Mark Thomas says he and his wife, Deb, love good food.
“She says, ‘Why would we go to a restaurant and spend maybe $200 or more - if we include some good wine - when we can stay home and have an equally good meal,’ “ Thomas said.
Thomas said Deb happily lets him do most of the cooking.
The Sandy Springs resident is a chef by training, a restaurant consultant and teacher at the Culinary Institute of America. He worked for years in product development with Chili’s and Longhorn Steakhouse. When he is not working at his craft, Thomas co-coordinates Sandy Springs Citizens on Patrol with Officer Jeff Holmes.
“The best way to describe me is a research chef,” Thomas said. He has helped restaurants such as Park Tavern with menu revisions, and schooled new restauranteurs on the best chance for success.
Thomas said the biggest mistakes new restaurants make is they open under capitalized. “It’s because they do not do a realistic pro-forma budget. So when things start going bad, they start cutting back. They cut marketing; that’s a big mistake. They cut prices and menu items, then maintenance and labor and you end up with a dirty restaurant,” Thomas said.
The Buffalo, New York native says it’s also important for restaurant owners to know which customers they want to draw in.
“[Most people] say ‘I want everybody in town. That’s not realistic. The more you understand about your customer, the more you can craft a restaurant to meet their changing needs,” said Thomas.
Owning a restaurant would seem to be a natural fit for Thomas, but he’s says, no thanks.
“I have opened more restaurants than I ought to, working for other people,” said Thomas. And he acknowledges that it could’ve been a good idea to own a restaurant years ago.
“Now when I get that urge I take two aspirin and lay down,” he joked.