Business

Baby Boomer Entrepreneur Reinvents Himself with Today’s Technology and Launches New “Millennial” Career

Philadelphia Phillies owner Bill Giles with Raymond as a young Society Caterer and Restaurateur in 1983 with the 300 lb cake he created for the Phillies Pennant Win Party

Raymond Haldeman found unprecedented success as young Philadelphia Society Caterer who grossed $1M his first year in business working out of his apartment and was subsequently featured in a Money Magazine cover story about successful Baby Boomer Entrepreneurs.  His popularity skyrocketed and he parlayed his notoriety and talent into 2 restaurants that garnered headlines not only in Philadelphia’s society and business columns but in national publications including Town & Country, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, The NY Times and The Robb Report.  

“Success, His Businesses Are Really Cooking,” Headline, Jan Schaffer, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Wunderkind…not yet 30 years old, Raymond Haldeman runs one of the most stylish restaurants in Philadelphia, masterminding both a thriving catering business and the establishment named for him,” Zack Hanle, Bon Appetit Magazine

Haldeman followed his decade long run as a restaurateur and caterer with a second act as a successful nightclub owner with clubs in South Beach, Palm Beach and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It was during this time that Haldeman began to rely on graphic artists who used computer based graphic programs to make his marketing and promotional materials.  He became annoyed at waiting for the work to be completed in a timely manner because nightclub promotion requires sufficient lead time to build momentum for large turn-outs.   Frustrated at being at the mercy of an unreliable graphic artist, Haldeman took matters into his own hands and squeezed in a few classes on computer graphics and taught himself Adobe Photoshop, the most popular graphic software program at the time.  Similarly, as websites became a necessity, he once again found himself at the mercy of web designers who, after being paid a deposit would flake out and disappear.  So, Raymond, right on cue, without hesitation taught himself how to build websites.

After a 20-year run in the nightclub business, his last venture, a Latin club out by the airport in Miami Dade was a complete an utter failure and the he saw the writing on the wall.  From his perspective, “The internet killed the nightclub business”.  Nightclubs were no longer the only option to meet people.  “There was a time, he explained, if you wanted to meet people, you had go out.  Nightclub operators could expect to see the same customers several times a week.  Not so in todays virtual reality where 12-year old are indoctrinated into the social media world of meeting people and making friends using apps on their phones long before reaching drinking age.  Turning 21 and being of legal drinking age means nothing today as those new social habits, having had the chance to evolve for 10 years, become permanently ingrained in how life is today.  Nightclubs are no longer the surefire destination they use to be for meeting people, not for today’s “social app” generation who use their phones for nearly everything, including meeting friends and hooking up.

This realization ignited an urgency in Haldeman to up his game, reinvent and evolve in a new and different way.  He understood his challenge would be to create an internet-based business where he would be paid for his expertise, absent the burden of the substantial overhead associated with brick and mortar hospitality businesses.  Based on this assessment, he first created a restaurant consulting website and it wasn’t long before he realized this was not the way to go.  Haldeman received an occasional call, but not from operators looking for an edge to improve their operation’s revenue generating potential.  Instead, most were from struggling restaurateurs who were moments away from closing their doors, penniless and drowning in debt.  Having been in some tight spots in his own journey as an operator, Haldeman related to their stressful plights, but he knew they needed a financial saviour, not a restaurant consultant.  

A few times however, he received a call from someone who was planning to open a new restaurant with the financial means with which to do so.   This revived an unrealized aspiration in the entrepreneur’s psyche about being a restaurant designer, a career he entertained on occasion because of the enjoyment he had when designing several of his own places with designer Leslie John Koeser.  His immediate knee-jerk reaction was to brush those fantasies aside given the fact that he had no formal training, was not an architect and had no professional affiliations in the design filed.  Eventually, however, he came around and acknowledged that he had no formal training or degrees for any of his previous successful endeavors and that had never stopped him before.  Haldeman, after thinking it through, armed with his knowledge of graphic design and website building skills, decided he needed a better understanding of SEO in order to attract clients to his website.  He set about educating himself in the art of online marketing, how keywords factor into your bushiness’s online presence and started the process of launching his new career.

During this self educational process he familiarized himself google ads and thoroughly indoctrinated himself in the science and the art of creating an online ad campaign.  With a better understanding of the dynamics of keywords, and against contrary to most of the instructional guidance he found online, Haldeman decided he would concentrate his efforts in the promotion of one single phrase, which he hoped, in time, he would dominate on the google ads platform and in organic searches with his new restaurant designer website.  

Haldeman says, until he became familiar with the nuance of his business, working towards a high-quality website score and experimenting with the google ads dashboard he spent $2400 monthly on his ads.  Over time as he tweaked, adjusted, edited and navigated his way through the learning process, he improved his results and now spends $400 a month on google ads with the added benefit of his website now displaying organically on page one.  He hit the trifecta, #1, page 1 in google ads, #1 page 1 google business listings and #1-page 1 organic search results.   And what was that single phrase he used to get there?  As his website clearly states, Raymond Haldeman is the restaurant designer!

Two weeks after launching his restaurant designer website, the country’s newest restaurant designer entrepreneur received his first call from Bill Gardner, a man who purchased a lakefront resort that had been closed for a few years and needed a rebranding and a total renovation.  When Haldeman asked the prospective client for the location, he replied the resort was on Butternut Lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, 3 hours north of Milwaukee.  Playing along, Haldeman who is based in the Philadelphia area, said, “Oh, um, well, how do I get there?  Do I fly into Milwaukee and then rent a car and drive up?”  Bill replied, “No, that won’t be necessary, I’ll send my private jet to pick you up!”  Turns out Bill Gardner was the son of inventor James Gardner who founded Gardner Bender and most recently the owner of the Wisconsin Southern Railroad which he had just sold prior to calling the new designer.  Mr. Gardner gave designer Haldeman the job and he has been designing non-stop ever since.

Immediately after launching his new career, The Restaurant Designer identified another way he could improve his designer skillset and thereby offer the client a more comprehensive service.  He researched and not only taught himself 3D rendering, but 3D animation.  Haldeman creates a 3D model of all his design jobs to scale, meaning that if there was a 3D printer large enough, it would print out restaurant the actuals size that it is.  This added another dimension to his skillset and has become one of the hallmarks of his services.  He has become highly proficient in executing 3D, to scale, preview movies of his designs, giving the client an opportunity to view an accurate depiction of their new establishments, complete with all the colors, finishes, lighting fixtures and furniture and fabrics prior to construction.  

This combination of his catering, restaurant, nightclub experience and his creative talent combined with his newfound technological prowess has earned him the Millennial credentials that have propelled him to the top of his field.  To date, The Restaurant Designer has been the most successful of all his endeavors.  

We are talking major upscale design productions here.  At any given time, Haldeman’s company has 6-8 restaurant design projects in development or under construction. He is currently wrapping up Cuzin’s Seafood and Clam Bar, a $7M buildout in New Brunswick, NJ, Also, underway is The Alley, a nearly 30,000 SF bowling alley, nightclub, restaurant, and game arcade with large private partly rooms.  The property was formerly part of the Fort Monmouth Army Base in Eatontown, NJ which has since been sold off to developers of which his client is one. 

Is this it for the eternal entrepreneur, or will there be a more encores to come?  Haldeman says yes, of course there will be more and one is in the works right now.  Raymond Haldeman IS the Restaurant Designer is a new TV Show that he is actively pitching.  Although he says he has no deal yet, he is in discussions with production companies.  

Haldeman says he is so grateful that he wasn’t born 10 years earlier or he may have missed the opportunity to extend and recast his relevance and continue his success with the added dimension of today’s technology.  His takeaway for fellow Baby Boomers entrepreneurs is that there is a pathway to relevance in todays technologically infused business landscape because,  “No one can instantly add to a skillset a lifetime of wisdom and experience that took 30-40 years to acquire, however one CAN add the power and potency of today’s technology to 30-40 years of wisdom and experience!”

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