What is in this article?:
- MUFSO 2012: Melman Award winner Joachim Splichal shares strategies at MUFSO
- Overcoming challenges, developing talent
Patina Restaurant Group founder joined Richard Melman, other restaurant executives to discuss best practices, celebrate
Overcoming challenges, developing talent
With capital in place following a recent initial public offering, Del Frisco’s Grille is poised for growth, he said.
The challenge, said Mednansky and others, is hiring the right people. “You have to put your employees first, take care of your guests, and the profit will come.”
When asked what keeps him up at night, Paul Motenko, co-chair and co-chief executive of Stacked in Southern California, said, “I get the most stressed right before signing a lease. It’s a long-term commitment.”
Newport Beach, Calif.-based Stacked, which recently announced its fourth location coming to Thousand Oaks, Calif., said guests have really embraced the fully customized experience the concept offers. At Stacked, guests use iPads to build their meal, selecting every aspect, and only paying for what they’ve chosen.
Initially, Motenko said he was worried people would create “wild and crazy” things that wouldn’t like, but that hasn’t happened.
That’s in part because the menu’s core categories include familiar dishes like pizza, macaroni and cheese, and salads. “People know what they like, and they take ownership for it because they created it themselves,” he said.
Motenko, who also built the BJ’s Restaurants Inc. chain, said one of the keys to success for both brands has been the creation of a strong culture among employees — one where guest happiness comes first. “If you don’t like to make people happy, there are other businesses to go in to,” like accounting, said the former accountant.
Customization is also key for Pie Five Pizza Co., a fast-casual concept developed by Pizza Inn based in The Colony, Texas.
Clinton Coleman, Pizza Inn’s interim chief executive, said the concept was born of a solid operation with a long history in making pizza. But it was important to “approach it with fresh eyes” for the fast-casual segment.
“The food had to be great,” said Coleman. “People’s expectations have really gone up in fast casual. The expect it to be as good as in casual dining.”
Great food and service is at the core of the Patina Restaurant Group concepts, said Splichal, whose company operates more than 60 restaurants across the U.S., as well as a thriving catering and contract foodservice business.
Most recently, Patina group opened C&M, a coffee and dessert concept featuring Intelligensia brand coffees and high-end milk sorbet and cookie creations at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA.
Splichal said his company works hard to identify young talent and develop chefs, having them work with a baker and work on a farm, and sending them to Europe. “What’s missing today is a foundation,” he said. “Too many just want to be on TV.”
Melman, whose children have become more involved in LEYE, said, “It’s smart for seasoned restaurateurs to surround themselves with bright young kids, and to listen to them.”
In the end, however, it’s not about pleasing critics but pleasing the public, he said. “You can never stand still,” said Melman. “This is a marathon. You’re never done in the restaurant business.”
Find more 2012 coverage online at Restaurant Hospitality's sister publications, Nation's Restaurant News and Food Management.