Entrepreneur Profile: James Watts

Published on AllBusiness.com
By Knight, Emily

James Watts had always seen a gap in the restaurant industry.

Between low-end fast-food and full-service restaurants, there were few places serving quick but high-quality food in a casual setting.

Watts created the business plan for Croutons Inc. around this need, and in 2002, he opened the first Croutons restaurant in Carlsbad, followed by restaurants in La Jolla and Bend, Ore.

“I think the success of the Bend location shows that our concept can work anywhere in the country,” said Watts.

UC San Diego students voted Crontons as their top choice for a new restaurant, giving the company the right to open a new location on campus.


Name: James Watts.

Title: President.

Company: Croutons Inc.

Company address: 8707 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla.

Company phone: (858) 909-0960.

Year founded: 2002.

Prior business experience: Spent more than 10 years working in investment banking in San Diego and New York.

Average hours worked weekly: 40.

Source of startup capital: Personal savings and a Small Business Administration loan.

2006 revenue: $1.38 million.

2005 revenue: $725,000.

Number of employees: 25.

Web site: croutonsinc.com.


Birthplace: San Diego.

Education: Bachelor of Science in finance, San Diego State University; M.B.A., Columbia University, New York.

Age: 38.

Current residence: San Marcos.

Family: Single.

Hobbies: Hiking, reading, mountain biking, surfing, running.


Reason for getting into business: To “do it right,” to make a difference and to reintroduce some of the traditional American ideals and values that this country was built on.

How I plan to grow the business: Current plans are to grow the company using a combination of both companyowned locations and franchised locations. We are opening a new location in Sorrento Mesa and we won the right to open a new location at UCSD.

Biggest plus of business ownership: Owning your own business provides the opportunity to positively affect the lives of those around you.

Biggest drawback: None.

Biggest business strength: Acute environmental (i.e., surroundings) awareness.

Biggest business weakness: Perfectionism.

Biggest risk: Becoming averse to risk.

Smartest business decision: Ignoring the “expert” naysayers in the restaurant industry that said we didn’t stand a chance prior to opening our first location.

Biggest business mistake: Occasionally obsessing over competitors.

Toughest career decision: Leaving New York.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Maintaining an unflinching commitment to quality.

The most important part of my business: The customer.

My business works best when: I entrust others.

Best way to stay competitive: To operate our company under a private ownership structure.

How I measure success: Noise volume (customer responses, preferably positive), landlord inquiries into Croutons as a tenant, media interest and investor/franchiser interest.


Goals yet to be achieved: Have a family.

My five-year business plan: In five years I’d like the Croutons name to be synonymous with something special, something different, something outside the mold. I never (with few exceptions) want us to be like the other guys in our industry.

I would sell my business only if: The business negatively affected my family life.

Guiding principles: Balance and belief. Balance: I’m a strong proponent of “bursts” of intensity. I find I perform at a much higher level if I focus intensely on the business for no more than four hours per day.

Belief: Confidence that we are right in taking the road less traveled.

Source: http://www.allbusiness.com/food-beverage/restaurants-food-service-restaurants-fast/10585961-1.html#ixzz1f81kCapb