The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Builders generally don’t manage the facilities they construct, but in an economy struggling to regain its feet, Legacy Property Group is trying something outside its core competencies: restaurant management.
Last month Legacy declined to renew its contract with Concentrics Restaurants to manage Legacy’s popular downtown eateries Stats and Max’s Pizza.
The move raised eyebrows among some in the dining industry because Concentrics is one of the city’s leading restaurateurs, owning such destination establishments as One Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks and Parish.
But Legacy president David Marvin thinks that bringing the management in-house allows more flexibility on everything from menus to marketing. It also saves money on third-party fees at a time when budgets are tight.
“We’re going to put a real focus on quality, a real focus on customer service,” said Marvin, who built the Hilton Garden Inn and Embassy Suites hotels near Centennial Olympic Park and created the Luckie Marietta District. “We’re just looking for a less corporate approach.”
He said the dissolution of the relationship with Concentrics does not mean the restaurateur did anything wrong, though there were some differences in philosophy. For instance, Concentrics had a policy of restricting ball caps from Stats, which didn’t go over well with some customers.
“We had some guests that didn’t understand that and were pretty irate,” he said.
Harold Shumacher, a local restaurant real-estate broker and president of the Shumacher Group, said the move could be shrewd, given the challenges the industry faces. Management fees can cost an owner anywhere from 4 to 6 percent, which can be a substantial bite when margins are thin.
“If I’m shouldering all the risks, I might as well enjoy the fruits of my labor,” Shumacher said. “In times like these you have to keep your options open.”
Going it alone, however, is a change that Marvin is taking in baby steps. The builder recently partnered with Marriott to associate the independent downtown Glenn Hotel, which Marvin owns, with the international chain’s “Autograph Collection.”
The Glenn will remain independent, he said, but will be able to take advantage of Marriott’s booking system and international reach. Travelers who earn Marriott loyalty rewards will be able to use them at the Glenn.
In addition, 30 Tables, the Glenn’s restaurant, will be managed by Sage Restaurant Group, which manages the hotel. Concentrics had also operated 30 Tables.
Brian Bullock, who was brought in from BrickTop’s restaurants to manage Stats and Max’s, said the goal is to be more nimble and respond more quickly to customer needs. For instance, he is customizing new menus to specific segments: the lunch crowd, which needs to eat fast, and dinner diners, who are often looking for simple bites before a game.
A third customer – conventioneers – will also get selections tailored for them.
He also wants to improve wait times and pull in a neighborhood crowd. Legacy is particularly interested in students from Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and Atlanta University Center for Max’s.
“We definitely need to get our service more oriented to return business,” said Bullock. “We need them to have that family and neighborhood feeling.”
Marvin admits he is partly motivated by a need to keep busy. With bank financing tight right now, he’s not doing his first love: building.
But he said the best new ideas come when business is idle. He said he sees growth potential in the restaurant management business, especially if the company is on the ground and listening to customers.
Or as Greg Rancone, director of marketing for Legacy, said, “The concept of this is the tender loving care of an owner-operator for his own restaurants.”