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Successful Knoxville restaurants require diligence and constant tweaking

Parkside Grill in West Knoxville
Parkside Grill in West Knoxville
Toni S. Williams

With four successful restaurants in the Knoxville area alone, Diverse Concepts must be doing something right. Lakeside Tavern, Parkside Grill, Harrison's Grill and Bar, and Riverside Grille are popular venues known for stunningly prepared food and great customer service. Additionally, Diverse Concepts owns or manages Bullfish Steak and Seafood, Blue Moose Burgers and Wings, Carino's Italian and Mellow Mushroom in Pigeon Forge, all in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Diverse Concepts LLC is a professional restaurant management company that owns or manages these and other properties in the Greater Knoxville area. Currently, they employee approximately 1400 people. Diverse Concepts in headquartered in West Knoxville.

Restaurants come and go and 60 percent of restaurants fail, according to national statistics. And, according to the website, there are over 600 restaurants in Knoxville alone. What makes a restaurant successful and why do people come back year after year? According to Paul Delahunt, Director of Operations for Diverse Concepts, the owners must serve great food and run a great restaurant. Then there are the details.

When Diverse Concepts looks to open a new restaurant, they look for the site, the concept, the money required and then they go with their guts. Looking at just the numbers can lead a restaurant in the wrong direction.

Constant tweaking of the venue is required to ensure a satisfying customer experience. A change of lighting may change the mood of the restaurant. Noise abatement can create the proper ambience. Perhaps by building a short wall, kitchen noise can be cut. The seating arrange can enhance the sound. Mr. Delahunt explained that "he wants to hear people talking but not what they are saying".

Diverse Partners does not have a set rule about when the menu changes. The menu changes if an item isn't going over well or if there are requests. According to Mr. Delahunt, the waitstaff noticed an increase in requests for gluten free items and Diverse Partners is implementing some gluten free options.

Another trend for Diverse Partners is a move to larger tables. In many restaurants, the two tops are so small that it is difficult to fit two plates on them. This leaves patrons uncomfortable. Diverse Partners wants customers to be comfortable and to want to return.

Finally, Mr. Delahunt discussed the need for the employees to have a vested interest in the success of the restaurant. In some chain restaurants, management only looks at year to year numbers. A restaurant may have a good year or flat year that has to do with other factors. When the employees feel ownership, the restaurant will thrive.

Great food, a well run restaurant and constant attention to detail won't guarantee success, but certainly will go far.

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