Jason Berry and Michael Reginbogin, co-founders of KNEAD Hospitality + Design, describe themselves as “risk-averse.” KNEAD owns, operates, and designs ten different restaurant concepts in the D.C. area, with a few more set to open in the next year or so, yet despite that success, they maintain a level of caution and careful planning with every new idea.
Berry and Reginbogin knew the restaurant industry, as they both worked in many different positions in restaurants since they met at USC 24 years ago. Over the years, they each honed in on their respective talents of business and design. As KNEAD continued to grow and stabilize after the pandemic, Berry and Reginbogin decided to grow their family, too. When we talked, they were in their Airbnb, anxiously awaiting when they’ll be able to settle into their newly renovated house in McLean, which was designed by Reginbogin.
We catch up with them on how they balance KNEAD and a new baby.
District Fray: How is balancing a newborn with KNEAD?
Berry: London was born a month ago yesterday, so she’s fresh and new and exciting. We tried and tried for many years, but were not able to conceive–
Reginbogin: (Laughs) It was through a surrogacy agency called Growing Generations.
Berry: After putting a hold on the process due to the pandemic, we restarted last summer, and she was finally born a month ago. It’s been wonderful. So, balancing the baby has been interesting, because we’re in our restaurants, if not 7 days a week, at least 5 or 6, for a meeting, an inspection, an interview… The other piece of it is that we have a nanny who’s here at night to help sleep train. That enables us to not lose our minds. We have a flexible schedule and we’re incredibly fortunate to have that, where one of us can stay with London, while one of us goes to the gym or has a meeting or interview.
Reginbogin: For us, having a child was a rather planned out experience, for lack of some romance. For us, we swiped a credit card and got the legal team involved. So, it was very different, but also for that reason, it was done with purpose and was very planned. We also waited until a certain point in our lives where we could make decisions and plan accordingly to create the best opportunity for London and for us in the process.
As for the business side, you’ve got some newer restaurant concepts now, as well as some others on the way. What do you consider while picking and designing new restaurants?
Reginbogin: We look at creating an experience that is equal parts design, food and beverage service. There might be another Mexican restaurant a block away, but is it 10,500 square feet with a 20-foot tree and multiple bars? You eat with your eyes first, and food and beverage follow that.
Berry: I think “you eat with your eyes” is an incredibly important phrase that we’ve coined — what draws somebody in for the first time is not the food and beverage, because they haven’t had it. It’s the space, the lighting, the cleanliness.
Reginbogin: For us, even the restrooms are a continuation of the experience. If you get up from your table and walk to the restroom and see cold, white light, you might look in the mirror and think, “I don’t look that great; I think it’s time to wrap it up and go home.” Or the restroom is a continuation of that experience with dim lighting and nice tile work. You look in the mirror, you feel sexy. You remember you were having a good time, and you want to stay a little longer.
Berry: No detail should go ignored.
What are your thoughts on the idea of “having it all,” being able to give equal energy to parenting and your careers?
Reginbogin: We don’t want to jump into something and just see where it goes. It’s similar with having a child and having a family; it’s very planned out. Essentially, we do want it all! We want it all to come together as a full experience. But I do believe there’s planning. We waited until the right time to have a child, to have business and family and enjoy both at the same time.
Berry: I’ll also add that the definition of “all” evolves over time. 20 years ago, we didn’t have any commitments to tie us down. We could go anywhere. But now, we can still have those things — part of the intent of having a child is that she is part of our life. So, when we’re going on vacation when she’s 6 months old, she’s coming with us. She’ll learn how to travel, how to be on an airplane, how to eat interesting food. That’s why we had her. We want to spend time with her.
What advice would you give to those who want to build a successful, balanced life?
Berry: You have to pay attention to the signals life provides. We open the doors, and if it’s the right feel and time and place, it happens. You kind of let the universe, to some degree, guide you. It sounds a little spiritual, but I really believe even if you don’t not walk through each door, you won’t know what’s on the other side if you don’t open them. But the more you open, the more success you’re going to have.
Reginbogin: Also, ask yourself if you can deal with opening the door and having it not work out. What’s the impact? If you’re able to survive and bounce back, then maybe it’s worth doing. The first door is always the hardest. If the first restaurant hadn’t been a success, there wouldn’t be a second. That’s how the story goes.
Berry: And with the door London was behind, there’s a certain level of maturity you have to have. We were ready, and now, we’re able to do this how we want to. We want her to be a part of this life we’re building.