The restaurant and bar industry is tough to break into and even tougher to make successful. Lisa Forman, owner of Legends Pub & Grill, tried her own strategy and it paid off. “I don’t really pay attention to anybody else. I’m not part of the industry and I just focus on what I’m doing,” she says.
Forman first opened Legends after leaving her corporate job in sales at Automatic Data Processing (ADP). Her experience there helped her start Legends. She had made good contacts, and the sales techniques she learned helped her to sell herself and her business.
In addition to being told constantly that her business would fail, a man in the industry told her that, “Our industry is cutthroat and it’s hard to thrive here if you don’t belong to our group.” She persevered anyway and proved him wrong.
Lisa and her husband Dave started their business with their life savings rather than through loans or investors. She said they did have some help from family along the way. “[You make] a few mistakes, because you don’t know what you’re doing and everything costs more than you planned on,” she explains. But their hard work paid off and they’ve been able to grow the business and pay back their life savings.
In building her business, Forman chose to ignore others’ advice and just focus on what resonated best with her, which included an emphasis on service, caring about others, and paying more than the industry standard. “When I’ve followed who I am completely, I’ve been successful. But when I’ve strayed away from that, I haven’t been as successful,” she says.
Using big venues has paid off as well. Although the Sandy location seems bigger, it is about the same size as the downtown location, just with a different layout. Both were former Iggy’s. They found the first building on their own, then approached Dave Ipaktchian, owner of Iggy’s in Salt Lake, and acquired that space. When Iggy’s was closing in Sandy, he approached the Formans to see if they were interested. By then, they had formed a friendship, and both locations have been successful.
Lisa said she had always wanted to own her own business. “My dad had a small restaurant in Ashton where I grew up and I always thought it would be fun to own a bar and restaurant. Then I got into it and all the problems and long hours came along.”
Now that her business is successful, Lisa said the next phase for her is helping others. She mentors and advises her employees with the aim to help them get a start or to take over for her and Dave when they retire. She recalls one employee who was on drugs and had lost her sons. They helped her straighten out her life and get her boys back. “That help is now my main purpose,” she says. “They call me Mama Bear.”
Forman’s advice for other women looking to get into the restaurant and bar business is this: “Not only do you have to be strong but you also have to believe in yourself and believe you can do anything you want to do.” She says you should expect to get bullied a little bit, so you need the confidence to stick up for yourself, and in doing so, you will earn some respect along the way.
Legends locations are 677 S 200 W, Salt Lake City and 10631 S Holiday Park Dr. in Sandy.
Additional content by Connie Lewis.