Jacksonville 904 June/July 2016 : Page 34

Eric Williams: SOUTHERN TABLE HOSPITALITY seafood concept was embraced by the community. Customer demand prompted the Groshells to open two more restau-rants within the next few years: North Beach Fish Camp and Julington Creek Fish Camp. Groshell is now also a partner in two Safe Harbor Seafood locations, for a current total of six Northeast Florida restaurants. Williams credits chef Groshell’s cre-ativity and excellence in cooking with the restaurants’ successes. “Ben doesn’t cut corners when it comes to quality of food. We make all of our stocks in-house, we serve fresh fish and, everything is prepared by hand. It’s hard to describe it as anything else than a scratch kitchen,” says Williams. For operations management, Williams says the group recently invested in Com-peat, a restaurant-friendly accounting system to track sales, labor and other line items from the previous and current year. “Every [category] can sometimes have a huge gap in it where money is literally flowing out of it, and sometimes it’s just a Southern Table Hospitality’s story began in 1992 when chef Ben Groshell and his wife, Liza, opened the Jacksonville Beach fine dining restaurant Marker 32. The restaurant is now a local favorite for celebrating special occasions and enjoy-ing fresh seafood in a waterfront setting. But less than a decade ago, business was not so stable. “During the recession, the luxury seg-ment—the Marker 32s of the world that have that higher price point—were all struggling. You could almost see tumble-weeds in the parking lot. It was common in all luxury restaurants in the United States,” says Eric Williams, director of op-erations for the Groshells’ restaurant group, southern table hospitality. As restaurants struggled—and in many cases, failed—to stay open amid staff lay-offs and food quality adjustments, the Groshells went against the grain of the downtrodden economy by opening a sec-ond venture: Palm Valley Fish Camp. Despite a general trend away from din-ing out at the time, the simple waterfront Ben & Liza Groshell bunch of pinholes that you have to lo-cate. You keep your eye on everything. The little things catch up with you just as much as the big glaring gaps. The little things are just as important,” he says. Williams says his management philos-ophy is to show a great deal of respect to-wards staff and to be an energetic leader so that everyone follows suit. He says the Groshells have laid a strong foundation for maintaining streamlined, consistent processes—a necessary component of op-erating multiple restaurants simultane-ously. “I can take a manager from one restau-rant and put him in another restaurant, and he knows all of the systems because they’re streamlined throughout our en-tire company,” he says. “A lot of things you learn, you learn through trial and error. But if you follow the basic premises of taking great care of your guests, great care of your employees, and serving great food—consistent, simple and fresh— that’s the best advice I can give anyone.” try average—and what you put in front of the customer runs 50 to 60 percent food cost, you’re going to fail.” Everybody guesses when considering how many of each menu item they’re going to sell. Some items, like pasta or chicken, might be a 20 percent cost. Others might be 60 per-cent. It’s hard to know what cus-34 : June 2016 tomers will love. But your guess, he says, should be an educated one. “It's going to be based on ex-perience or on talking to people who can give you solid, profes-sional guidance,” Luebkemann says. “The big food distributors have really good consulting help. They don’t want to sell you groceries for one month and then you’re out of business. They’ve discovered that the more they can be involved with guiding a restauranteur and building that business founda-tion, the longer that business will be around and buying gro-ceries from them.” Step six is designing the space. Now, you start ordering the furniture, the fixtures and lighting and deciding what the colors are going to be. “It’s got to be completely, honestly and objectively tied to the business plan,” Luebkemann says. “If you project a certain level of sales for the first year and you spend three times that amount of beautiful tables, you’re setting yourself up to fail. The amount that you invest in that space has

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