Rumors have been swirling online for several weeks that local restaurants East Side Grill and Theo’s have permanently closed.
Those rumors, as it turns out, will ultimately prove to be not-trumors.
That’s because both restaurants, formerly owned by longtime local restauranteur Scott Bowman of The Bowman Group, have been sold to Todd Martin, who owns Southern Food Company. Martin plans to reopen both concepts in the coming months.
Martin, who serves on the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, said he heard about five weeks ago that Bowman did not plan to reopen the restaurants. He decided to reach out to inquire about purchasing the brands, he said, because of his longtime admiration of them.
“I have always had a great deal of respect for Scott, and for how he has run those businesses,” Martin said. “Those restaurants have a great following, and there’s a great staff there.”
Martin said both concepts bring something unique to Fayetteville that he is excited to bring back to the restaurant landscape.
“East Side Grill has become a staple on the east side of town, and we love the food and the location there,” he said. “I’ve always thought of Theo’s as a stalwart of the fine dining scene in downtown Fayetteville. I have done a lot of traveling over the years, and I think Theo’s, and the ambiance and atmosphere there, is as good as anything you can find in he county.”
Martin said his first order of business is to try and re-hire as much of the team as he can from those restaurants. He already has a few key members in place, including general manager Jeff Gabbard and director of marketing and finance Kelly Brown.
“My dream is to get the band back together, and all the employees back that we can,” he said. “Again to Scott’s credit, he had an unbelievable group of employees there that really helped make those places so special.”
Martin said he doesn’t envision the need to change much at the restaurants, though there may be some subtle things. He’ll bring the Bloody Mary’s that he has become known for on the west side of town at Southern Food Company to East Side Grill, for example. He also plans to make some repairs at both places, he said.
Of course, both places will also need to adapt to the new normal we are currently facing with COVID-19.
“There’s no doubt, there’s its own set of risk around that, it doesn’t seem to be the opportune time to open a restaurant,” Martin said. “But we are going into it with our eyes open. Curbside, pickup, family meals, those things are here to stay, so we’ll need to get those things in place.”
Martin said he also sees a great opportunity ahead.
“I think for dine-in restaurants, once we get through all this, there’s going to be a huge opportunity. I think people are going to say, ‘I am ready to get out and have a drink on that patio.’ ‘I’m ready to go out and have a great meal,'” he said.
Martin said none of this would be possible without the great support he has seen for local restaurants in recent months at his other restaurant, Southern Food Company.
“The people of this community have really come out to support local,” he said. “It blows me away. We’ve seen some very generous tips for our staff. Everyone understands that they out on the front lines, and while there have been a lot of challenges, there’s a been a lot of generosity as well, and we are so grateful for that.”
Martin said he expects to employ a total of nearly 100 people at the three restaurants, which is another reason he is excited about reopening the restaurants.
“We are going to take care of the staff all the way around,” he said. “We want to contribute to bring back some jobs, and keep some iconic brands around.”
If all goes well, East Side Grill will reopen first in early August, with Theo’s Fayetteville to open a week or so later, and Theo’s Rogers to follow sometime after that.