When Life Has Other Plans
As a kid who loved the environment and planned on being an environmental lawyer, Robert Lumsden never imagined 30 years later he’d instead be the owner of six successful restaurants.
Lumsden ’89, ’94, worked in the restaurant business for more than a decade after earning his Juris Doctor from the University of Idaho College of Law in 1994. In early 1995, while he was looking for a full-time environmental law position, Lumsden took a night job as a host at what was then a startup Chinese restaurant concept called P.F. Chang’s.
Lumsden found his calling. He quickly ascended the ranks as a trainer, manager and eventually a market partner for the national restaurant chain — overseeing the Los Angeles and Washington state markets.
After 12 years with P.F. Chang’s in Los Angeles, Lumsden and his wife returned to the Northwest for a change of pace and more family time. In 2006, they opened their own woodfired pizza parlor in Boise’s Bown Crossing neighborhood — Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria. The restaurant’s success boomed. They later opened five new restaurants and today own pizzerias in three states.
The Vandal Connection
Lumsden said that his law degree was an obstacle at first, but eventually was key in his success as a restaurant owner.
“My boss was hesitant to promote me, thinking I was not invested and that I'd eventually go back to law,” he said. “Later, my legal background was incredibly helpful during lease negotiations, vendor contracts, HR issues and plenty more.”
Lumsden said his time in Moscow and at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity were key in establishing a strong foundation and becoming a successful adult. “I still have strong Vandal connections and I’ve made lifelong friends with whom I still talk daily,” he said. “
Being the Best You Can Be
Lumsden credits his education and experiences at U of I with helping him grow as a professional, but points to his wife as the primary driver of his success.
“She supported me while going to law school at U of I and then supported my decision to abandon law for a career in the restaurant industry. We both know that absent joy in what you do, success is meaningless,” Lumsden said. “She told me ‘go be the best you can be’ …I’m still working on that.”
Article by Maria Ortega, University of Idaho Boise
Published in the spring 2019 issue of Here We Have Idaho.