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Shawn Walchef of Cali BBQ Media talks Toast and Digital Hospitality Interview with Cali BBQ Media founder Shawn Walchef about starting a media company, being the tortoise not the hare, and making a tech stack.

By Shawn P. Walchef

Key Takeaways

  • Invest in the Things that Lead to Growth - For Shawn Walchef and Cali BBQ, being at the forefront of Digital Hospitality has been an opportunity to learn and grow. Strengthened by a powerful partnership with Toast, Cali BBQ's tech stack is now streamlined and scalable.
  • Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance - "Stop praying for as fast as possible. Start praying for as long as it takes". That is a quote that Shawn Walchef has found to be one to live by. As an extreme competitor, Shawn has to balance his Mamba Mentality with the ability to enjoy and be present in a singular moment.
  • A Rising Tide Lifts All Leaderships - Shawn Walchef is all about connection, sharing stories, and getting involved. The way he lives his life is proof positive of the mantra he believes in.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"Stay curious. Get involved. Ask for help."

That's important advice that Shawn Walchef's grandfather Luben Walchef instilled in him long before Shawn founded a burgeoning media empire from the back of his single-unit restaurant in the outskirts of San Diego.

The Cali BBQ Media founder believes that having a streamlined digital ecosystem and tech stack is crucial for the success of any business.

Just as important is Smartphone Storytelling; all business owners have the power to start telling their own story to the world online — using just their cell phone.

In his extensive experience as a restaurant owner and operator, Shawn Walchef has seen many businesses use a patchwork of different tools, software platforms, and hardware for marketing, loyalty, point of sale, scheduling, back of the house, etc. This results in a disjointed and inefficient system that ends up costing them extra money and wasted time.

Once his Cali BBQ restaurant company started using Toast as a point of sale provider in 2020, Shawn and General Manager Eric Olafsen realized that the innovative company could serve as the heartbeat of their restaurant tech stack.

Toast also allowed them to easily integrate other restaurant tech solutions and enhance the overall customer experience of eating "Slow Food Fast" from Cali BBQ (whether online or in-person). Slow Food Fast is the slogan of Cali BBQ thanks to the speed and efficiency technology like Toast helps provide.

"Once we had Toast. Now I realize that our ecosystem, our digital ecosystem, can have this heartbeat. And once it has a heartbeat, now I can go find a solution that Toast might not have," explains Shawn Walchef to Will Eppard at Spark LA in 2023 about building a tech stack with Toast as the foundation.

Walchef acknowledges that investing in the necessary tools for growth can be challenging for business owners. It requires stepping out of the four walls of the business and investing in the resources that will allow the business to expand digitally.

He believes that connecting with other business owners is also key to learning and moving any enterprise forward.

Live events (such as Spark by Toast and the Restaurant Transformation Tour by Restaurant365) and online communities provide opportunities to learn from others and stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices.

Shawn and his Cali BBQ Media team also host two live Clubhouse meet-ups every Wednesday and Friday at 10am (PST) on the social audio app.

One of the lessons that Walchef has learned through his years in the industry is that slow and steady wins the race. While it is tempting to want immediate success and build a unicorn business, he emphasizes the value of appreciating each day and taking a long-term approach.

This philosophy applies not only to building a successful restaurant, but also to building a successful media company and family.

"I heard a quote the other day and I've repeated it pretty much every day since I've heard it, and it's to stop praying for 'as fast as possible' and start praying for 'as long as it takes you,'" says Shawn Walchef.

"So much of what I've learned is that, low and slow is how we build our barbecue, how we build our media, how I build my family. It's appreciating one day at a time."

Shawn Walchef encourages restaurant owners to share their stories and connect with others online every day. The internet and platforms like Spark LA have given businesses the ability to connect with people all over the world, even if they are not in their local market.

As he puts it, "A rising tide lifts all leaderships. Your story matters. You created a business. You created a restaurant. You convinced so many people who told you you couldn't do it."

And Shawn is there to help you tell that story.

- Article by TJ Void of CaliBBQ Media



Restaurant Influencers is brought to you by Toast, the powerful restaurant point of sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.

Toast — Powering Successful Restaurants. Learn more about Toast.

Restaurant Influencers is also supported by AtmosphereTV - TV to Enhance Your Business. Try AtmosphereTV.

Shawn P. Walchef

Founder of Cali BBQ Media

“Be the show, not the commercial.”

Cali BBQ Media Founder Shawn Walchef helps brands and leaders leverage the new Business Creator Economy with strategic Smartphone Storytelling and Digital Hospitality.

His Cali BBQ restaurant company has generated more than $35 million since opening in 2008. They operate numerous locations in San Diego and beyond.

Shawn’s weekly video series Restaurant Influencers (published by Entrepreneur Media and produced by Cali BBQ Media) has been seen by over 25 million people.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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