Nicholas Alston is a flight attendant and an entrepreneur. He worked in the food industry before becoming a flight attendant in 2019. Soon, coronavirus was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Alston took a voluntary leave — where he only worked every other month — after flights were grounded owing to various restrictions imposed by countries to contain the spread of the virus in early 2020.
It was during that time that Alston decided to go back to the food industry and fulfill his childhood dream of opening a restaurant, according to CNBC Make It. He soft-launched Clutch Handheld Breakfast, a one-man restaurant he was operating from his ghost kitchen in Columbus, Ohio. In May 2021, he returned to flying full-time while still running his restaurant.
Alston struggled to combine his main job and side hustle and so he temporarily shut down his restaurant business in August so he could focus on his flight attendant job, save money and move his business to the next level, that is, to buy a food trailer to run his business out of.
Before becoming a flight attendant, Alston was earning $15 an hour working as a shift manager for a German food truck. His friend introduced him to the idea of being a flight attendant. After extensive research, he applied to six airlines, got two offers, and landed on one.
He went on to pursue an eight-week training course and began flying in May 2019. His new job came with lucrative pay. He currently earns $35 an hour and he told CNBC Make It that he expects to reach a cap of $69 per hour.
According to him, his flying job financed his dream of becoming a restaurant owner. However, the idea was conceived way back in college. He said that he came up with the idea of opening a food truck that specialized in handheld breakfast foods like omelets and French toasts.
By mid-2020, Alston had saved up to $28,000 to start his business but it was not enough to invest in a truck. It could start a restaurant from a ghost kitchen, which he did. And so he started Clutch Handheld Breakfast and only produces food for delivery and takeout with no dine-in areas.
According to CNBC Make It, he spent $5,000 in startup costs, including establishing an LLC, getting his food handler’s license, gathering supplies and testing his menu. He also rented kitchen space and a storage facility.
Despite working as a flight attendant, Alston found time on Thursday and Friday mornings to operate Clutch from Columbus. In June when he operated for six days, he was able to rake in $760.
Alston, who earns $51,000 a year as a flight attendant, said he is still running his restaurant business as a side hustle since it is going to take him a bit of time to grow it and hire more hands.