Designing the Five-Star Restaurant Experience through Entrepreneurship

For a restaurant, the quality of service can be the difference between a good restaurant and a great one. Dr. Erinn Tucker Oluwole has made it her entrepreneurial mission to instill five-star service into the culture of every restaurant she touches. She continues to excel at this mission year after year.

Dr. Erinn Tucker Oluwole owns Loop Now LLC, a restaurant training and development company that helps restaurants in the DMV area refine their hospitality service skills—a devotion she deems essential to enhancing the quality of life in her community.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Tucker began her professional career in the sports industry after completing her undergrad at Florida A&M University. She learned how to run sponsorship events for basketball and golf events. Dr. Tucker soon transitioned from corporate events and sponsorships to selling events in the restaurant space working for Jillian’s Entertainment, the predecessor of Dave & Busters.

“I was recruited to do that, and I didn’t know I would love it so much,” said Dr. Tucker.

After a series of twists and turns, Dr. Tucker returned to academia again, working first as an adjunct, then as a full-time professor before receiving her Ph.D. in Hospitality Administration from Oklahoma State University. She’d discovered her passion. 

However, it was when she was recruited to do training and development for the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) that her entrepreneurship journey began. Her training program became so popular that she was asked to assist with the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte’s minor league baseball team. While working with the Knights, she realized she might have something special on her hands.

“I started off as a reluctant entrepreneur because I never really wanted to be an entrepreneur,” said Dr. Tucker.

She’d heard horror stories from her friends who were entrepreneurs. She understood the commitment it would take to run a business. However, there was a noticeable gap in the market, and she had the skills to fill that gap.

After relocating to Washington, DC, Tucker was anxious to learn more about the DC food and restaurant community and prove her concept again. 

Dr. Tucker met her business partner Furard Tate, a local restaurant business leader who understood the DC market well. Bonding over their passion for training and hospitality, Tucker and Tate joined in molding Loop Now LLC’s workforce development company.

In 2018, an incident in Philadelphia occurred where Black patrons were mistreated at a local Starbucks. This incident made Tucker ask the question: where are the Black chefs? 

This moment was the genesis of Tucker’s mission for DMV Black Business Week to help sustain Black-owned businesses with professional development and education and create awareness in the community. 

This event included caterers, food trucks, coffee shops, and wine bars. This annual weeklong festival began with only 35 members in 2018 and now boasts over 100 participating restaurants in 2020. 

When asked about early challenges, Dr. Tucker replied, “Staying focused on what the business is good at doing and profitable at doing.” Tucker succeeded by focusing on the key strengths – training and educating business owners.

Wacif has played an enormous part in Dr. Tucker’s success as an entrepreneur. Dr. Tucker was accepted into Wacif’s Ascend Thrive program in 2019. There she gained extensive knowledge and a community of support that filled her entrepreneurial toolbox and strengthened her as a business leader.

“That really changed the game,” said Dr. Tucker about the program.

Wacif supported Tucker in her dream of helping restaurant owners. She began to explore the ecosystem of the DC restaurant space. Tucker realized the importance of knowing how your business fits into the District’s economic development. She now helps other owners explore their business options to grow and scale, even before they open the doors to their businesses. 

She also helps businesses understand their options for owning a food business, from catering to food trucks to owning or leasing a brick-and-mortar. 

As her knowledge of running a restaurant in business increased, Tucker decided to run a boot camp to help educate restaurant owners and those interested in launching or investing in a restaurant in the District. 

Tucker sits in a strategic space post-pandemic, as Black-owned restaurants and businesses are now seeing increased activity due to social injustice and unrest. Tucker is now positioned to help those Black-owned restaurants leverage this increased activity for long-term growth. 

In partnership with the Anacostia Arts Center, Wacif and DMV Black Restaurant Week now host a tasting workshop where Black-owned businesses can share food and talk about their journeys as entrepreneurs. After the first three workshops, they created a sustainable and engaging model where they curate and encourage talks, play music, and host a fireside chat about the DC restaurant market – a partnership they are still improving on to this day.

“They keep answering our phones, so we’re going to keep calling,” joked Dr. Tucker.

Wacif continues to be a trusted partner and advisor every step of the way for Loop Now. Learn more about DMV Black Restaurant Week here.

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