We’ve been in business for 16 months. The city is very mindful about development on Elm Avenue. City Center Waco also works with the community, being intentional about development and striving to put the community needs above businesses. 

Question submitted by Dr. Boris Nikolaev, Entrepreneurship Professor
What do you do that sets your business apart from other similar businesses?

We do a really good job of being hospitable and welcoming. We work hard to train our staff. Our customer service is great! We also don’t take ourselves too seriously. We have the mindset of whatever the customer wants, we will make it — a picky eater’s delight!

Question submitted by Gib Reynolds, Director 1845 Incubator
With turnover being so high in this industry, what do you do to take care of your staff?

We started July 2019 and still have four of an original staff of nine. We practice shared tips. With shared tips, our staff takes home somewhere between $16-$18 an hour depending on the day.

Our philosophy is everyone is working hard whether or not the customer sees it. We want to make sure our people are taken care of. The cool thing about being an owner and working on site you get to regularly see your staff and their needs. Loving employees well is something we do differently.

Question submitted by Dr. Boris Nikolaev, Entrepreneurship Professor
If you could do something different on your entrepreneurial journey what would it be?

When we first started we were looking at chefs and actually paid someone to create the  menu and recipe development. We very soon realized that we were investing a lot of money. Two weeks before the Revival grand opening we let the chef go because we didn’t have anything tangible. In the two weeks before opening I redesigned the entire menu. I reworked food costs and sought out Texas-sourced vendors. In hindsight, I would have believed more in myself from the get-go.

Even though Revival isn’t exactly what we thought it would be, we feel it’s even better now. It’s fun to watch what happens when you trust the process and absolutely trust yourself.


For additional outtakes from the interview with Danielle, please visit the Baylor Baugh Center YouTube page.

Outtake 1: https://bit.ly/3o7sGaI
Outtake 2: https://bit.ly/35cA6AD

For more information about the John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/entrepreneur/.

 

ENT Buzz | Kathy Carr


Kathy Carr, Program Manager Baugh Center Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise

 

WHO IS KATHY CARR?

I am a Baylor grad with a BBA in Marketing. My daughter, Emily, is a Nutrition Sciences major and she just wrapped up her freshman year here at Baylor. I love living in Waco. For me, the perfect Saturday morning in Waco is a long walk in Cameron Park and a stop by the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, followed up by coffee at one of the local coffee shops. I may or may not drink a little too much coffee, but thankfully Waco is full of locally owned coffee shops!


WHAT DO YOU DO AT BAYLOR?

I’ve been working in the Entrepreneurship department for almost five years. For most of my career, I worked in marketing and communications within franchising organizations. As a Program Manager in the Entrepreneurship department, I’ve been able to blend my past experiences within an academia setting. One of my favorite things is managing the Confessions of an Entrepreneur speaker series. I love getting to know local business owners and giving them a platform to talk about their entrepreneurial journey… a platform to confess. I feel that these business owners have so much insight to offer and that Baylor students can learn so much from them.


WHAT’S SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT WORKING IN THE ENT DEPARTMENT?

I was used to working with executives and business owners so the transition to working with professors has definitely been an adjustment. Who knew that stuffy business school professors could actually be quirky and cool! One Entrepreneurship professor rides his Razor Scooter to the office each day and another actually had his five-minutes-of-fame while unwittingly walking in the background of a TikTok video that was filmed in the business school. Good times!


WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BAYLOR TRADITION?

The Baylor Line is such an incredible experience that is unique to Baylor. It was so much fun watching my daughter run the line this past football season. I was never able to actually find her on the field in the sea of gold jerseys, but fortunately I did get a “Mom, I didn’t fall!” text each game.


WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A NEW ENT MAJOR?

Get to know the Entrepreneurship department faculty and staff! They may be quirky and cool, but they also have a ton of experience and know-how. 


For more information on Baylor Entrepreneurship, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/entrepreneurship/.

 

Austin & Julia Meek, Pokey O’s

If you’re not putting in the work,
there’s just no way you’re going to achieve the results you want.

-Austin Meek


Austin and Julia Meek aren’t your typical “business-type” business owners. Neither of them grew up with entrepreneurial aspirations, but everything they did prepared them for a journey of a lifetime.

Both Austin and Julia are from the Dallas area, but their paths never actually crossed in the metroplex. In high school Julia worked part time at Pokey O’s, an up-and-coming Dallas ice cream parlor that had the brilliant idea to combine soft, home-made cookies with ice cream.

After high school, Julia went on to study at Baylor, but she would return to Pokey O’s to work during breaks from classes. Austin moved to Bryan to study at Texas A&M.

The two ultimately met in Waco through Austin’s sister Rachel, who was in the same sorority as Julia. A friendship ensued, but they each went in separate directions to pursue individual career goals after graduation in 2010. Julia moved to Los Angeles to work as a comic, and Austin moved to Austin with friends and worked on a film called ‘Believe Me.’

In 2013 the two reconnected in Austin through mutual friends working on the ‘Believe Me’ film. Julia returned to Los Angeles, but one phone call led to another, which led to another… After a couple of years, Julia was ready to return back to Texas. 

Austin had been accepted to Baylor law school and Julia felt that Waco would be the perfect place to reconnect with her ice cream roots and open a Pokey O’s. In January 2015, Austin and Julia got married and moved to Waco.

The newlyweds had a thumbs-up from the Pokey O’s owners in Dallas and were given all of the recipes and branding needed to proceed with a plan of opening a Pokey O’s in Waco. The Waco location would be different because Julia had plans for a food truck rather than a storefront.

They soon purchased a cargo van for $15,000 via Craigslist and took it to an RV shop to put in a sink creating the original Pokey O’s truck.

Austin believes that the path for Pokey O’s was paved because Julia put in so many hours building a trust while working at the Pokey O’s in Dallas. Julia’s hard work for all of those years provided the foundation to building the success of the Waco Pokey O’s.  Austin says, “If you’re not putting in the work there’s just no way you’re going to achieve the results you want.”

Pokey O’s Waco officially opened April 11, 2015.

Austin and Julia did things a little differently with Pokey O’s than most food trucks. They never established a home base for the Pokey O’s truck. Through social media, customers were incentivized to find them each day. A sort of scavenger hunt, if you will.

The thinking is that it’s less about location and more about Instagramable moments. It was free marketing when customers took decadent, mouth-watering pics of the ice cream desserts. They found that customers were looking for novelty rather than location and convenience.

Austin says, “Creating a product that’s really unique is something every small business should think about.”

He continues to explain that Pokey O’s could have come to Waco as an ice cream specialty store and would have ultimately been competing with Baskin Robbins or existing frozen yogurt stores. Or it could have come to Waco with a cookie specialty competing with local bakeries. Instead, Pokey O’s presented Waco with a brand new product in an ice cream sandwich. Customers recognize Pokey O’s as different and they love the whimsy of the brand and they are willing to pay for that. 

Austin and Julia jumped into the world of entrepreneurship feet first, without hesitation. There have been a few hiccups along the way with establishing a home-base commissary kitchen and testing the waters with a brick and mortar storefront. The goal is still to eventually open a store front, but location and vibe are key.

Austin stresses that there’s absolutely no substitute for hard work and that you get what you put into it. He says, “You have to create opportunities for yourself and capitalize on them.”

Austin and Julia are definitely on a sweet path to success with Pokey O’s. Sic ‘Em!


For more information on Austin and Julia’s entrepreneurial journey with Pokey O’s, please watch their Confessions of an Entrepreneur YouTube video.

For more information about the John F. Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise, please visit our website at baylor.edu/business/entrepreneur/.