Hudson restaurant owner takes aspiring entrepreneurs under his wing

Restaurant owner helps aspiring restaurant owners

A longtime restaurant owner is helping newcomers open their doors.

Opening a restaurant is no easy task – especially with the high cost of commercial kitchens and a few tough years for the industry during the pandemic – but there’s one longtime restaurant owner who’s helping newcomers open their doors.

Pete Foster, co-owner of San Pedro Cafe in Hudson, has been in the business for nearly 30 years. He’s now mentoring aspiring restaurant owners to reach their dreams right in his backyard.

He said San Pedro Cafe got so busy over the years that he opened a lounge space in the back lot, which sat empty on Mondays and Tuesdays. So he hatched an idea – why not let a pop-up restaurant use the space to try out their restaurant concept? He gives them a deal and advice along the way.

“Believe me, I’ve made a million mistakes over the last 27 years, but you know after making the same mistake once or twice you learn from it and you can pass that knowledge along,” Foster said. “There’s a lot of great chefs and great operators that just haven’t made it because they lack that third piece which is the business, the knowledge of the business and the numbers.”

In the space currently, are two of Foster’s former employees, Luke Sawtell and Riley Jackson. Their Italian restaurant is called Olio.

“We talked about it for years and opportunities come up and you take them or they just don’t come up at all,” Sawtell said. “I know a lot of times we’re like do we want to text Pete again? Yeah, text him, we need an answer.”

Just last week, the couple officially closed on their own space in Bayport, Minn. as a full-fledged restaurant.

“It makes me want to cry because I love them so much and I’m going to miss them,” Foster said.

Even with a bittersweet ending, they’re feeling confident knowing there’s a success story just a few miles up the river – Melt Pizza in Stillwater was also taken under Foster’s wing in 2021.

Foster caught a glimpse of their Detroit-style pizzas on an Instagram post, and he tracked own Anthony Gilbert and asked him if he wanted to set up shop in his lounge space. After about a year in Foster’s lounge, Gilbert later opened the successful pizza shop in Stillwater.

“This pop-up was everything for this concept,” Gilbert said. “I didn’t have a boat load of money to go build a restaurant, take a huge risk, so it was kind of one of those things where if I could build up an organic following build up, you know, a clientele stuff like that really kind of prove the concept then I felt comfortable to take it to the next step.” 

“Yeah, it’s extremely promising to see his success like a lot of success and knowing ideally that’s where we want to be as well,” Sawtell said.

“Whether it’s Stillwater or Hudson, the more great quality restaurants we have in these areas only brings more people and only helps all of us,” Foster said.