In a time where restaurants close as soon as they open, how does one find the secret formula? It seems like the chain Earls Kitchen + Bar has figured it out. Founded in Canada in 1982, Earls Kitchen + Bar was created with the goal of becoming “The Most loved and Best Run restaurant in North America”. The franchise now has 59 restaurants in Canada, and 7 in the United States; its latest opening being in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.
We had the opportunity to pick the brain of Stephen Andrews, Chief Development Officer and Vice President, who is driving International Growth for Earls Restaurants through world-class Real Estate Development.
Coming from a senior position at Darden Restaurants, what about Earls enticed you to make the move in particular?
Earls is a restaurant company with scale but without the predictable monotony of a chain. We work really hard to create a collection of innovative and individually compelling restaurants, so the design freedom is intoxicating. Then, seeing the design and personality of each individual restaurant come to life is positively addictive.
Earls Kitchen currently boasts 66 locations across the US and Canada. If you had to choose, what would be your top three locations and why?
Aside from Lincoln Park:
1) King Street in Downtown Toronto for its fantastic energy and patio right in the heart of the financial district.
2) Tysons Corner, VA. Located in Macerich’s jewel project, this location is absolutely breathtaking with panoramic views sitting on the center’s elevated 40,000 square foot landscape plaza.
3) The third is a toss-up between Dadeland in Miami for its spectacular cantilevered patio complete with tropical breezes and one that is still on the drawing boards — the Prudential Center in downtown Boston. Earls Prudential is currently in the design phase and will feature an spectacular 3400 square foot roof-top patio complete with an exterior bar right in the heart of it all and just an eight minute walk from Fenway.
What are some of your favorite items from the kitchen and bar menus?
The bold flavors of the Korean Bibimbap with its crispy rice never fails to impress me, but I am also a huge fan of the authentic Jeera Chicken Curry with coconut jasmine rice. When I am feeling more traditional, there is nothing quite like a Creekstone Farms antibiotic and hormone free New York Strip Steak to fit the bill. I try to leave without dessert, but the Sticky Toffee Chocolate Pudding (it’s actually a caramel and ice cream covered cake) somehow usual finds its way onto my table.
To be able to deliver a great indoor/outdoor restaurant and patio in an urban location is challenging. At Lincoln Park, we are able to deliver the good– such as open views, open facades and a spectacular patio without the bad– street noise, cars and fumes. The restaurant will be a perfect oasis woven into an urban fabric.
What do you find is most rewarding part of having a career in the real estate development sector of the restaurant business?
Restaurants are very complex creatures — part entertainment, part utility, part social, but they are always experiential from the guest’s perspective. The ability to help create a fantastic guest experience through real estate, architecture, and design is just plain thrilling.
Photo Credit: Earls Kitchen + Bar