If you’re looking for someone who can transform a one-of-a-kind space into a highly functional yet- hip restaurant, Karl Hasz is your guy. Based in San Francisco, the 37 -year-old Hasz has designed and built such places as Bacar, Cyrus, Frisson, Tres Agaves and Supperclub; several more of his restaurant projects will make their debuts soon. A native of Woodland Hills, CA, who was a foreman on custom home construction jobs at age 16, Hasz is a graduate of the Chico State School of Construction Management. He is a commissioner on the San Francisco City and County Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board.
This is quite a boat.
It’s a 32-foot Catalina. I keep it down at the Marina, which is just four blocks from my office.
Do you spend a lot of time here?
I jump out for a couple of hours when I can. No long trips; I’ll just tour around San Francisco Bay. We’ll snack on a few of the items you see in the boat’s fridge.
Sounds like restaurant designers have way more free time than their clients.
Not really. It’s just that every job and every day is different in my business. When you get a chance to sail, you gotta do it.
How did you get into the restaurant game?
I was a branch manager for Gaul Construction and we got the Rubicon job. That opened my eyes.
What exactly does Hasz Construction do?
Usually, we conceptualize, design and build. Some we just build; others, we handle the whole thing.
What’s “the whole thing”?
That means helping at each step of the process: the lease, the design, getting the utilities in, making sure the restaurant ergonomics are right—everything.
So on a given day, you’re...?
I’m checking in with all the different job sites, looking at potential new spaces, picking out materials—lots of stuff.
How many jobs do you have going right now?
Four. That’s a lot, but we’re looking to expand.
Outside of San Francisco?
Yes, to New York City and Los Angeles.
Boy, you picked some tough markets to break into.
I grew up in L.A. building large homes with my dad, so I’m comfortable in that market.
What attracts you to New York?
That’s the big show. I have an old partner there and I’m a planning commissioner here in San Francisco, so I’ll get some respect from the planning department.
You’ll still be an outsider.
I’ll have the local unions here call their counterparts there. You have to protect the existing contractors and subs there.
Tell us about your residential kitchen design venture.
I’ve designed a number of home kitchens in my career, but after the restaurant kitchen design experience, the usual home version doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t address flow and convenience issues. In restaurants, we design work circles to keep cooks out of each other’s way. We’ll do the same for homes.
Who are your partners in the residential kitchen business?
Two chefs: Doug Keane, from Cyrus in Napa, and Kerry Simon.
Simon has connections in Las Vegas. There must be a ton of restaurant design work there.
Las Vegas...it’s not my world.
What design trends should RH readers keep an eye on?
It makes more sense today to go small, go neighborhood, instead of taking a risk on a big restaurant. It’s all about productivity and high quality today.