Strength in numbers, so the old adage goes. It may be trite, but it’s also true. A group banding together has far greater odds of success than a single person does in going it alone. [To wit: What happens in any number of summer horror flicks when the main characters split up?] Despite the potential benefits of teaming up, restaurants have largely resisted such an approach, fearing that growth potential would quash individuality and vice versa. As a result, the landscape is filled with chains and one-off independents, with few venturing in between the extremes. After all, it can be a scary prospect.
But in recent years, that trepidation has started to dissipate. Up-and-coming restaurateurs recognize that there is indeed a happy medium between corporate chain and single, standalone establishment. The key to success lies not in replication, but rather in pooling shared resources. It’s the best of both worlds wherein restaurants can utilize the same leadership structure, training systems, vendor partnerships, and more to support concepts with vastly different personalities. For these reasons, we’ve reimagined our annual report on the top independents across the U.S. Instead of looking at the restaurants themselves, outgoing FSR editor Laura D’Alessandro delved into the groups behind some of the country’s most exciting restaurants. This month’s cover star, Luke Dirks—along with business partner Joshua McFadden—are yoking upscale Italian restaurant Ava Gene’s with farm-to-table Tusk while paving the way for additional concepts in the future. Similarly, the creators behind FreeRange Concepts have figured out how to pull a common thread through a dog park/bar, a restaurant/bowling alley, and a concert venue/restaurant.
Admittedly, I’m somewhat biased toward this collective structure. Multi-concept hospitality groups aren’t so different from our umbrella business, Food News Media, which publishes FSR, QSR, and Sapore, among other titles. Each publication has its own audience, focus, and inimitable style, but our team works together behind the scenes to bring it all together for you every day, week, and month. And now, like a business partner shifting from one restaurant to the next, I am carrying those synergies with me into this new role as editor of FSR. It’s a thrilling—not frightening—position to venture into the new when you know your team has your back. Now if only our horror-movie heroes would adopt that same mentality.