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Fall 2009

www.usexecutivejournal.com

Carolina Ale House A Home for Hospitality

THE MAGAZINE FOR LE ADING INDUSTRY EX ECUTIVES


Carolina Ale House

A Home for Hospitality Produced by James Tingley & Written By Kelly Matlock

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Things change; the key to success is to change with them. Pursuing this adage is Lou Moshakos, founder and president of LM Restaurants, Inc. “The market has changed, the consumer has more choices than they did way back when we started,” states Lou. “[Because of this] we are constantly trying new things, we never stop.” ‘Way back when’ was 1978, 30 years ago in Florida, when Lou opened his first restaurant, a small outfit known as The Seafood Shanty, where he and his wife did it all — cooked, cleaned and waited tables.

Carolina Ale House is an award-winning sports bar/restaurant established by Lou in 1999, after the family relocated to “The Triangle” region of North Carolina in 1991. The restaurant has thrived through 10 years of growing competition in the market; however, the market is not the only thing that has changed since 1999. Not only do consumers have more restaurant choices, they have new interactive means to critique their dining experience, particularly through new media options on the internet, such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging.

Opening his first restaurant was success in itself, after emigrating when he was just 18 years old from Greece, where he left behind work as a farmer. Hard work and drive have propelled the Moshakos’ success, from modest beginnings at the Seafood Shanty into a $50 million enterprise, LM Restaurants, Inc., incorporated in 1987. The enterprise currently oversees eight unique restaurant concepts, with 18 locations throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida; 11 of these locations are home to the “heart and soul” of LM Restaurants: Carolina Ale House.

Keeping up with these changes is Amber Moshakos, Lou’s eldest daughter and LM Restaurants, Inc. vice president of corporate affairs. A graduate of Cornell University with a master’s degree in marketing and hospitality, Amber is a qualified leader, who wisely takes notes from her father’s successful business style.

US Executive Journal

Fall Edition 2009

“Hospitality runs in his blood and he ran the restaurant as if he was entertaining someone in his own home; that’s what made him successful,” explains Amber. The respect is


mutual: “She’s taking the company to a different level,” Lou proudly remarks. Turning Concepts into Constructs As with many of Lou’s ideas, the concept for Carolina Ale House came while traveling; specifically, it was born from a layover in the Heathrow Airport in London, where Lou was en route from a trip to Greece. He noticed a Shakespeare Ale House in the terminal and was inspired. “The concept was developed one night at dinner and Lou drew it on a napkin,” relays Amber.

and social opportunities for kids in North Carolina. The Ale House contributes $100 to the foundation for every point the Hurricanes earn in standings during the season, and hosts family-orientated events with the Hurricanes team, and mascot Stormy, in the restaurant. The restaurant caters to multiple demographics, but maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere is important. Kids are welcomed; there is an extensive kids menu and free birthday desserts. “Parents can come, have a beer and watch a game,” says Amber, “while the kids play.” Furthermore,

That concept is now celebrating its 10th year in business; year-long celebratory events at Carolina Ale House have included a popular wing-eating contest known as The Wing Fling, which offers a grand prize of a year’s supply of free wings and beer, as well as “a sweet trophy and bragging rights” states the Web site. The Carolina Ale House Web site supplies a wealth of information about live entertainment, philanthropy, company-sponsored team sports events, cheap $2.50 pint nights, contests and community events. Community involvement is a priority for Carolina Ale House; it is partnered with the Carolina Hurricanes to support the Kids ‘N Community Foundation which works to improve health, education |3


Carolina Ale House

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US Executive Journal

Fall Edition 2009


they can watch whatever game they want, due to an excess of screens offering local and long distance sporting events, management willingly accommodates game requests. Lou’s attitude is, “What TV do you want it on? You know. We turn it on.” Simple as that. Fresh Variety That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune Customer satisfaction doesn’t end with entertainment, however. “We want people to enjoy their food, but walk out without a huge check,” says Amber. Keeping costs down and variety up has proven a successful method. Food choices abound -- if anything the hard part of dining at Carolina Ale House will be making a decision. Not only are the menus packed with great, reasonably priced options, but they vary by region as well. While locations in Florida feature steak in the “favorite entrees” section, North Carolina features salmon and South Carolina has finger-licking ribs. In addition to a wide variety of delectable food choices, the beer list is long and frothy, including well known favorites like Budweiser, and microbrews such as Rouge Dead Guy and Highland Oatmeal. Cocktails are crafted to region as well, with clever themes such as the “Gator Bite” in Florida. Quality ingredients are the beginning of costumer favorites, like the most-popular item: the award-winning wings, smothered in an array of sauce choices (buffalo, habanero or honey BBQ, to name a few). And for tender, flavorful

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US Executive Journal

Fall Edition 2009


wings Carolina Ale House relies on Prestige Farms, and has for many years. Prestige Farms, located in Raleigh, has much in common with LM Restaurants, in that the vendor provides its costumer with personal, reliable service and superior product. "Fresh is important to Lou, and that's what we provide," says Prestige Farm’s Steve Thompson, who coordinates the supply of wings, as well as boneless cuts of poultry and chicken tenders. Having been in the business 30 years, LM Restaurants knows what its customers want and the company responds to these desires. “We have a large variety, and are constantly trying new things,” Lou remarks. New Ideas are Never in Short Supply A new concept, while ambitious, has been on Lou’s mind for awhile, and he has finally found a location in Raleigh that can accommodate his latest creation based on musings while traveling in Europe for personal diner-experience research. The concept is actually three concepts in one: a rooftop bar with a retractable roof, a Mediterranean courtyard with an extensive wine list, and a 24-hour diner. It sounds complex, but fortunately Lou relishes the opportunity. “I look forward to the challenge each and every morning that I wake up,” Lou says.

Commitment in taking the time to “get it right” has already rewarded Lou’s company with many successful restaurants run by a large and dedicated team. Lou and Amber take time in “finding people who have the heart and hospitality.” This team of employees, within Carolina Ale House and also its sister restaurants under the LM Restaurants umbrella, are highly valued and trusted — general managers are given the freedom and creative control to shape their location to the surrounding community. Lou is truly appreciative, “I’d like to thank my team. I’m very proud. They work very hard and they’re very committed — and that’s what it takes.” Lou’s business has weathered changes through 30 years of growth in the industry — including the reworking of menus, new location openings, changes in supply (based on customer demand), as well the realization of ambitious restaurant concepts. But throughout these changes one thing remains the same, which is the business motto, inked on the Carolina Ale House menu: “We want to be the best! If it’s not exactly how you want it, let us know & we will make it right!” Lou backs up the printed promise with conviction —“Whatever it takes, make the costumer happy when they leave, that’s what I tell my staff, I don’t care, do whatever it takes.” Most businesses want to be the best, but many fall

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US Executive Journal

Fall Edition 2009


short. Not Carolina Ale House, which was declared “The Best Sports Bar” in the 2009 Indy Week “Best of the Triangle” and Metro Magazine’s “Metro Bravo” awards. It has received numerous other awards throughout the years in categories such as “Best Beer Selection,” “#1 Bar Food” and “Best Wings.” Carolina Ale House is listed in Restaurant Business Magazine as the 14th fastest growing chain in the nation for a reason; construction is underway for four openings in spring 2010, with additional plans for expansion into Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. “Six states for the next five years, that is our plan,” Lou says. “I don’t want to spread myself all over the country and lose control. We want to concentrate here and then spread out.” Growth, although rapid, is carefully managed. Thomas Construction — out of Wilmington, N.C. — will continue with LM Restaurants on construction of the Fayetteville Carolina Ale House location, and a new Raleigh, N.C., headquarters is also projected to be finished within two years, complete with a corporate test kitchen. It’s a needed facility to support the growth of LM Enterprises. A drawing on a paper napkin has sparked an empire, thanks to reliable partners that bring each location to life. But, despite the success, the winnings and the revenue, Lou always remains modest. “I will never forget where I came from,” he says. “I can still wash dishes, I can still cook — I will still wait tables if I have too.” With an attitude that helps keep the company grounded, and with a management team that embraces innovation, LM Restaurants is positioned to welcome change with the same warmth it would a repeat guest.

COMPANY AT A GLANCE Established : 1999 Carolina Ale House Employees : 2500 VP Corporate Affairs : Amber Moshakos

www.carolinaalehouse.com |9


Carolina Ale House

Winter 2009

5404 Hillsborough Street Raleigh, North Carolina 27606 U n i t e d S tat e s w w w. c a r o l i n a a l e h o u s e . c o m www.usexecutivejournal.com

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THE MAGAZINE FOR LEADING INDUSTRY EXECUTIVES A H ome for H ospitAlity Fall 2009 www.usexecutivejournal.com Keeping up with these changes is...

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