Southern Comfort Goes Gourmet

Woodie Williams

Restaurants are all about food, beverage, and service—but hospitality is all about people. That is perhaps the core message from a conversation with John C. Metz Jr.—because this man, who is chef, entrepreneur, and executive, is truly a people person. Whether talking with reverence and awe of the lifelong influence his father, John Metz Sr., has had on his career and restaurants, or crediting his partners, Thomas DiGiorgio and Richard Rivera, with helping build the successful Marlow’s Tavern concept and Sterling Spoon Culinary Management, or simply lauding the team of professionals who help run their restaurants, Metz makes it clear that his priority is all about providing the highest-quality hospitality, always focused on the people being served. Metz, CEO, executive chef, and co-founder of Sterling Spoon Culinary Management and Marlow’s Tavern, talks about opportunities and trends within the industry, issues that warrant engagement, and the emergence of upscale-casual dining, of which Marlow’s Tavern is a perfect example.

“The idea of Marlow’s Tavern started because we wanted to create the kind of place where we’d like to go hang out, taking the idea of the neighborhood tavern and reinventing it with great food and great atmosphere coupled with four-star inspired service,” Chef Metz says. “Our goal for Marlow’s is to provide the luxuries of upscale dining to the neighborhoods we serve, in a simple, relaxed way.”

How is the industry different today than when you started?

The biggest piece that has changed has been the introduction of fast-paced technology. For the most part, that has been really positive, especially relative to food safety, sanitation, and inventory management.

But with the reliance on technology I think we’ve lost a little personalization, whether it’s at the table or within the restaurant operation. It’s important to remember that people still want to be served, they want to interact, and they want to escape. We are here to serve great food, great beverage, and give our guests hospitality.

Another big influence is the Food Network, which has created a bigger limelight around the profession, introducing a lot more people to the field and helping to grow both the labor force in the industry and the quality of talent.

And the last thing that has changed has been the evolution of the fine-dining world of the past into upscale-casual dining. People still want high-quality service and food, but they don’t need or want the stuffiness. This has forced the industry to maintain quality hospitality in a more casual setting.


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