When Tom Kaufman opened The Living Room at DC Ranch in 2014, he knew he wanted to differentiate his business from other wine bars and restaurants in the Valley.
He decorated his dining room with plush seating, offered myriad wine options and utilized every inch he could of a kitchen he describes as being smaller than his bathroom.
Yet, Kaufman still felt there was a missing ingredient to elevate The Living Room from a neighborhood wine lounge to a recognized restaurant.
“When I wrote the business plan, I said to myself and the possible investor, ‘I don’t want to be one of 10,000 restaurants in Arizona and I don’t want to be one of six or seven lounges. I equate this place more to a resort lounge,’” Kaufman recalled.
“I’m a wine guy and I always wanted to do a wine bar that wasn’t cork dorky. I wanted it to be more a place to come and hang out that still has great wine options.”
Kaufman also became alarmed when he learned of statewide criteria an establishment has to meet to be defined as a restaurant.
“Arizona has certain criteria for certain liquor licenses. So, to be defined as a restaurant, you have to sell at least 40% food,” he said. “So we were, with all humility, popular and we sold a lot of wine and alcohol but I wanted to have great food offerings because that’s that sustainability in the restaurant business. Buyers come and go, but if you have great food that’s the anchor of a great restaurant.”
In its first year of selling food, the food accounted for 39% of the restaurant’s sales, allowing Kaufman to get a six-month extension to get over the hump set by state regulations.
The Living Room at DC Ranch cleared the