Galen Zamarra opened Mas (farmhouse) in the West Village in New York in 2004 and turned this high-end French Provençal eatery into a success. Seven years later, he faced a major decision that many chef/owners confront: Should he open a second restaurant and if he did, how could he maintain the quality of the first?
Finally determining that the timing was right, Zamarra is opening Mas (la grillade) in the West Village this summer. Before expanding, Zamarra, a 35-year-old graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and former chef at acclaimed Bouley’s in New York, wanted to make sure the first Mas was on solid footing and wouldn’t be weakened once his attention was split between two establishments. Over the years he strengthened his eatery by altering the menu, updating the décor, refining the service style, and hiring managerial staff.
When Zamarra first opened Mas, he virtually ran a one-man show. “I cooked, butchered, made sauces, hired staff, received goods, went to markets, ordered, and served as bookkeeper,” he says. Now the restaurant runs more smoothly because he delegates tasks to general manager Christopher Bender who will help run both restaurants and sous chef John Wells who is involved in menu development, ordering, kitchen supervision, and expediting.
Zamarra said the timing was right to expand for several reasons. He developed a culinary concept of grilling over an open flame using local oak and apple woods that exhilarated him. Secondly, he has outgrown the cramped confines of his kitchen and will have more opportunities in the new, larger kitchen. And lastly, he wanted to extend his brand.
Proximity also played a role in choosing his new location. The new eatery is two blocks away from the first, making juggling both establishments easier. “You can’t be in two places at one time, but I can run over and be here in two minutes,” he says.
One of the major hurdles of expanding involves obtaining the necessary financing. Zamarra solved that problem by obtaining a $3.3-million SBA loan, which enabled him to acquire the building and construct the second eatery. In New York City, where rents can escalate rapidly, owning a building avoids massive rent hikes.
Despite his expansion strategy, Zamarra is concerned that running two restaurants could dilute the original’s quality. That’s why he took seven years to place Mas on solid footing before expanding to his second restaurant.