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Meet Matt Buskard of Bobcat Bonnie’s

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matt Buskard, owner of Bobcat Bonnie’s

Hi Matt, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
We first opened in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit back in 2015. Matt grew up in the Grand Rapids area and has worked in restaurants his whole life. His dream was to bring a restaurant to the city that was for everyone. Here we are – 7 years later and 6, almost 7 locations later! We have locations across Michigan in Detroit, Ferndale, Wyandotte, Ypsilanti, Clinton Township, and Grand Rapids. We also have a location in Toledo on the way! We have something for everyone to try – From cocktails to mocktails, to always having vegan options on our menu. Every Saturday & Sunday we have Brunch where we feature our Build Your Own Mimosa and Bloody Mary Bar! 

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It was not a smooth road- we had some bumps. Lots of staffing things- but also a lot of growth on my part. There is no preparing for being a business owner- and you find a lot of challenges that you are not prepared for. There have been many times over the years where we’ve been excited for what we got accomplished- and others where you look back and wish that maybe you handled something better, responded kinder, chose your words better or made a better choice. It’s incredibly difficult and challenging navigating the needs of your customers, staff, managers, significant others, family, and your own needs. There is a lot of learning and apologies that go along with opening your own business. It’s really rewarding- but it’s also the wildest learning experience, and so humbling. I recommend having a really great counselor to help you work through a lot of these things (I know I had a lot of work myself to do to be a better leader, friend, and partner!) 

With 6 locations in 6 years, you have to be! Bobcat Bonnie’s wouldn’t be what it is today without our team taking risks. Whether it be opening up in a brand-new area, such as Grand Rapids, or starting construction in a new state. (Toledo coming soon!) We have had to take many risks in our 6, almost 7 years open for business but we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Bobcat Bonnie’s is meant to be your neighborhood spot. The spot you can come to after a long day to unwind – or the spot or bring your out-of-town friend. We offer extensive vegan options as well as unique twists on common dishes – Like our Captain Crunch Chicken Fingers! We offer Brunch on Saturdays & Sundays with our Build Your Own Mimosa and Bloody Mary Bar. We pride ourselves in having an inviting atmosphere. With murals from local artist Joey Salamon in every location – to fun art on the walls of each store. Our Ypsilanti location actually has an arcade bar in its basement – called Keystone Bar & Arcade! 

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
Risk-taking is the name of the game. During COVID there was no road map, there was no big support, and no one you could turn to who had experience with this- so everything was a risk. I was lucky we had a really great team- but it was really risky and scary. You wanted to protect your people, and the people coming into your restaurant who put their trust in you- so you had to really work through a lot of different things and juggle a lot of different things. I use to get SO nervous opening a new store and taking that risk (would it work, would people like it, would we have staff who buy into the concept, would we have enough cash to get the project done, etc!) There was so much risk- but you have to really listen to smarter voices and following the guidance given to you, but also follow the feelings of the staff you’re working with. The most important thing we found out during COVID was that we really needed to have an even stronger focus on how we are supporting staff (inherently- you won’t make everyone happy- and there is always those who feel you can do more…) but truly at the end of the day- knowing you put your staff first, and really think about them- allows you to navigate these big risks with the support of an amazing group of people. We always take risks- that’s why we are in the business we are in (60% of restaurants fail in the first year, and 80% fail within 5 years) here we are 7 years later still trying to do more, grow, be better, and take big risks! 

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Image Credits

Jill Bamrick

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