By Nona Phinn
Side hustle. Nowadays, every person has one – a sideline gig that brings in supplemental income. A side hustle is not a bread-and-butter job but the job – or, rather, the passion – that allows you to experiment and pursue a pie-in-the-sky reality.
The passion pursuit distinguishes a side hustle from a part-time or second job. On your side gig, it’s your time, not an employer’s time. The boss of the side hustle is you.
Honestly, a person without one these days is a person in the minority. With no sideline gig, you might be left on the sidelines, for a side hustle shift has occurred. And now pursuing a passion without quitting your day job is no longer the sole pursuit of the individual. Businesses have decided to get into the game too.
For one, Gotham Bar and Grill, a popular New York City restaurant in Greenwich Village, is delving into the world of the side hustle. This establishment opened its doors in 1984 and started serving modern American cuisine. As have many restaurants, it’s seen its fair share of ups and downs. However, through the years an innovative mind-set and culture have made room for reinvention, leading to Gotham’s continued success.
No reservations required for Gotham’s most recent transformation. The restaurant now provides additional experiences for its fans that do more than get diners in the doors at 12 E. 12th. It has secured exclusive rights on swank and tony products and service lines that have garnered the attention of adoring fans and captured the eyes of new ones. Wine, gourmet chocolate, specialty items, and catering are a few of Gotham’s side hustles.
On its 25th anniversary, Gotham unveiled a cabernet sauvignon that was birthed out of a special relationship the restaurant’s managing partner Brett Csencsitz cultivated with one of the restaurant’s wine purveyors. Csencsitz spent time discovering his winemaking techniques and tossed out the wild idea that they make wine together.
A few years later, they created the 12 E 12 label for Gotham’s premium pinot noir. Recently added to the line is a chardonnay, from a different winery but the process
and production of the wine followed the same model. Each year, Gotham commits to a quantity agreeable to the winemaker, and the restaurant participates in the making of the wine.
Csencsitz admits that the history, the culture, and the science behind winemaking and learning the secrets of what makes great wine versus good wine completely mesmerize him. Now he gets the wonderful pleasure of participating in wine production for Gotham.
Csencsitz strives to cultivate rapport with Gotham’s vendors and suppliers because he learned early on that these connections can make a world of difference. “If we just start by getting to know who we are buying from and understand them, there are often ways that you can turn that into a creative enterprise,” Csencsitz explains.
Gotham established another partnership with celebrity event planner Colin Cowie. This collaboration formed a new and exciting catering company, F.O.O.D. Inc. The premise of F.O.O.D Inc. is haute cuisine, usually found only in fine dining restaurants, offered now to a table near you. The catering company provides its delicate dishes to homes, events, and anywhere else an exceptional dining experience is required.
Gotham Selections is another side hustle meant to leverage the name and reputation of Gotham Bar and Grill to a nationwide audience. Gotham Selections also blossomed from an existing connection. “We imported an olive oil where we had a relationship with the family, and we put our stamp of approval on it,” Csencsitz recounts.
Now, Gotham Selections products are stocked in specialty fine foods stores and online.
And then there’s chocolate. Ron Paprocki, Gotham’s executive pastry chef, is the mastermind behind Gotham Chocolates. “Chocolate is more than a curiosity for me. It’s something I really enjoy working with,” Paprocki shares.
Paprocki mentioned to Csencsitz his idea of offering chocolates to Gotham’s customers. That notion became a reality just in time for the holidays. Right before Valentine’s Day 2015, Gotham began selling its specialty-made bonbons online and retail. A popular tasting table blog picked up the story of Gotham’s new venture, and the restaurant found itself inundated with orders. “We were overwhelmed, which is a good problem to have,” Csencsitz describes.
Today, Gotham Chocolates products remain popular during the holidays. The restaurant experiences the flux of sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then through Valentine’s Day and on to Easter and Mother’s Day.
Production of the chocolates began in the restaurant and remains in Gotham’s kitchen. This venture not only generates revenue for the restaurant but also “satisfies the pastry team’s desires to be more involved with chocolate,” Paprocki says.
“I enjoy working with the ingredient and certainly making bonbons and confections, that’s right up my alley. I was finding an outlet to work with chocolate but then also needed to be able to sell it, so it doesn’t become a money loser. It was a passion that we certainly made work,” Paprocki says.
Isn’t making room for experimenting with the thing we love the very premise of a side hustle? For Gotham, these side ventures are more than product extensions. They are passion projects that reflect the hearts and dreams of the team.
Usually, individuals with a sideline gig at first are unsure how to take a heart-beating interest and turn it into their livelihood. So, they dabble here and there until they land on that perfect recipe, when passion and purpose collide to generate the income they need to eliminate the side from their hustle.
Gotham has made room for this to happen for the members of its staff. Paprocki’s love for chocolate was transformed into an extended product line that creates buzz around major chocolate-gifting holidays. A fascination with wine that bubbled inside Csencsitz flowed forth as the restaurant’s very own label.
In addition to its ability to innovate and reinvent itself, Gotham has another key trait that contributes to its success: a longevity of employees not seen often in the restaurant industry. A constant core team provides exceptional consistency to customers, from entrées to service. Needless to say, employees who are given permission to foster their passion into a side gig for the business are employees who stay.
Csencsitz believes success can be gained when you permit employees to explore and connect their zeal with their daily job. “I would encourage organizations, managers, and business leaders to allow their employees to satisfy the itch to do something different or new. Ultimately, in most cases, it will be a win for the organization.”
It’s never easy to decide to dive into new waters, especially when you’re already swimming in the open ocean. However, the side hustle shift provides the opportunity to explore the shallow end before making any big waves. For businesses, there is much to consider because sideline gigs usually never supplant the main gig. Instead, they involve bridging each venture to support and grow the organization as a whole.
For Gotham, each side hustle leverages the 30-year-old name and reputation of Gotham Bar and Grill, a marker of quality and consistency, to provide deliciousness to a broader audience. Find a way for your business to take advantage of the side hustle phenomenon and use it to innovate, engage employees, and plunge into the future.
Don’t get caught without one.
We want everyone to find their side hustle!” Csencsitz exclaims.