Episode Thumbnail
Episode 12  |  01:01:48 hours

S2:EP12 - Melanie Landano, Founder of Mel's Butcher Box

Episode 12  |  01:01:48 hours  |  01.14.2021

S2:EP12 - Melanie Landano, Founder of Mel's Butcher Box

This is a podcast episode titled, S2:EP12 - Melanie Landano, Founder of Mel's Butcher Box. The summary for this episode is: In this episode, I interview Melanie Landano the founder of Mel's Butcher Box. Mel's Butcher Box is a food truck concept that was established in the midst of the pandemic. Melanie has been in the food, hospitality and entertainment space her entire career and had the vision of bringing her food truck to life in one of the most turbulent times for the industry. She has a very interesting and experiencing story and I am excited to share it with you!
Takeaway 1 | 01:59 MIN
Making Food Truck Magic
Takeaway 2 | 01:35 MIN
Motivating Your People
Takeaway 3 | 05:15 MIN
Launching a food truck during the pandemic
Takeaway 4 | 01:39 MIN
The Brick and Mortar Food Truck
Takeaway 5 | 01:46 MIN
The Restaurant Industry Hustle

In this episode, I interview Melanie Landano the founder of Mel's Butcher Box.

Melanie has been in the food, hospitality and entertainment space her entire career and had the vision of bringing her food truck to life in one of the most turbulent times for the industry.

She has a very interesting and experiencing story and I am excited to share it with you!

Guest Thumbnail
Melanie Landano
Founder of Mel's Butcher BoxMel's Butcher Box

Brett Linkletter: In this episode, I interview Melanie Landano, the founder of Mel's Butcher Box. Mel's Butcher Box is a food truck, and a food truck that actually was started at the midst of this pandemic, during the pandemic. Melanie has been in the food space and hospitality space, and you could call it entertainment space as well, for her whole life. And, she's had this vision of something she's wanted to do, and she's really tackled it and gone after it during a very difficult time. On this interview, we talk about all kinds of things, from her experience working at Disney and what that brought for her today, from her experience working for some really famous meat purveyors, and her experience bringing joy to her customer base and bringing joy and excitement and fun to the employees that she works with. She's got such an interesting, amazing, and really inspiring story I'm really excited for you to hear. And so, without further ado, let's get straight into it. Hi, my name is Brett Linkletter, CEO and Founder of Misfit Media, the best damn restaurant marketing agency on the planet. Here at Misfit, we help restaurant owners grow and scale their business through strategic online marketing practices. Right now, you're listening to our podcast Restaurant Misfits. We'll discuss all things related to restaurant, marketing, management, and everything else in between growing a restaurant business. This podcast is also brought to you in collaboration with Total Food Service. For over 30 years, Total Food Service has provided the restaurant and food service industry with exclusive interviews, to the latest news on products, trends, associations, and events. You can sign up for a free monthly subscription by visiting totalfood. com today. And from all the misfits over here, we hope you enjoy the show. Cheers. Melanie, how are you doing?

Melanie Landano: I'm doing amazing, how about you? Happy New Year.

Brett Linkletter: Happy New Year. Happy New Year. First interview of the new year. Super excited. Melanie, for everyone listening, can you just give us a quick little background on yourself and who you are?

Melanie Landano: So, everybody asks me for a background about myself, and sometimes I don't know where to start. So, I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, single mom, one of three kids. Hustled ever since I was little. Started working from 11 years old at a small amusement park that was right up the block from me. So, it was kind of like my summer camp. We used to go there every single day, and my sister got a job working in the dunk tank, and I always wanted to work there, and they gave me a job as a clown. So, I'd walk around the amusement park dressed as a clown and putting stickers on the guests that went there. Always wanted to work food and beverage while I was there. There was something about the excitement of the lines and cleaning the grill and the fresh hot dogs. It was just really cool and different.

Brett Linkletter: Interesting.

Melanie Landano: I was a ride operator as well. Wound up working there for probably like 15 to 20 years. It was my life. It was, like I said, my summer camp. A lot of great memories, meeting a lot of people, and I was always with my family, because they all worked there as well.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: When I was younger, I always wanted to do something bigger and something different, and I was always the one in my family that wanted to get away, branch out, go to college but not go away to college, because I felt like there was so much opportunity where I lived, there was no need for me to go experience college life when I had a great job, great friends, great family. My mother would never let me anyway. We're old school Italian.

Brett Linkletter: Got it, got it.

Melanie Landano: I started school as a business management major, and I suck at math. The worst. I hate math. I hate accounting. I hate all of that. And my friend Robin was like, " Mel, you need to major in corporate communication. Just change it around a little. You could do amazing public speaking, marketing, Business 100 level classes," and I looked into it, and it was the best thing I ever did. Went to school for four years on that major, corporate communications, and I tell people now it was one of the best decisions for my career personally and professionally, because you use every single thing in that major. I still use it to this day. And I use all the stuff I've learned when I was younger, but it was the best major.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Melanie Landano: And I really took advantage of it. I got an internship with NBC, The Today Show, was hanging out with Matt Lauer, back in the day, Katie Couric. I always wanted to go to Italy and I studied abroad in Italy. Because of my major, I got a full scholarship for that, so I spent a year in Rome, and then my passion was to work at Walt Disney World. And somehow, between my job when I was 11 and, what, 15 years later, I wound up where I wanted to be, at Disney, and I was there for three years. There's just so much. At the same time, I was always working, I was always thriving and running and looking for the next best thing.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Got it.

Melanie Landano: And then after Disney, I came back to New York. I was living in Orlando. I was special event manager there. Best job ever. It's the happiest place on earth.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: I drank the juice. I got the Walt... I got hypnotized and brain washed, but it was amazing, especially working special events. You learn so much.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. What was your job exactly at Disney World?

Melanie Landano: At Disney, I started out at a special program, it was called a fellowship ambassador program, and it was a program that when Walt designed these parks, he wanted living, learning, and working together, all these different nations.

Brett Linkletter: Yep.

Melanie Landano: So, they designed this program called the fellowship program. I interviewed for a regular position. They said, " With all your experience, yet you're 24, you can't come in as a regular cast member. We're going to put you in this special program." And I went in as one of eight Americans to host 80 international people from all over the world.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: And I was kind of in charge of them. So, I'd live with them, work with them, I was in the Disney parks with them. They had to learn about the American culture. I had to learn about all these 80 internationals, about their cultures. I lived with a Norwegian and a Japanese girl, and in our building, we had people from Zimbabwe, Comoros Islands, Canada, France, Germany, Morocco. It was amazing.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: I was there for three years. In the first three months, they nominated me for lifetime achievement award. It's called a Partner in Excellence. And people who worked for the company after 25 years get it, and I got it the first 12 weeks I was there.

Brett Linkletter: Damn.

Melanie Landano: I'm sorry, three months I was there. Amazing. It was great.

Brett Linkletter: That is incredible.

Melanie Landano: And then I had... Oh, sorry-

Brett Linkletter: I love Disney.

Melanie Landano: Oh, Disney?

Brett Linkletter: I love Disney in general. I think that's awesome.

Melanie Landano: It was really amazing. But working as special event manager and in the special events program at Disney is... Where else can you see fireworks three times a week, seven days a week?

Brett Linkletter: Legitimately.

Melanie Landano: And I did them... They're really great events. Met a lot of people, had a lot of opportunity. I was there for the Millennium Celebration in the year 2000, and there were no words that could explain what I learned and what I did there.

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely. And so, you said at a young age, you were always interested in entertainment and the food and beverage space. Obviously, you continued onwards with that, working at Disney. And then what came after Disney? Was that the Pat LaFrieda? Is that what it was?

Melanie Landano: No. After Disney, I needed a job quickly. I had already finished college. I was done. I had all this experience. I was like, what am I doing with all this? And I was young. I was 27. And my resume at this point was like... I had to be like, stop messing around, Melanie. You need a job job. Settle down, which I never did. And I got a job at Bally Total Fitness corporation, the big health club thing. And because of my experience, they hired me as a customer service director, because they had gone on the stock exchanged, they needed somebody with my experience to go and change the culture of the clubs. And I was really fat, actually. I was heavier when I worked there. And it leads up to the story about Bally Total Fitness. They hired me because of my experience. I was always an athlete, didn't consider myself heavy, but I was 100 pounds heavier than I am now when I started working there.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: And I just embraced the culture and started losing weight and working out, and at the same time I was building this brand for Bally as a customer service director, I had five clubs, by the end of my career there, I had 46 clubs, and I was a marketing director, and I lost... and talking about entertainment, I lost all the weight while I was working at Bally, and they featured me in all their Bally Total Fitness commercials. I was a spokesperson for them. I did a lot of press, a lot of TV, a lot of live in- studio exercise segments, and then I wanted to become a TV host and be the next Food Network Star. So, there's so much that I wanted to do. And I still do it. Actually today on my Instagram, I posted a picture of myself and Oprah Winfrey, because I went to The Oprah Show after I lost all the weight. She invited me in, and it's so funny, I just posted the picture, and I'm standing next to-

Brett Linkletter: You were just on Oprah?

Melanie Landano: I was on her last... So, her last season, she did a show because she was very into weight loss of people who lost 100 pounds or more.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: And I wrote into the show, and they called me back and they invited me onto the show, and I went to Chicago, and I met Oprah, and I got my picture with her. I got my gift. She gave out free bikes that day. It was great. It was really great. And my career at Bally was amazing, and it is another stepping stone that I was able to use everything I had learned at a young, young age in every field: marketing, special events, management, customer service. And somehow, it all comes together, in any way. Even when I do a lot of the media stuff I do, I learned a lot of that from Bally. I got a hosting coach. I did all that stuff, because I had time and it's my passion.

Brett Linkletter: Totally. That's amazing. And then, so how did this all lead finally into the food space?

Melanie Landano: So, the food space, Bally Total Fitness went bankrupt, and they got rid of my position. It was very sad because it was very lucrative for me. It was an amazing job. I became a personal trainer full- time for a few years. Didn't pay the rent. I just couldn't do it. It was nice to have all that free time off, but I still needed to do what I loved to do. I was consulting a little for theme parks, indoor amusement parks, stuff like that, but it still wasn't working. And Pat LaFrieda is my very, very dear friend. He worked at Nellie Bly with me, the amusement park, when I was 11.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: And we lost touch. He went to college. He was in the army. And I saw he had a show called Meat Men on the Food Network. And I'm like, there's my guy. There's Pat. And I said, I have to get in touch with him, just to say hi, see how he is. And I saw that his company... His family was always in the meat industry, from when we were younger. He lived in Brooklyn, and he had a little van called Pat... It was Pat LaFrieda and Sons. And I was like, wow, he must be able to eat as much meat as he wants, as much steak as he wants every night. He's so lucky. And it grew to this huge company. I saw that he was at Citi Field, in the US Open, and we would run into each other, and finally I met up with him, so happy to see him again, because he's just a... you know when you meet somebody in your life and they're that person? That's who he was to me.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: A friend, brother, everything. And I said, " You seem like you may help," because he's very hands- on, he's like me. Italian, hard- working, from when you're younger. That's what we know.

Brett Linkletter: Yep.

Melanie Landano: And I said, " I'm looking for a job, maybe there's something I could do," and he said, " Send me your resume." I did. And I remember, he's up all night long, 24 hours a day. He called me at 2:00 in the morning. He said, " You're hired. Start tomorrow." And he said, " Your first job is the US Open." Because he had a location there, where he sells his sandwiches. And I went to the US Open and started working. It was crazy, but I had all the experience. And I ran the Pat LaFrieda stand, where the food court is, at the Open, and then I wound up doing everything for him. We opened a brick and mortar. I started doing a lot of his PR for him. I ran the restaurant, did all his partnerships with the Food Network Stars, all the Food and Wine Festival events, food shows, book signings, anything you could think of that his company does outside his being a meat purveyor, because that's what he does. He's a meat purveyor. And he used me as a senior project director. I was there for six years, and the stuff I did for him was stuff I would never forget. I still do it. I still will do it for him, but because of the pandemic, no more US Open. We had four locations at the Open. We started with one. We ran Citi Field with the New York Mets. I oversaw all that. All the media events for him. And then we opened Time Out Market in Brooklyn, in Dumbo. They're affiliated with the Time Out Magazine. We opened one location and grew to four. Actually, grew to three locations in one year. And the last location we opened on March 14th, we closed on the 16th, and COVID hit, and that's when-

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: We had to layoff all our staff. We closed the Pennsy Food Hall. There was no US Open, no Citi Field, nothing.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: I was helping him out in the warehouse a little bit because he was trying to figure out... He lost all his customers in the city, a lot. It was very hard for him. And he was trying to keep the company afloat. I was helping him out in the warehouse. It was very different from what I was used to, though, being out there in the spotlight and running all these events and managing 40 people and doing just all the everyday restaurant stuff, and just being up there. And all of a sudden, gone.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Melanie Landano: We had to close all four of them in three days. It was very hard, and that's how I started the-

Brett Linkletter: It was brutal.

Melanie Landano: Yeah. Like everybody, you sit and you wonder, what am I going to do now? Where am I getting money? I can't go on unemployment. Do I go back here? Do I do this? Do I suck it up? Everything goes through your head. What can I do? I can do whatever I want, but I don't have the money to. I'm scared. I don't want to take a risk. And, you have to be able to not get in that depression state, and at one point you feel like it is, and I was like, " No, I have to shake it off," and I tried, and I was in my apartment just figuring out what can I do next, what is everybody doing right now?

Brett Linkletter: Melanie, it seems like... Well, you didn't try, you did it.

Melanie Landano: I did it, and I'm not stopping now.

Brett Linkletter: You did it.

Melanie Landano: Now I'm like, oh my god... Now, it's all coming at me. It's either nothing for me or just all has to happen in a month if it did.

Brett Linkletter: It seems like, Mel, the interesting thing about you, which I can definitely see when you speak, you have a lot of passion behind what you do.

Melanie Landano: Yep. 100%.

Brett Linkletter: Which, I'll tell you, I've done a number of these interviews now, and it's always the most successful people, they all have this in common. You can't succeed if you're not passionate about what you did. Maybe in some crazy world where you can, but you're going to hate yourself for it.

Melanie Landano: 100%.

Brett Linkletter: If you want to win, you've got to feel passionate and excited about it, because it takes that much, obviously as you can tell, drive and motivation to make it happen. The big thing with you, which I think really stands out, is, again, your passion, but also, it seems like the level of excitement and entertainment you bring to your customers, and also it sounds like your employees that you work with, right?

Melanie Landano: Love my employees.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. But talk to us about that. Again, entertainment, hospitality, food, you obviously love this space. What is your special spin on it? And even you studied communications, you said, in school, so obviously this is your strong suit. What is it specifically that you do to bring the level of excitement to what you do?

Melanie Landano: So, it started from when I worked at Nellie Bly, when I worked from that very young age, when we spent so much time together working. And back then, nobody counted hours. However it was, we were there 16 hours a day, 12 hours a day, working together, and it was a fun environment. So, not only were we working there, we're having fun while we're doing it, and you're spending a lot of time with all these employees, with the guests, and they're having fun, and you just sit back and watch them have fun, and for that, it brought excitement to me, because that's what I like. I like to see people happy. I like to make people happy. And then I make sure I'm happy. I kind of put myself back and want them to be okay, because once they're okay, I'm okay. It makes my job and my life easier. I'd rather take it back, myself, if I see that I'm not feeling it the way I should, I'm like, " Let me do something for the staff right now. Let me buy them lunch. Let me get them pizza. Let me go get them coffee." And they look forward to that.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: From an entertainment standpoint, I was telling my friend the other day, I said, the reason why I love to do what I'm doing... It's very hard to run a food truck. It's not just... I haven't worked this hard, I can't even tell you. But the great thing about it is, I love the part of the entertainment. Even if it wasn't a food truck. When people come to see me and what I do, you can see the excitement when they first walk in, before they try the food, spend money, and even talk to me, they're elated when they see it, see me, the environment, because I try to create... Like Walt Disney. Before you walk in to Magic Kingdom, you don't see anything, right? You create that stage. You create the story for them.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: When you go to Magic Kingdom and you get off the Monorail, you can't even see the castle until you keep going closer, closer, closer. You pass the tickets and transportation, you pass the souvenir shops, then you walk on Main Street, and there it is, and you haven't even seen anybody yet. You speak to the cast members. But with me, you see the excitement, and I feed off of that.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Melanie Landano: All right, buy a Mel's Double. And I named the burger after me. It's two eight ounce patties. It's amazing. It's delicious. It's the biggest thing ever. Have our homemade mozzarella sticks. I made them on my own. And they like how you say mozzarella. They don't say mozzarella. The little things that can make the guests smile or my friends smile, they want to come... Even if they don't want to come eat, they'll just come and see me.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Melanie Landano: Like the swag, like the shirts, the hats, you just make such a big deal about it, and it kind of grows on them, and they like the idea of it. Especially now when people don't really have a lot of things to get excited about lately, they couldn't wait for the year to be over, then the year's starting off on the wrong foot. It's kind of like an escape.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: And I feel like that's how I am. I escape and run to Disney and work at amusement parks, and cooking behind, and making noise with the spatulas, and making my staff laugh, and that's what it's about.

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Are you a fan of PT Barnum by any chance?

Melanie Landano: Oh my gosh, of course. I had my 35th birthday at Ringling Brothers Circus, because when I worked at Bally Total Fitness, this is what I do, I got a partnership with Feld Entertainment, and the clowns would come and work out at the gym, on their off time. They gave me all these tickets, and I had my birthday party there, and Big Apple Circus, and my favorite movie is Greatest Showman, of course. It's great. So, yeah. So, I feel like I live like a circus. I have one dog named Zucchini, she acts like me.

Brett Linkletter: There's this book I read, not by PT Barnum, but basically about his life, and there's a quote in there, I forget exactly what it is, but something like that the last penny people will spend, their last penny on, is fun.

Melanie Landano: I believe that.

Brett Linkletter: Is something fun. And it's something that we try to incorporate at our company quite a bit, and it's something that I love that we're talking about this, because I don't know if I've ever actually had an interview like this where we've talked so much about this entertainment and the fun side of things.

Melanie Landano: Right?

Brett Linkletter: In this detail. But so much of what we do is structured around what's fun, what's entertaining, and you talk about the whole process from someone walking up to your food truck, to seeing your staff, to seeing you, to looking through the menu, to how you describe the items you made. Then they eat, then the after experience. So many restaurants miss this.

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: Why do you think that's the case? What is the problem with, why don't people understand this? Because everyone wants to have fun, I think, deep down. I believe that. Why do we miss the ball?

Melanie Landano: I'll tell you why. Because it starts from the top. When Pat would walk into our stores or at the US Open, he always knew he would have fun. If not, we would make it fun. There are owners that it's the same thing every day for them. They have the same handwritten sign. They won't change their menu. They won't do a special. They won't give an extra pack of ketchup. They have the same staff for 20 years, standing there at the counter with their name tag. And it's not even about me being at Disney. I think it's more of a personal thing, like you have to have the magic, because if you don't, that's why it doesn't work. If you don't have that sparkle, that spark... Don't get me wrong, I have bad days. When I have a bad day, I prep, I clean. My staff knows, Mel's cleaning, she's in a bad mood. When I was at the Pennsy Food Hall, for whatever reason, I was in a bad mood, I got so upset, I went inside and started cutting Brussels sprouts. I was so mad, I slashed my hand. My finger was bleeding. They're like, " I told you, Mel." But do you know what I still do till this day? We laugh about that. I had a conversation with my staff the other day. I said, " Do you remember when I slashed my finger with the Brussels sprouts?" But that scenario is now something that's funny for us.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: I kind of switched it around. They knew when I was in a bad mood, and it happens, a lot. When an order doesn't come in, or the staff comes out, or they're not cooking the steak the right way, or they call Pat, and Pat was telling me the food's not of quality, and there are a lot of things, but you have to nip it in the bud and then move on and figure out another way to motivate them, motivate yourself, and get those guests happy again. That's what I think.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%. But you took about, you said it's top down, and I couldn't agree more. With what's happened in 2020, and hopefully we're at the tail end of this now in early 2021-

Melanie Landano: I hope.

Brett Linkletter: But whatever the case, I think what most business leaders need to recognize and think about is that their employees and staff are looking up to them as a leader to help them get through this. And, so much of what we do revolves around our career paths, and especially in the restaurant space, obviously there's been a really big downward turn. Obviously what COVID did to all of us is crazy. Even for our company, our agency, Misfit Media, hey, come late March, early April, we lost half our clientele, within two weeks. And unfortunately, I think half of that clientele... and I haven't heard from them, I don't know if they're even open again, or whatever the case, it's really sad. But, whatever's happening, I think as business leaders, we need to recognize that we need to create that culture of something they can look forward, something that they can be excited about, and something to motivate them. So, and then with this whole downward turn during COVID, that's when you launched Mel's Butcher Box, right?

Melanie Landano: I did.

Brett Linkletter: That's when-

Melanie Landano: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brett Linkletter: Which is crazy. And so, you did this because you wanted to employ people? What was the big motivator behind this? What was the catalyst?

Melanie Landano: I was sitting, contemplating, thinking, and starting to get nervous, as everybody did during... Everybody's getting nervous. Your money's running out. Who wants to be on unemployment? My lifestyle changed. I couldn't buy the sneakers I wanted. I love sneakers, and I was like, nope, I have to do something. Started to do some consulting, helping my friends open restaurants. It was okay. And then I was starting to get back in touch with Pat to see if there's anything I could do for him, and I was like, you know what? I'm going to go visit the restaurants that need help in my town, start calling people I know, telling them I'm affiliated with Pat, and try to sell some meat to them, maybe do some programs with them, maybe do a meat tasting. I was trying to make work for myself. Even if I didn't get paid for it, I knew I would be doing something, and down the road, it would be okay for me, because I was paying my bills, it was fine. So, I was at a local restaurant, Axia, in Tenafly, and I met the chef. For years, they were asking me to bring LaFrieda meat in, because every time I walk in, I taste meat, I'm like, you need Pat LaFrieda meat, right? Finally, I get some samples. Pat gives me almost$2, 000 worth of samples. I bring it over to the chef, and we're talking. We cook the meat up, which was great. We had a nice meal. And then the chef was talking to two other gentlemen that were at the restaurant, and they're like, " Mel, come over here, explain the meat." And here I go, like, entertainment. " All right, guys, let's have a taste test. Here's the dry aged. This is a Pat LaFrieda. This is the non Pat LaFrieda. Let's see what you guys think." I made a whole thing over it, which was fun for me. I didn't know who these guys were. They didn't know who I was. But I had been in this town for so long, I was like, whatever. So, one of the gentleman was like, " Who are you, and why don't you work for me?" And I told him who I was. I was a little bit cocky, just because I thought I could. I had a little bit of wine. He told me what he did. His name was Marc Celli, and you probably know who he is. His dad owns a restaurant, a furniture company. He builds all the amazing restaurants, Vandal in New York City, the Smith& Wollensky, Starbucks, anything you can think of, Sugar Factory. And he's from Tenafly and I never saw him, and I'm always around town. He told me what he does, and I said to him, " Marc Celli, I know you from some place. I know you from somewhere. I don't know where." And I wound up realizing I had seen his catalog of what he does, and his work at Vandal was outstanding. Amazing. If you look at just what it looked like in there. I said, " Now I know who you are." And my friends were going to use them to open their bar. He says to me, " Are you Italian? I can't believe, we're on the same page. It's weird to meet someone like you, especially now. This is what I do." And I'm like, " Well, this is what I want to do. This is what I need to do for me. What can you offer me?" And then he told me he has a food truck and he couldn't get it... He had it since June, and this was October. I said, " What?" I said, " You couldn't even book an ice cream truck during the pandemic. You couldn't compete with the drive- thrus and everything." And he said he was trying to get it off the ground, and I said, " Let me take a look at it. Let me see what I could do." And I was being cocky again. I said, " I could probably open it in a week for you. I have the people." Because I have been keeping in touch with all my staff, " Hang in there, I'll get you a job. Don't panic." Now their unemployment's running out. They're starting to call me, " What can you do? Who do you know?" And I start to feel like I need to help them.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Melanie Landano: Before even myself. And I was looking for jobs for them. So, I met him on Friday. Monday morning, he takes me to the truck. I walk in. I was pleasantly surprised. I said, " Wow, you couldn't launch this?" And he had the wrong people. He had a chef who was too chef- y, who wanted to make a whole big thing over it, and he had younger kids that probably weren't focused enough that didn't know how to get to that next level, right?

Brett Linkletter: Got it. Got it.

Melanie Landano: So, I see the truck, I see a vision. I call my chef consultant. Three days later, I do a tasting. They loved it. Basic. Simple. What I'm used to. Low food cost. High quality. 100% Pat LaFrieda. The next day, he said, " Okay, you're a partner, it's yours," just like that.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: We open the next day at the local high school. I brought my staff in. My sister helped me. It was great. Crazy, because we didn't have a bathroom. There's no bathroom on the truck. So, it's just the funny things. I really think... I called my friend who works with Food Network. I was like, " You need to film me, because every day there's so much stuff goes on." Where do you fill up the water? And I had to learn all this. The water, the hot water, the gas, the propane, the diesel, and all I want to do is cook and serve the guests.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: I'm like, just definitely do that for me. I want to get in there, light it up, get the staff going. That night, I book my first party, that day, when we took the truck out. So, my friend texts me, " I heard you're driving a food truck around town. I need you to come to my son's party on November 21st," or whatever day it was.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: I said, " Okay." So, I booked the party. Then we opened for service two days later, hour lines. People came out that I hadn't seen for 10 years not only to support me but just to taste the food, and they were blown away by the quality, because what we were serving, it's New York style, fast casual, easy, simple, fun. There's a food truck in Tenafly? We need to go see it. It was just something fun to do.

Brett Linkletter: Yep.

Melanie Landano: And that's how it all started. And so many people have approached me and the company, and, " What can you do? We want to open another one. We want you to do this. We want to do that. I want to buy a building. I want you to do this. Come through the party. Do a bar mitzvah." It's just been great. Tiring, but great.

Brett Linkletter: Wow. Wow. And so, sorry, tell me, what was the launch date, when you actually launched the truck? What was the actual date?

Melanie Landano: I'm thinking it was the Friday after Thanksgiving or the Friday before Thanksgiving. I'll have to get the exact date for you.

Brett Linkletter: Got it, got it. But this is super recent, and already really taken off, it seems like.

Melanie Landano: Taken off. I know I said I need Monday off, and you're chasing... It feels like you're always chasing stuff. So, then we lose a permit, of course, because the town, they start to get jealous, and the other brick and mortars don't like it because they're complaining that you're in competition, and me being the girl from Brooklyn, tough, very sticking up for myself, I said, " Well, during a pandemic, you need to figure out how you're going to survive, and you have to be creative," and that's what I did. If I can't operate the food truck, I'll put a grill out there and I'll do it with the grill. I don't mind. I've done tailgate parties with the Jets and LaFrieda. It's easy for me. Cold weather doesn't bother me. But, the town and the council people start coming up to me, and I was like, I need to find another space. What do I do? My friend owns a gym in Tenafly. Her name's Blanca. Juma Fit. I said, " Blanca, does your partner own the partner?" She said yes. I said, " I need to put my food truck some place." They allowed us to park for two weeks, a little bit off the beaten path, but we were operating out of the gym. You really have to hustle. It's hard, you don't have a home. You chase deliveries. I had to chase a US Foods order the other day, because we didn't have an address. The bread, I go pick up every morning. The vegetables sometimes. It's crazy.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: But it's great. It's just funny. The adrenaline is going all day, all night.

Brett Linkletter: Part of the set.

Melanie Landano: And then I had to learn how to drive the truck, so I'll video that.

Brett Linkletter: That's amazing. Wow. And again, it sounds like you're really going for it, you're really embracing these challenges, and I think, again, in a time like this, we need more of that. It seems like... I told all my clients this at the beginning of the pandemic. I said, " Look, some people will look at this pandemic and say,'Wow, this is the worst thing ever. I don't know how we're ever going to make it out of this.' Well, those people who have had that mindset-

Melanie Landano: You're right.

Brett Linkletter: They're not making it out. Then you have some people that said, "This is going to suck, but we're going to get through it," and they're literally just getting through it. Then you have the other people, like I have some clients of mine, and they said, " This thing sucks, but I've been through a recession before. I'm going to figure this out."

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: And, " I'll make this the best thing that's ever happened to us." I have some clients that they're up 40% in sales from last year. 2020 was their best year ever. And so, really, what's interesting about all this, what I've seen at least, is it's such a mindset of how you approach the situation, because you can look at it and say, " This sucks," or you can say-

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: ... "This has happened. What can I do?" And it sounds like you've had a really incredible career, it sounds like, your whole life, and you've done so many interesting, cool things, but it's almost like it all kind of led you to this moment of now... and this is yours. This is completely yours, right?

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: Which is incredible.

Melanie Landano: Yeah, and I know there will be more right now. I said to my friend this morning, I said, " I might need a business manager," because how I am, I call it low hanging fruit. There's so much low hanging fruit right now, the coconut's going to hit me in the head, and I'll be like, " Snap out of it, Mel. Take it, run with it, but don't lose what you're doing," because I'm like, " Wow, if I do something else, I'll feel bad, the food truck..." but the food truck will always be there, right?

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: Now I have restaurants calling me that use LaFrieda meat, and like, " Mel, we need help. Can you bring the truck? Can you help us? We want to create some excitement." Of course I can. So right now, I'm trying to get permits to go into Brooklyn to help out a restaurant because he's suffering right now because there's no indoor dining.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. It is a really incredible opportunity for a food truck.

Melanie Landano: Right?

Brett Linkletter: It literally is crazy. Wow.

Melanie Landano: I wish I had more days in the week. It's weird, because sometimes I feel like either there's not enough time in the day, or I need more days in the week, to help who I want to help.

Brett Linkletter: Are you considering a brick and mortar location already?

Melanie Landano: Yeah, and I've had people approach me already. One company where I parked one day wants us to take over their catering and concessions. Another town asked me to run their summer food program at a very high- end pool. So, I have to get my team together. And it's little projects, just to be in town to help, and they want it, and something different.

Brett Linkletter: Well, the big opportunity I think you have right now too is I know from speaking with a lot of restaurateurs is that there's never been a better time to expand the business. You can get deals right now to open up a brick and mortar location that are ridiculous. I live in LA, and I live in specifically Venice Beach, and I know a lot of the community around me. I spoke to a guy who owns this building that was an Italian restaurant, and they shut down beginning of COVID, and he told me, he's like, " Look, I would be willing to give any next restaurateur to come in here a full year of rent for free."

Melanie Landano: Wow. They want to get rid of it.

Brett Linkletter: They want to get someone in. And I think this is super common around the country and around the globe, even. And so, I would say even for yourself, looking into brick and mortar locations, again, there's never been a better time.

Melanie Landano: Right. And then you plan now for post- COVID. COVID's not going to be around, and people are still eating.

Brett Linkletter: Oh, yeah.

Melanie Landano: People are eating more. Supermarkets, drive- thrus, and not even really planning for takeout, but people are going to want to sit down and get... not waited on, because my concept is not a concept where I'm waiting on them. It's fast casual, fun, and that's how I'm keeping it.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. Totally.

Melanie Landano: Because then you start spending too much money on labor, and that's when you start-

Brett Linkletter: That's the best opportunity, yeah.

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: You're hitting the sweet spot, I think, honestly.

Melanie Landano: I know. Come open a restaurant with me.

Brett Linkletter: I love that. The big thing, too, I tell everyone, and I always think about, is there is an imbalance between the supply and demand between restaurants and the customers that they're serving, right?

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: The biggest problem I heard last year before COVID was, " Brett, there's too many restaurants now. The competition is too high." Or, in my case, I own a marketing agency, and so, I talk about marketing all the time. " Well, I don't know if my marketing works, or I have a hard time getting people in the door, we're too reliant on word- of- mouth," whatever the case. Well, I'll tell you right now, that first problem, too much competition, that's been eliminated.

Melanie Landano: 100%.

Brett Linkletter: There's still the same amount of people that have to eat and want to eat. And I'll tell you personally, I am tired of cooking. I've been eating out quite a bit.

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: And I think a lot of people share that same feeling. And so, you have all these customers that are hungry to try something new or enjoy the restaurants around them, and you have the restaurants closing down. So, for those that are staying open, the opportunity's massive.

Melanie Landano: 100%. And you have to be creative. Listen, I was in a food hall with LaFrieda, Pennsy Food Hall in Madison Square Garden. Six locations. It was us, Taco, Vegetarian, Little Vegan, Cinnamon Snail, there was a lobster place, and pizza. We were the meat person. We were the meat people. There was competition on a Friday night, but I knew everyone was either, they were getting a steak... everybody wants a burger, everybody wants a steak sandwich. They go, " Mel, you need to do salads, and you need to do pot..." I'm like, that's not my concept. That's not what we're about. And Pat taught me that. People tend to be like, " All right, I'm going to open a restaurant and put 600 things on the menu." Then all the food cost is high. Then there's too much staff. Then you're throwing stuff out. You lose money. With the food truck, it's the same. People come up to me, " You need healthy options." I said, " We have healthy options. We have a veggie panini, fried..." well, it's fried zucchini, but we have... I'm adding a turkey burger. There's things that we do, but it's hard to make every single person happy.

Brett Linkletter: You can't.

Melanie Landano: The restaurants that don't do well and the... You can't reinvent yourself so much, because that's where you fail. You have to stay and have patience, let them enjoy your food, let them keep coming back, give them a little something when you can. Tonight we're doing a turkey burger with provolone on a freshly baked whole wheat bun from Balthazar, guacamole spread. It's organic, it's 100% turkey burger. It's an amazing burger. And I'm adding a hot dog, but I'm like, you know what? I want to add a pretzel bun. Because if I did a regular bun, I won't stand out. You can get a hot dog anywhere, right?

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: So, I'm doing a pretzel bun, honey mustard aioli. Different things, and it's a food truck, so you can't be basic, but you can't be too confusing, so you have to be unique in your own way without losing what you want to-

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: And that's what the restaurants... We couldn't sell pizza, because I saw the pizza place making money, should I start selling pizza? Or a meat lover's pizza. You can, but they won't come to us for that. Or a salad.

Brett Linkletter: Like you just said, you can't make everyone happy.

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: Here's the thing. And this applies to all businesses, I think, in general. If your audience is everyone, you have no audience.

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: You don't. You've got to pick your people.

Melanie Landano: You have to.

Brett Linkletter: Even for me, when I was first starting my company, we served anyone and everyone as a marketing agency. Man, we did med spas, we did e- commerce brands, women's bikini brands, sunglasses, restaurants, fitness studios, gyms, whatever the case. We were good at everything, but not great at anything. The moment I started just focusing on restaurants, and then more specifically helping restaurants specifically acquire, retain, and attract the marketing that's actually working, that's when we started growing. That's when we passed a million dollars a year our first time, because we just focused on one area.

Melanie Landano: That's great. Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: You got to be niche, you got be focused. And I think, especially with your name, Mel's Butcher Box, sticking true to what you guys do.

Melanie Landano: 100%.

Brett Linkletter: Meats. You've got to.

Melanie Landano: I did steak frites the other night, which is amazing, skirt steak, it was great. Where can you get LaFrieda marinated skirt steak, fresh off a grill... and I was cooking it on my flat top. I didn't even grill it on the charbroil. I don't have a charbroil. It was so good. And where can you get that? I always say it's restaurant quality. When I taste something... and I'm not a chef. I've worked with a lot of chefs.

Brett Linkletter: I was going to ask-

Melanie Landano: I know quality, right?

Brett Linkletter: So, you know what you're doing. Yeah.

Melanie Landano: 100%. So, I'm like, okay, I can handle a six ounce, portion it, I know how many... the fries are great that we have. I even met with a fry guy. I'm like, " I want the best fry ever." And he met with me. I took the time, and I knew him. So, another thing is, the connections I've made, I've kept, and they will come running for me, because of who I worked with, because they know I'm successful, and they know in turn they're going to make money because I'm successful, right?

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: So, when I asked my french fry guy from Lamb Weston, I said, " I need the best fries ever," and I love this guy because he tells me, he goes, " Idaho," he picks the potatoes, he tells me how it's made, and for me, I like that, because I know it's not a regular fry that's going in the oil. I know that he gave me the best, and I know that nobody has the fry I have anywhere around town, or anywhere in... You know?

Brett Linkletter: You're making me hungry for fries right now.

Melanie Landano: I won't even start talking about crosstalk.

Brett Linkletter: But, you're after win- wins, and I think that's what it's about, is you want-

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: Everyone's got to win. I think that's the key to business as well, is how can everyone win? How can you win? How can your employees win? How can the customers win? How can your suppliers win? How can everyone win?

Melanie Landano: Right, because everybody's involved.

Brett Linkletter: Everyone's involved.

Melanie Landano: It's not just me.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: Yep.

Brett Linkletter: It's the people when they approach a deal of trying to get everything they can and get you nothing. I don't understand those people.

Melanie Landano: No. You know what? In the end, they're not going to do well.

Brett Linkletter: They're not.

Melanie Landano: They're not. I worked hard to get to where I am, and at this point, I'm 47, I'll be 48, and I've done a lot. My resume is-

Brett Linkletter: Wow. No way.

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: You do not look 47/48.

Melanie Landano: I'm 47. I'm an oldie but goodie.

Brett Linkletter: That's amazing. Good for you.

Melanie Landano: I said to my friend today, I was like, all the stuff is coming together. She goes, " It could've happened six years ago." I said, " No.' I needed to have the experience and do what I did in order to be able to be how I am today, to say-

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely.

Melanie Landano: To be able to pick and choose, to be able to talk to somebody with the confidence that you gain after being around all these different types of people, and the people who don't want you to do well, and the people who really want you to excel.

Brett Linkletter: Mel, one thing for you too, that's really cool, though, is all the time you've spent with the media, on TV, PR.

Melanie Landano: That's what I love, since I was five.

Brett Linkletter: How did you get into that? How did that happen?

Melanie Landano: I was a finalist on The Real World: Miami back in the day, in that fifth season.

Brett Linkletter: No way.

Melanie Landano: When I worked at Nellie Bly, I sent them my tape, and I made them follow me around with a video camera, and I sent the box with all amusement park things, like balloons, and cotton candy. I wanted them to notice who I was, and they did. And I always wanted to be a newscaster. Not to be famous, but because I love it, I love the idea of being on camera, and I was always the center of attention, and my family videos, I was always the one that was the center... like, front and center. So, I signed the contract for MTV. They came, I met the producers, Betsy Fells, and she was the first one to cast for that.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: And I was still in college, and I didn't register, I remember, for my last semester, because I thought I was going to Miami the next day, and for some reason, last minute, they chose this other girl, I think it was Michelle? I don't know who it was, but I think they needed a Spanish girl at the time. They chose her. I signed the contract. I was going. So, that didn't pan out. I was like, all right, let me see what else I could do. Still continue to work, but at the same time, do everything on the side, try to get into newspapers, any press I could get, for whatever. So, while I was working at Nellie Bly, if any TV came, to do any segments, I would make sure I was in the front of it and on camera. Then when I changed my major to communications, I was at NBC, and I was working for The Today Show as an intern. And I was just in the middle of it. And I was like, " All right," to my producer, her name's Miranda, who I still keep in touch with, I said, " Get me on a segment. What can you do?" I did some voiceovers with her. They used me for a few segments for commercials, which was great. And then at Bally, with the weight loss, they put me in their national commercials. I got a SAG card. And then I started doing the really awesome weight loss segments. So, I was on The View, The Wayne Brady Show, I was on FOX a few times to do weight loss stuff, Joy Bauer, I was on The Today Show twice, which was great. I just loved it, and it was so natural. And every time the producer met me, they were like, " You're amazing. We need you to get on more. What can you do for us?" And I always pitched my own stories, because I'm sitting at home, like, " What can I do?" Or, " How can I do this?" Then I get an agent.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: And because my job is very flexible in the city, when I worked at Bally, I was going back and forth on castings, and then I got a hosting coach, Patricia Stark, her name is. And I would take TV hosting classes and learn how to read the teleprompter and ear prompter and interviewing skills. It was great.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: I actually went on a casting against her, my instructor. It was very funny.

Brett Linkletter: No way.

Melanie Landano: I think she got the gig. I didn't do it.

Brett Linkletter: Wait, so you're saying you would pitch your story to all these news outlets, media outlets.

Melanie Landano: Yep.

Brett Linkletter: About whether it was weight loss or whatever you wanted to pitch, basically.

Melanie Landano: Yeah. I wrote into Food Network... Every month I wrote into Food Network.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: I would write to Food Network Star, any TV show, I was a finalist for one of the Bobby Flay shows. It was At Home with Bobby, Family Competition.

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Melanie Landano: I have so many videos that I've made just for Food Network stuff. My sister would... I'm like, " You have to come over and film me." I go inaudible, I'd set everything up. It was so funny. It's really funny what I've done. The Home Shopping Network, I applied for them.

Brett Linkletter: Wow.

Melanie Landano: I applied for Home Shopping Network I think like four times. I met with the Home Shopping Network people. I was ready to go. If they called me and told me I would have to move to PA, what else am I going to do?

Brett Linkletter: Got it.

Melanie Landano: Oh, and then when I worked with Pat LaFrieda, I was his sidekick on all our promotion. So, we did Eyewitness News a few times, live segments for the Super Bowl, for St. Patrick's Day, Fox 5. I just love doing it. The adrenaline, and...

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: I love doing media days, everything with Disney I did on film, it was great.

Brett Linkletter: But it sounds like also from doing this, so what you've done, though, from this currently and also obviously in the past, is you've built your personal brand, so now once you've launched Mel's Butcher Box, also with your name attached to it, people recognize you.

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: And, you have these old connections that now you can leverage to push the business.

Melanie Landano: Yes.

Brett Linkletter: Right? That's a huge thing-

Melanie Landano: I pitched to Eyewitness News yesterday, because I know the producer. I was like, " Nick, let me come on and do a Super Bowl segment." I have to start now. I know Super Bowl's here, but who can I call? Okay, I'm going to call Lori Stokes from Fox 5. I'm going to call my contacts with Eyewitness News. There's a local newscaster here, Nina Pineda. She got me on Eyewitness News last month when the Box just opened. And then NJ. com, now they all start coming in. We had so much press.

Brett Linkletter: That's amazing.

Melanie Landano: It was crazy.

Brett Linkletter: That's really, really incredible. It's funny because this is so, so, so clutch, and this is something that I've spoken to a lot of my clients about, about as the owner of your business, you need to get out there more, and I think a lot of people hide behind their business.

Melanie Landano: Yeah. I'm out there.

Brett Linkletter: I'm the same way. Literally anyone who's ever worked with us or decided to work with us, so we run ads for our business actually through my social media pages. So, through my Instagram, through my Facebook. We'll do a lot of stuff on Google as well, but it's always through my name versus our company, Misfit Media, because I think the truth of the matter is, people connect with people. People buy from people. People don't buy from companies. They do. You could argue, yes, but I think they connect with people more so. And I think by positioning yourself as this thought leader in this space, as this really passionate, amazing person in this space, and connecting your name now also to the name of the brand, you've done something really cool. I think what you have is you have a very franchisable concept at some point potentially, if that's ever a goal for you.

Melanie Landano: Come on, Brett. Let's do it.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: Come to New York.

Brett Linkletter: I do love New York.

Melanie Landano: Come support me.

Brett Linkletter: But it's cool. And again, there was a... God, I forget the name of this pizza brand we were working with about a year ago, but he only had one location, but this guy was doing$ 400,000 a month on this-

Melanie Landano: Where?

Brett Linkletter: Where was he? Where was he? I'm blanking right now. But do you know what he did? He himself would do these amazing YouTube videos of him making pizza and talking about it, another Italian guy-

Melanie Landano: I love that.

Brett Linkletter: And just really animated and excited, and people would go in because they wanted to see him. And obviously he had incredible pizza. But, whatever the case, people need to do this more.

Melanie Landano: Yep.

Brett Linkletter: This is something for me that I've always known at a young age too. Do you know the name Art Linkletter by any chance?

Melanie Landano: No.

Brett Linkletter: So, Art Linkletter, actually, it was my great- grandfather, was best friends with Walt Disney.

Melanie Landano: No way.

Brett Linkletter: He actually opened this-

Melanie Landano: That's why we're getting along, Brett. See?

Brett Linkletter: Opened up Disneyland back in the day. Was the host and announcer to open up Disneyland. And so, my whole life, I've always been obsessed with what you're talking about. Everything you've been saying this whole time I'm like yes, yes, yes, yes.

Melanie Landano: Wow. That's great. What a small world.

Brett Linkletter: It's crazy. So, I've always been on this exact same page, and that's exactly why I run my business this way with my face in front of it, because I'm the same way. I think I love connecting with people. I think people love connecting with other people, and why not attach a business to that connection?

Melanie Landano: Yes.

Brett Linkletter: You know what I mean?

Melanie Landano: And make it so much fun and so different and out of the box, right?

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%.

Melanie Landano: That's right.

Brett Linkletter: But no, this is really cool. Yeah, literally everything you've been saying, I'm just like, yes, yes, yes.

Melanie Landano: That's great.

Brett Linkletter: That's exactly... Really cool.

Melanie Landano: That's really cool. Really cool.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. He was a big inspiration for me growing up, and again, I love this space, too. One thing, again, I think that's so cool, which it seems like for you has just been second nature, but just pitching media outlets on you-

Melanie Landano: Yeah, I write a letter and I send it out.

Melanie Landano: I

Melanie Landano: text them. I'm like-

Brett Linkletter: That's amazing.

Melanie Landano: I said to Nina Pineda, she's at Eyewitness News. I said, " Nina, I want you to do a segment. I need you to introduce me. I want to be called Meat Mel, M- E- A- T Mel, and I want to go to these different restaurants, do different segments, and you need to pitch it." She goes, " Okay." And then she's trying to pitch stuff for me. But I just research what I could pitch. I pitched Rachael Ray, a lot of shows. That's how I found Oprah, because I was researching, and they said, " Oprah's looking for this, this," and I got there on my own. I had an agent. My agent used to send me on print ads, and you couldn't see my personality with print.

Brett Linkletter: Totally.

Melanie Landano: I need to speak, and not memorize a script, because I have ADD, because I'm crazy, but just be myself, like host something. So, the other day, Anthony Rodriguez, he's a producer for Diners, Drives, and Dives, with Guy Fieri. I've known him since junior high school. I started sending him pictures. I was like, " Ant, you need to come to Jersey. This is a show." I said, " Just today alone, the events that happened, it would be great, and my food's amazing, and I'm pretty cute and I'm funny, and inaudible." I said, " Come shoot a pilot with me. Just come shoot it, or put me in the right direction." That's what I do. I'd call the people I know, who I've kept in touch with, who I have a good reputation with, and just see what you can do. You never know. You never know.

Brett Linkletter: Absolutely. That's so cool.

Melanie Landano: So, who knows, maybe I'll get on the Food Network and start a franchise and have my own cookware and do all that.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. Well, I think what's also exciting about this time right now is that people are looking for a story like yours. People are looking for a story of overcoming this massive pandemic.

Melanie Landano: Right.

Brett Linkletter: Right? People want some positive news.

Melanie Landano: Like that light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.

Brett Linkletter: Yes.

Melanie Landano: Right?

Brett Linkletter: People are tired of hearing all the BS, everything that's happening in our country, with the Capitol building and all this stuff now, like come on. I'm tired of hearing the negativity. We've got to hear some positive stuff.

Melanie Landano: Well, this morning on Instagram, people are already saying, " Oh, eight days into 2021, I want my money back." I'm like, get over it. And I stopped. I was like, can't look at it anymore, because you either go full steam ahead, it's not the end of the world, the ninth day into the New Year, you have however many days left. You can't be like that. You can't. I could if I wanted to. And like I said, I get into that place, but when I do, I figure something out, to switch it over. I go cook somewhere.

Brett Linkletter: That's good. I saw this meme yesterday on Instagram, and it was like, season two of America has just begun, and we're off to a fantastic start. It's like, come on.

Melanie Landano: Right? And they're going to keep doing it. And every time something happens, you'll blame it on 2021. I can't. I have too many things... Right now, like I said, that low hanging fruit is all there. I need to figure it out and just keep going with it, because I can't lose the momentum. That's why I keep the truck open every day.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: I've got to stay open.

Brett Linkletter: I love that. I love that. Well, Mel, this has been really incredible. Such a unique interview, I think, today.

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: Super-

Melanie Landano: We need to plan a trip to Disney.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. 100%. I've been meaning to get over to Florida at some point because California is pretty shut down, as you know.

Melanie Landano: I know. I know.

Brett Linkletter: But it seems like Miami is happening, so...

Melanie Landano: Yeah, Miami is. Well, Jersey, it doesn't seem like anything's shut down here, but in the city, it's a little challenging to go into the city right now. I miss it.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah. But, anyway, Mel, anyone who's listening and maybe is listening to this, and what you've said is really resonating with them, but maybe they have a hard time taking that next step to bring the excitement back to their business or get back on the right pace to moving forward with their business, any kind of lasting advice you might give them on turning that leaf and making it happen?

Melanie Landano: Yeah, you have to look at what you have, by yourself. Be in a situation where you have the time to reflect and be like, what's not working, what can work, who has best practices that you could borrow, steal, who can you call to help, who are your contacts, who do you know in the industry that can come over and do a pop- up, do the menus, rent your space out, go help somebody else, get out of the store and walk back in as a customer, what are the new trends, and if there's no trend, can you start a trend? Who would've known I would start a trend in a small town. But also, who's your audience? Maybe you need a new audience, a fresh audience. They don't want the same mac and cheese, or they don't want the same salad because there's nothing special about it. People want something fun and different now because they've been in the house for how many... They don't want to order it anymore, like, " Where are we ordering from again? We need something..." And that's what I'm hearing.

Brett Linkletter: Yes. Yeah.

Melanie Landano: Right?

Brett Linkletter: That's true.

Melanie Landano: You have to learn... not learn, but I'm going to say hustle again. You have to. You have to find out where there is opportunity, because somehow, I found it, and it was a little overwhelming in the beginning, and I'm trying to figure out how to make it work not only for me but for everybody.

Brett Linkletter: 100%.

Melanie Landano: For my staff, for the customers, for the partners who asked me to do this. And then all of a sudden it will start coming into play. It will start getting a little better. But you have to look at what you're doing. Even Pat. Pat's a meat purveyor. He was doing food kits for Shake Shack. So, he used his... They were our customer, and Shake Shack was doing you could make the burgers on Gold Belly, and that's what Pat started to do. So, he became a packaging plant and a meat purvey. So, you have to figure out how to reinvent. Paint your walls, put a new sign up, put something different on the menu. It's a pandemic, but you can change. I went to have sushi the other night, and I walked in, and the lights were so bright I couldn't even look in there. The tables were six feet apart, but it looked like there was a pandemic. It just looked like nobody cared.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: And I spent almost$ 200, but I might not go back there now because of that. If you're open and you're lucky you're open because there are restaurants that aren't open in the city that are suffering, that are calling me to help them. So, there's a lot of different things you could do, and it's just being yourself, or being out there more, and don't be so scared of the pandemic. They're not going to come and yell at you because... Just figure it out. You can't be scared anymore. It's been a year.

Brett Linkletter: 100%. I agree.

Melanie Landano: I'm not scared. I have my mask. I have my sanitation. That's what people want to see. They want to feel safe.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah, they've got to stop being scared and they've got to start making moves. Yeah.

Melanie Landano: Right. If you want to make money, you have to. You have to think about what can I do to be different today, tomorrow. Change it up on Seamless. Change it up on Grubhub. Change the packaging. Get a different bag.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: Get a different shirt. Do something fun on social media.

Brett Linkletter: Find a way to have fun again.

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah.

Melanie Landano: I texted Anne Burrell, who's a friend from the Food Network. I haven't spoken to her in a while, I was like, let me reach out to her. And this is in the midst of everything. Just because I think I'm okay, I'm like, no, I have to see what else I can do. Where is there another room for opportunity for me? Said hi to her, Happy New Year, I'm thinking of you, how's everything? I told her I have a food truck. I said, " Come cook with me one day." If she replies to me... I put it out there. So, who am I to text a Food Network star and be like, " Come cook with me on the truck"? But you never know if she's bored. Maybe she'll come out. But that's something different.

Brett Linkletter: Why not? 100%.

Melanie Landano: I'm from Brooklyn. I told you, I'm a hustler. I'm a hustler.

Brett Linkletter: Yeah, no, I love that. I love that. You've got to be in this space. You've got to be in this space.

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: Well, Mel, that was really incredible. Again, thank you so much for your time today.

Melanie Landano: You're welcome.

Brett Linkletter: For anyone who's listening to this and wants to learn more about you or check you out, how do they do that?

Melanie Landano: On Instagram, Mel's Butcher Box. They could follow me, I'm @ melanielandano23, and DM me, they can call me, just private message me, and I'll be more than happy to answer questions. I can come cook if they want the truck over, wherever it is. If they want to open something with me... We can bring the brand to the West Coast. I'm dying to get to La Jolla, so...

Brett Linkletter: Venice Beach would love what you're doing. I would love what you're doing.

Melanie Landano: Let's do a taco burger truck, together. That's my next goal.

Brett Linkletter: That would be awesome.

Melanie Landano: Yeah.

Brett Linkletter: That would be awesome. Well, Mel, again, thank you so much for your time today. That was incredible.

Melanie Landano: Thank you.

Brett Linkletter: And we'll be in touch real soon.

Melanie Landano: All right. Happy New Year everybody.

Brett Linkletter: Happy New Year. All right.

Melanie Landano: Okay.

Brett Linkletter: Bye.

Melanie Landano: Bye.

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