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Cooking up a success: Continental Cuisine launches a new restaurant continuing its growth.

Cooking Up A Success

Little Rock restaurateur Paul Bash is glad to share his recipe for success, but pinning him down long enough to get it is an entirely different matter.

A typical day finds Bash busily scooting among the five restaurants he owns through Continental Cuisine Inc. with partners Denis Seyer and Ed Moore.

Recently, a visitor found Bash showing a chef at Alouette's in the Market Place how to cook the evening's special - a fillet of Red Snapper Florentine. Then, Bash heads for a popular eatery called the Purple Cow to help plan the next day's menu. Later, at yet another restaurant, Bash catches an assistant chef trimming a chicken wrong and takes the time to show him how to do it right.

Sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But beyond the prestige of running some of the area's most successful eateries, Bash and his partners are making money, maybe lots of money.

Although he won't talk profits, Bash says each of Continental's restaurants is doing well. Bash's partner, Moore, who crunches the numbers for the group, says last year Continental Cuisine grossed $2.4 million. With the addition of "1620" the group expects to hit the $3 million mark at the end of the year.

So what's the final profit? The restaurant industry standard reaches as high as 20 percent before taxes, or a potential whopping $600,000. That's not including extra perks (free meals, company automobiles, entertainment expenses, etc.) But any way you slice it, it's a pretty pie for the three partners to gobble up.

Crazy Days

Bash keeps his head in the kitchen door of all the restaurants, including Pickles in West Little Rock and the two Graffiti's - one on Cantrell Road and one in Lakewood Village.

"My day is crazy," Bash admits, but that's what he believes it takes to have success in the restaurant business.

"We're involved and our managers know that," Bash says. "We tell them not to get their feelings hurt because they're going to see us every day."

Bash will have yet another kitchen to cover soon when a new project, a restaurant named 1620, opens at 1620 Market Street in West Little Rock at the site of the former Maison Louis restaurant. Bash doesn't seem nervous at all about opening the doors of a new place in a market that is glutted with eateries.

"There are a lot of doors," agrees Bash, "even though the public is discriminating. Everyone thinks they can open a restaurant and be an overnight success. Fortunately, we've got a good following."

Moore, who handles the accounting work for Continental, says the "hands-on" approach the group uses for its other operations will help 1620 become a successful restaurant.

"We've never had the problem of having to close one, knock on wood," Moore explains. "We're going to make sure 1620 makes it one way or another."

Moore says that he, Bash and Seyer work well together as a team and try to stay on top of day-to-day operations.

"There's a hundred mistakes made every day," Moore says, "but by 5 o'clock, we try to get them all corrected. If one of us makes a mistake, another one of us can pick up the ball and get it corrected."

Short of printing information about 1620 on placemats for his other restaurants, the group has no major advertising plans for its new venture.

"Fortunately," Bash notes, "we've got a good following. In Little Rock, people gravitate to the new places fast."

He says the other ingredients in his recipe for success - good food and good service - are the best marketing tools he can have.

Repeat Customers

"The restaurants that are still open," Bash claims, "are the ones that are still dishing out good food. A lot of people literally eat out four and five times a week and want places that, first and foremost, serve good food. The diner who eats out that much has that many chances to get good or bad service, too."

Continental Cuisine now employs about 100 people and will add 20 more when 1620 opens in mid-July. Bash credits the growth of the company to a solid background in the food business.

"We have good managers but the three of us," Bash explains, "are all restaurant people. "Denis and I trained in continental cuisine and we frequent our own restaurants."

Bash, Seyer and Moore all were associated with the opulent Jacques and Susanne restaurant that closed in 1986 after eleven years in downtown Little Rock. Bash says that market trends around the country now are moving away from upscale decor and high prices.

"We've seen in this evolution a direction of casualness," Bash claims. "If restaurant people want to expand, they don't do another higher-priced operation."

Fast Food Backlash

According to Bash, 1620 will feature main-course items priced from $8.00 to $18.00. The restaurant also will have a stand-up bar and about two dozen "open-wines" so that patrons can buy it by the glass rather than by the bottle. Also, there will be a few items on the menu for children.

As Bash's business has grown, he's discovered that many of his patrons now have children who are an integral part of the dining out experience. And, Bash has found, their parents basically can't stomach any more fast-food places.

"We've found in talking with parents that they're delighted to have an option," Bash says. As an example, Bash cited the Purple Cow, a popular eatery on Cantrell Road that has been open about a year and serves both home-cooked meals and burgers.

"The family can go there and get a reasonably wholesome meal at a reasonable price."

With their string of successes, Bash, Seyer and Moore may have all the business they can handle for now and don't plan to open any more restaurants in the near future.

"When we were trying to figure out a name for the new restaurant," Moore relates, "we had a party and invited friends to help us name it. During the party, my wife wrote down her suggestion for a name and slipped it to me."

It read: The Last One.

Counting Heads

Operations owned by Continental Cuisines, Inc.:

Graffiti's, 1811 Cantrell, October, 1984.

Alouette's, 11401 N. Rodney Parham Rd., June, 1986.

Graffiti's, 2933 Lakewood Village (NLR), April 1988.

Continetal Cuisine Catering, Pavilion in the Park, Cantrell Road, May, 1989.

Pickles, 11121 N. Rodney Parham Rd., June, 1989.

The Purple Cow, 8026 Cantrell Road, July, 1989.

1620, 1620 Market St., mid-July, 1990.

PHOTO : RISING COOKING STARS: This trio of entrepreneurs - Paul Bash, Ed Moore and Denis Seyer (left to right) - are expecting to gross revenues of $3 million from combined operations in 1990. That's considerable cash in an already crowded market.

PHOTO : SUCCESSFUL COOKS: Denis Seyer, Ed Moore and Paul Bash (left to right) are opening their seventh restaurant this July.

Rod Lorenzen is a freelance writer living in Little Rock.
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Author:Lorenzen, Rod
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:Jul 2, 1990
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