1 year ago

Urban Cookhouse’s David and Andrea Snyder are concept creators, not just restaurant owners

In a single decade, David and Andrea Snyder will have launched two dining concepts and opened six restaurants as owners.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” said David, who with his wife founded Urban Cookhouse and Farm Bowl + Juice Co.

The Snyders opened the first Urban Cookhouse, a farm-to-fire-to-table, fast-casual restaurant, in Homewood in June 2010.

“Before Urban Cookhouse was even financially comfortable, I was approached and offered The Summitlocation,” which opened in November 2011 at the lifestyle center off U.S. 280, David said. While the Snyders now own a licensee group that includes the Homewood, Summit, downtown Birmingham and Tuscaloosa locations, Urban Cookhouses can also be found in three other Alabama cities as well as four other states.

The Snyders’ newest concept, Farm Bowl + Juice Co., specializes in acai berry and oatmeal bowls as well as cold-pressed juices and smoothies. They launched that brand in January 2018 in the same building with their relocated and expanded Homewood Urban Cookhouse. By November 2018, the Snyders had added another Farm Bowl + Juice Co. next to their Tuscaloosa Urban Cookhouse, which they had opened two years earlier.

While the restaurants are separate businesses, “we build them together,” said Andrea. “It is just easier to manage as a dual concept from capital expenditures to the build out, to management.”

Plan for volume

From the beginning, the Snyders never thought small.

“When you get the real estate, you’ve taken the first step,” David said. “When I set up the initial business, I planned for a lot of volume. I didn’t necessarily think that it was all going to come, but I said, ‘If I’m going to serve 1,000 people a day, how am I going to lay out my kitchen to make that happen?’”

Andrea echoes her husband’s advice to entrepreneurs: “Think big. Instead of investing in one register, invest in three to move more people through the line. Invest in the things on the front end that are going to allow you to grow and do the volume.”

The buildings that house both an Urban Cookhouse and a Farm Bowl + Juice Co. have drive-thrus and outdoor spaces. The Farm Bowls also come equipped with swings and abstract murals used regularly as backgrounds for social media posts.

“First impressions are everything,” said Andrea. “It is hard to go back and brand yourself. We like to make that investment, do it right from the get-go and know we gave it our all.”

Farm inspired

David’s paternal grandfather farmed for nearly 50 years in Coker, a small community northwest of Tuscaloosa. Andrea’s grandparents and Italian immigrant great-grandparents owned a New Jersey grocery that sold fresh fruits and vegetables. That familial practice of getting food directly from the land inspired them when developing their concepts.

Growing up, David appreciated the time spent with his grandfather on the farm. “I got to taste farm-fresh vegetables and see them put together on a plate with other great food and experience the difference that it made in flavor,” he said. “My grandfather also taught me how to cook with wood and charcoal.”

Urban Cookhouse is known for its wood-fired meats cooked on Big Green Eggs and its fresh produce, much of which is provided through grower agreements with Alabama farms. Farm Bowl + Juice Co. also gets its fresh fruits straight from farms. “We like our growers to be within 60 miles” of the restaurants, said Andrea.

This dynamic duo juggles it all while raising two daughters under the age of 7.

How? “I set boundaries,” Andrea said. “I get off at 3 p.m. every day. I pick the kids up. If it gets to where I can’t do that anymore, we need to stop growing.”

Developing people is key

“As much as we can, we spend time developing people and not focusing on the day-to-day urgent tasks that come up and mess your day up,” Andrea said. “Any opportunity we have to pour into our people, that makes all of the difference.”

The Snyders even cross-train employees so they can work at either concept.

“The people that we have, they are capable,” Andrea said. “They don’t need us around all the time.” Purposely, the couple weren’t on hand for the Tuscaloosa Farm Bowl opening. “They are at the point they kind of don’t need us anymore,” she said.

At the end of last year, the Snyders even helped David’s brother open his own restaurant – Mark’s Joint Backyard BBQ. Mark Snyder worked with his brother and sister-in-law from the inception of Urban Cookhouse. His restaurant is in the couple’s original Homewood location. “We are supporting him, but it is totally his,” Andrea said.


Founded: Urban Cookhouse, June 2010; Farm Bowl + Juice Co., January 2018; both in Homewood.

Number of employees: 225.

Mentor: Joe Granger, founder of Coach LLC, a leadership coach, who taught the couple how to focus on the “first 50 percent,” which is people.

Smart move: Choosing prominent real estate.

Learning moment: When we realized our success hinged on the development of and focus on the people who work for us. A lot of restaurants have great food, but people make the difference in success or failure. By focusing on the development of our people first, the metrics and tyranny of the daily urgent falls into place.

Wisdom shared: Take risks! Get a mentor. Get in on the ground level with a small company that is going places for the most opportunity.


This story originally appeared in the Alabama Retail Association‘s Alabama Retailer magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 hours ago

Tuberville supports #WeWantToPlay movement — ‘Let them play’

Count former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville as a supporter of the player-led #WeWantToPlay movement to save the 2020 college football season.

Prominent elected officials from across the country, including President Donald Trump, and major leaders in the college football world, including University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, on Monday voiced their support for the movement.

In a video message posted to social media, Tuberville added his voice to the mix.


The current Alabama Republican senatorial nominee said, “You know, college football is the lifeblood of the South, and allowing teams to play this season will bring a much-needed sense of calm to these strange times.”

Tuberville then echoed a key sentiment that Saban outlined earlier in the day.

“With proper medical supervision, college players are likely safer on the field than they are if they’re sent home. And most programs are implementing stricter guidelines than the CDC recommends,” Tuberville added. “If a player wants to opt out, that’s fine. But don’t take this opportunity away from thousands of young men who have worked their entire lives for this moment.”

“I support the players who want to take the field this season, and I hope you will join me. Let them play,” he concluded.


Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Sierra Club endorses Joe Biden, calls him ‘champion for climate justice’

Emphasizing its agenda of “climate justice,” the California-based environmental group Sierra Club announced its endorsement of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday.

In a release touting its intent to elect what it termed “climate champions up and down the ticket,” Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune outlined the desire of his group to defeat President Donald Trump.

“We are confident that Joe Biden will be the champion for climate justice that America needs in the White House,” Brune stated. “As Americans head to the polls in November, our country will be facing crises on multiple fronts, including a climate emergency that disproportionately harms communities of color. This may be the most consequential election of our lives, and it is critical that we replace Donald Trump with a leader who understands the scale and urgency of the climate crisis and is ready to take bold action to solve it.”

Sierra Club has maintained an active presence in Alabama this year.


In May, Secretary of State John Merrill declared Sierra Club an organization “threatening the economic livelihood of Alabama’s own businesses” through what he called a “shortsighted political agenda.”

Merrill cited lawsuits initiated by Sierra Club to restrict Alabama energy production as part of his contention that the group’s effort in the state would kill jobs.

“The Sierra Club, which is based out of San Francisco, California, does not represent Alabama thinking or values,” Merrill wrote. “It is troubling to see out-of-state activist groups working to influence our state’s power supply and its workers.”

In March, Sierra Club was among the environmentalist groups which descended upon the Alabama Public Service Commission to oppose natural gas usage for power generation.

Sierra Club endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

13 hours ago

Madison County Commission says it will not break the law to remove a Confederate monument

Alabama is obviously not immune from the racial strife gripping the United States. In recent months, we have seen statues come down, a state representative attended a birthday party for Nathan Bedford Forrest, small riots and acts of vandalism.

Like most Americans, Alabamians have generally accepted that the Confederate memorials all over the state on courthouse squares and in public parks are going to come down. Some are headed to cemeteries, some are headed to storage, and the fate of many is still unknown.

In Madison County, the Huntsville City Council and the Madison County Commission have both voted to move its controversial Confederate statue, and a new resting place at Maple Hill Cemetery has been selected. However, the monument still remains.


That monument was vandalized last week, and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong did not want to use taxpayer resources to clean it up, so it stands defaced and ugly near the steps of the Madison County Courthouse.

Strong appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” on Monday and made it clear he wasn’t going to clean it up or force county employees to do so, but he hinted that if someone wanted to clean it up in the dead-of-night, like when it was vandalized, they should have at it.

In the interview, Strong voiced frustration with recent reporting that indicated he and the Madison County Commission have not reached out to Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office seeking a way to remove the statue and pay a $25,000 fine.

The commission views this as a non-starter. Strong believes attempting to “negotiate” breaking the law is a violation of his oath of office. Instead, he “filed an application of waiver with the committee based on a law that was written in 2017,” he advised.

Strong is worried about precedent, saying, “[T]here’s a lot of hesitation in contacting the attorney general. What happens if the next time someone that somebody desires to remove the name Jefferson Street, Washington Street or they don’t like the name on a building? What do we do? Just go in here and let somebody set a fee, pay the fee, and say hey just remove whatever you want to?”

My takeaway:

This is what should be done. The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act is the law of the land and it has been upheld.

Obviously, Chairman Strong is right. The law needs to be followed, and if it is unwieldy, change the law. If you don’t, we will be seeing attempts to move historic markers, veterans memorials and the like that are followed by the presentation of a cartoonish $25,000 check.

Society cannot just ignore the laws we dislike and pay a fine and move on. The precedent is bad, and the Madison County Commission and its chairman want no part of it.


Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

13 hours ago

ICE announces arrests of two illegal aliens in Alabama, including for attempted murder

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday announced two recent Alabama arrests by its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.

According to a release, HSI made the pair of arrests in the Yellowhammer State on July 22.

Agents of the HSI Birmingham office reportedly arrested Christian Martinez, 32, a Salvadoran national and U.S. fugitive, on two state charges of attempted murder, as well as a charge of shooting into an occupied dwelling and another for being an alien in unlawful possession of a firearm.


HSI Birmingham worked with the United States Marshals Service on Martinez’s arrest on a fugitive warrant at a work site in Mountain Brook. ICE is also pursuing federal charges for unlawful firearm possession. Martinez was booked into the Jefferson County jail and given a $150,000 bond. This is an ongoing, HSI-led investigation, according to the release.

Additionally, HSI Huntsville arrested Iris Ferreira-Cardoso, 49, a Brazilian national, for alleged violations of federal immigration law.

Agents from HSI Huntsville and ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations were part of a federal-local law enforcement collaboration that reportedly arrested Ferreira-Cardoso at a residence in Owens Cross Roads in Madison County. He will remain in ICE custody pending removal proceedings.

ICE advised that both Martinez and Ferreira-Cardoso are aliens who were in the United States illegally.

Martinez is alleged to have illegally entered the country without being inspected or paroled by an immigration officer on an unknown date and at an unknown location.

Ferreira-Cardoso was previously removed from the United States in 2005. He is believed to have returned after that time, allegedly illegally entering without being inspected or paroled by an immigration officer on an unknown date and at an unknown location.

“People in these communities can rest easier knowing that these two violent criminals are not roaming the streets in search of their next victims,” commented Acting HSI Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama.

“The United States should not be viewed as a safe haven for violent criminals fleeing justice in their own countries,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Saban: ‘Players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home’

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban on Monday afternoon weighed in on the player-led #WeWantToPlay movement to save the 2020 college football season.

In an interview with ESPN, Saban commented on the movement that is in part led by Crimson Tide star running back Najee Harris.

The movement, less than a day old, has quickly gained steam, garnering public reactions already by President Donald Trump, other prominent elected officials across the nation and many in and around college football.


Speaking to ESPN, Saban pushed back on the notion that student-athletes will inherently be safer if the season is not played.

“I want to play, but I want to play for the players’ sake, the value they can create for themselves,” Saban said.

“I know I’ll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don’t care about player safety,” he outlined. “Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2% positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of the July. It’s a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out.”

The legendary coach noted that the SEC has already pushed back the start of its season to September 26 to allow the fall semester to resume before final decisions are made on football.

“It’s going to be a challenge when the other students get on campus, and I get that,” Saban remarked. “But we really don’t know what that entails until it happens. It’s a big reason we pushed the season back, to assess that, which is the prudent way to do it.”

Bama senior All-American offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood also spoke with ESPN, strongly stating his position. He underscored that players need to have a voice as conferences and schools make decisions.

“There’s a lot of noise and bad stuff out there about playing football with the virus going on, but I haven’t really seen anything about what the players want,” Leatherwood told ESPN. “We’ve been grinding all summer, and you don’t want it to be all for nothing.

“The story that needs to be written is that we want to play,” he added. “We take risks every single day, especially in this sport, and life shouldn’t stop. If there is a chance for long-term effects if you get it and people don’t feel comfortable, then don’t play. Everybody is entitled to their right. But we want to play, and we’re going to play.”

Harris, speaking to ESPN, praised Saban’s leadership.

“Coach Saban listens to his players and wants to hear from us first,” the running back advised. “He told us that none of this is about him, but it’s about us. He wants to hear our concerns, and we made it clear that we want to play and feel like Alabama is doing everything they can to make sure we can play safely.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth backed Saban on the matter in a tweet.

“I’m with Coach Saban on this one. The player are much safer on campus and at practice than back home. For the players sake, let them play,” he commented.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn