SBDC Restaurant Program


You Know Food. We Know Business.

The Northern California Small Business Development Center’s Restaurant Program is here to support start up and existing restaurants and food businesses through one on one advising, training and resources. Our goal is to help you start your business and to provide ongoing support to grow your business.

Louise Dawson, Restaurant Program Manager | 707.567.6739

Nicole Spurr, Restaurant Program Coordinator | 707.689.8761

Apply for Services


  • 353
  • 1,902
  • 41
statistics as of 11/2020

How We Help:

We can help your business with general guidance as well as food, restaurant, and hospitality industry specifics. Here’s a list of the type of help clients may receive:

  • Cottage Food Business
  • Buy a business/business acquisition
  • Start a food business
  • Pitch decks and financials
  • Access to capital
  • Branding and marketing
  • Permits and Design
  • Equipment and operations
  • Menu development
  • Selling on Amazon
  • Beverage programs
  • Artisan and Consumer Packaged Goods
  • Food Trucks and Mobile Food
  • Hospitality Training

Apply for Services

How we Work:

Restaurant Program offers one on one advising, webinars and trainings for small businesses, and a full suite of specialized services tailored to the food industry, including restaurants, mobile food, artisan food, CPG (consumer packaged goods) and more — at no cost. Our program was built to serve entrepreneurs and small businesses with the nuts to bolts resources of the restaurant, food, and hospitality industry. Our advisors offer services in English, Spanish, French and Vietnamese.

One on One Advising

All of our advisors specialize in unique areas of the food industry.  You will be paired with a specialist who will support you, one on one, to chart a course to help you open, expand your business and to provide you with resources to help navigate a constantly changing economy.

Our Programs:

Our industry focused programs include an Artisan Food Incubator and CPG Online Program -  a 4-part series on starting an artisan or packaged food business, a Foodpreneur Cohort, a 10-week accelerator program where food business startups attend weekly webinars, meet with their advisors and learn how to start a food business, write a pitch deck and financials and learn to pitch their business concept, and more.

Online Exclusive Webinars

Here are a few more topics we cover in our workshops below:

  • Attend live webinars and trainings on a vast number of topics
  • Access our learning webinar library
  • Attend one of our programs:
    • Artisan Food Incubator
    • Cottage Food Training
    • Food Truck Incubator
    • Foodpreneur Pitch Deck Cohort ~ a 10 week accelerator program
    • Marketing Bootcamp

Subscribe for our newsletter   


What clients say about Restaurant Group:

“Throughout this whole process [opening Burgerim], the only ones that were there to help me through were the SBDC! Mani and Germain have been wonderful.”

Diane Long co-owner of BurgerIM, Dixon

bugerIM Logo

“Louise took our business plan from three to 52 pages. She made us dig deep and it helped us improve our vision so when COVID hit, we had already explored different lines of revenue and were ready to activate.”

Hella Nuts, Oakland

Hella Nuts Logo

Louise Dawson | Restaurant Program Manager

Louise brings over 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry to her consulting work, including owning and operating two successful restaurants and a large catering company specializing in the movie industry. She began advising with the SBDC in 2005 and has won a congressional award for her work in small business from Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Louise grew up in London, Spain and Mexico City. She graduated from Michigan State University and is fluent in English and Spanish.

Nicole Spurr | Restaurant Program Coordinator

Nicole joined NorCal SBDC as the Restaurant Program Coordinator in June 2020. Her experience has brought many non-profit executives and small business owners success throughout her 15-year administrative career. Nicole is well-versed in program coordination and development procedures from her experience as a Finance Assistant for the Dining Services department at University of California, Davis.

Her passion for helping others is emulated in her personal life, where she is an active volunteer in her community with organizations including Boy Scouts of America and Meals on Wheels. When not working or volunteering, you can find her enjoying a local eatery or exploring nature with her family. 

Germain Michel | Advisor

Germain is the Founder of Amelie, wine bar and bistro, with four locations between San Francisco and New York City.  He currently has over 70 employees and has been featured in Forbes, Michelin, and the New York Times “52 Places To Go”. Germain is also a wine producer (Domaine du Somail, France & Malbec Mendoza, Argentina) and is a certified sommelier.

Germain was born and raised in Rhone Valley, France, next to Lyon - the UNESCO food capital of the world. He moved to the US when he was 21 and is fluent in English and French. He has a bachelor's degree in finance and marketing.

Holly Stiel | Advisor

Holly is a trailblazing service philosopher, who innovated a method of training based on her 17 years as a world-class concierge. Her focus and passion is for “The Spirit In Service” and supports front line service providers in navigating the highly charged emotional business of customer service and working with people. Her clients include: Disney, Nordstrom, AVEDA, American Express, Bank of America, and Starwood’s The Luxury Collection. Holly has also been the spokesperson for The Visa Signature card.

Trang Nguyen | Advisor

Trang built, opened, and managed three restaurant locations and concepts (Chill, Urban Picnic, Mekong Kitchen) in San Francisco over the past 10 years. Her specialties are quick service restaurant (QSR) operations, Vietnamese cuisine, concept development, marketing/branding, and business plan/general management.

Trang’s background includes brand management and marketing for Best Buy HQ, Kraft HQ and Revlon HQ. She has an MBA from the University of Michigan and is fluent in English, Vietnamese and basic Spanish.

Colby Smith | Advisor

Colby is the founder of CANVAS, the Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley and Sonoma. She is passionate about supporting and cultivating outstanding quality service for all hospitality professionals in California’s Wine Country through providing education, hospitality resources, a trade show, and the CANVAS Excellence Awards. In addition to her concierge work, Colby has owned a PR firm in New York, has been a film and commercial producer, an actress, model, and stunt woman.

Paul Bozzo | Business Advisor - SBDC Finance Center

Paul has more than 25 years of professional experience working with start-ups on debt and equity funding, business planning, financial analysis, and start-up strategy. 

As an SBDC advisor, Paul’s specialty is working with entrepreneurial ventures to refine their business model; create an investment-driven business plan; develop credible financial projections; and prepare an effective investor pitch. He also advises founding teams on common start-up issues such as legal entity selection, intellectual property, financial accounting and go-to-market strategy. 

Paul has a Bachelors of Science in Information Systems and a MBA with a concentration in Finance.

Mani Niall | Advisor

Mani is a chef, baker, entrepreneur, and founder of two successful bakery-cafes. He is a former Executive Chef for national wholesaler Just Desserts and an author of four cookbooks. As a hands-on food R&D (research and development) chef, he has worked with start-ups entering the food industry to the creation of bench samples for nationally known brands.

His second cookbook Covered in Honey led to a deep concern for bees and honey and he is now a regular contributor to the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. | Instagram: @manistestkitchen

Adriana López Vermut | Advisor

Adriana first started working in the world of start-ups, through Viamericas, a South American money transfer company and at SpaceVest, a venture capital firm funding technology start-ups.

In 2008 Adriana crossed over to entrepreneurship and launched Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen, a restaurant in Napa Valley’s Oxbow Public Market offering Venezuelan arepas with a 100% gluten-free menu. In 2009, the Napa location was complimented with Pica Pica Bar, offering a large selection of draft beers, Latin cocktails and small Venezuelan bites. Pica Pica expanded to San Francisco, opening a location in the Mission District in 2010 followed by the Castro District in 2014. Through Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen, Adriana successfully introduced a new food concept to the Bay Area, and in 2014 was on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives with Guy Fieri.

Adriana brings experience to the SBDC in opening locations, managing day to day operations, brand development, marketing, sales, and developing different ways for customers to access businesses, be it through brick and mortar, online ordering, meals kits or catering. She and her husband have four children and live in San Francisco.


Gail Lillian | Advisor

Gail is a serial entrepreneur and business consultant based in Oakland, CA. She earned international acclaim as the founder of Liba, a salad bar and pita shop in Oakland. Liba began as a food truck in 2009 - a pioneer in the mobile industry - and expanded to a brick and mortar restaurant in 2014, which she operated until 2020.

She is a Leadership Facilitator for the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ famed Interpersonal Dynamics class and has served as a Mediator for 12 years, facilitating conflict resolution in corporate and community settings. She has also taught Business Management at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and has been a Keynote Speaker, panelist, and subject matter expert on restaurant operations, company culture, and leadership. Gail is proud to support small business entrepreneurs through her consulting work with SBDC.


Christina Mitchell | Social Media Advisor

As a former food blogger, Christina fell in love with telling stories and growing communities around the incredible restaurants in her community. She built on that passion by getting extensive PR and digital marketing experience with large and small wineries, restaurants and coffee companies, like Robert Mondavi Winery, Mumm Napa, Red Bay Coffee and many others. Christina speaks Spanish and Portuguese, holds a certificate in Social Media Marketing from Northwestern University and loves to support small businesses.


As concerns continue about coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re here to help you navigate available resources, answer your business questions and be a trusted partner for your business
English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.