Last February, I took my first tour of Trinity Groves, the 13-acre restaurant-retail-artist-and-entertainment development at the base of the west end of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Developers Phil Romano, Stuart Fitts, and Larry “Butch” McGregor expect Trinity Groves to be a hotbed for entrepreneurial thinking. They compare the multi-use development filled with restaurants, shops, and potential living spaces to be what Silicon Valley is to high tech or what Ghirardelli Square is to San Francisco. They’ve cleared out the old truck terminal building (green building pictured above) and some surrounding spaces and are attracting some local culinary talent to participate in their Restaurant Concept Incubator program. Their vision is to house 30 concepts from this program plus restaurants from individual investors.
Romano has commissioned a pilot for The Restaurant Maker, a reality TV show for budding restaurateurs not unlike the process Shark Tank participants go through. I watched some of 45-minute promotional video and it’s well done. There are three episodes in the can. Each show features an potential talent going through the grueling process of getting a shot at owning their own restaurant. Hmm, this idea sounds a bit too familiar: Mark Cuban, I gave you the chance to make it big with me.
Jump for exciting construction site photos and insidery information about Trinity Groves.
To even be considered for the project one must present the Food and Concept Advisory Committee with an idea for a restaurant that will not only work in a space in Trinity Groves, it has to be good enough to, eventually, roll out multiple units. The good news is that the program is structured to give each business an even playing field: Every restaurant space is the same size (2,500 square feet) and no concept can cost more than $500,000 and must have a sales projection of $1.5 million. The kind of numbers that represent a concept that is “expandable.”
The first victorious person to survive the Restaurant Concept Incubator is Mike Babb. His restaurant, Babbs Bros BBQ & Blues, is set to open in early November. The second restaurant, Hofmann Hots, is Phil Romano’s new hot dog-and-sausage-centric concept. He plans to spread them “like Subways.” Four Corners Brewery should be open by the end of October. Chef Sharon Van Meter just debuted 3015 at Trinity Groves, a 10,000 square-foot event facility designed for large parties, culinary corporate team building, and a cooking school. She also has plans to open a small French beignet coffee house called Beignet Bridge Club. (Trending: beignets are the new donuts.)
Tuesday, I met with concept consultant Mark Brezinski and he showed me the master plan. He tossed out a lot of familiar names in the restaurant business who are not only interested in getting into a space at Trinity Groves, they have already turned in written proposals, gone through tastings, and signed letters of intent. I fear my tires will be slashed if I even hint at the some of the big names he tossed out. If Trinity Groves gathers half of what was mentioned Tuesday, it will be a huge draw.
“Between 75 to 80 percent of the space is at lease or letters of intent,” Brezinski said. “That has all happened in a little over six months.”
Several proven restaurateurs, including Romano, are skipping the incubator process and leasing space for their business. However, the fabulous business model that brought them to the big show, won’t go in Trinity Groves. These bigger guns have to come up with a new concept, no second or five locations allowed. Romano has already ripped out the project’s first office space, destroying a Shepard Fairey mural, for his first Hofmann Hots. Other indie projects in the works: An upscale Italian restaurant with a private club and a multi-level restaurant and nightclub with drop-dead gorgeous views of downtown Dallas. The nine restaurants I saw plans for are varied in design and cuisine.
Even though they’ve talked to local chocolatiers, cheesemakers, fishmongers, and bakers, they are still looking for local talent. So if you’ve been selling candy out of your kitchen at home or you’re a chef who want to open your own joint, the incubator program could be your chance at the big time. Call Mark Brezinski at 214-744-0100 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org. And Mr. Cuban, I’ll get back with you with another idea. Like a sandwich stand: Mark’s Cuban? (MINE!) This time you’d better take my call.