Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price sat down with Market Place Kitchen & Bar General Manager Courtney Maggio and Executive Chef Roy Kalil at the restaurant’s newest location in Avon, CT to discuss the restaurant’s growth and evolution.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background about Market Place Kitchen & Bar.
COURTNEY MAGGIO: The first Market Place was started in 2012 in Danbury, CT. The restaurant group was launched by two brothers and a brother-in-law. They have opened several other restaurants and cafés. They started with 189 Sports Café in Brookfield, which opened in 2010 and Market Place Woodbury, which opened in 2014. There are also two restaurants in Mount Snow, VT—another Market Place and The Last Chair Bar & Grill.
NP: How did you two become involved with the restaurant?
ROY KALIL: I started working at 189 Sports Café seven years ago. I worked at Market Place Danbury for a couple of months and then Courtney and I helped open the location in Woodbury. We ran that for 2 ½ years. And then we came here.
NP: So why here? Why Avon?
RK: We had people asking for us to come to Greater Hartford.
NP: When did the Avon location open?
CM: We just opened in March 2016.
NP: Do the owners just see the business expanding throughout Connecticut and to additional states? Is there a long-term growth goal?
CM: Yes, there are plans for expansion. We have two more Market Place locations rolling out, one toward the end of this year in September in Newtown and another in Southbury, which we plan to open in February/March2018.
NP: You’ve worked together to open the Woodbury location, so you’re familiar with the process. What types of startup challenges are involved with opening a new restaurant location?
CM: Staffing is always a challenge. Once you have the appropriate staff in place, things are much easier.
Your staff is going to be there day in and day out with you to show your vision to the customers. Getting the right ones in place took some time, but we are pretty fortunate. From day one we had almost the same staff—that doesn’t sound like a lot for five months, but the restaurant industry has a great deal of turnover. So that says a lot.
NP: What about marketing? Has that been a challenge?
CM: We hired A Little Bird Told Me, a local social media startup. They’ve really taking care of a lot of our marketing needs for us.
NP: Did you feel it was important to have outside social media support?
NP: What makes the restaurant different and innovative?
RK: We use as much seasonal produce from local farms as we can—which inspires me as a chef. We collaborate with farms in the area including Sepe Farm in Sandy Hook and Averill Farm in Washington Depot.
NP: How are you building relationships with local farms?
RK: Knowing Market Place is new to the area, some farmers have come in and introduced themselves.
CM: That was really nice because, being new to the area, we don’t know all the local farms. It’s great having people approach us and support our mission.
NP: Courtney you’re more on the business side of things. Do you have a business background? Did you always know you wanted to go into this line of work?
CM: I’ve worked in restaurants forever. I have a business degree, so I enjoy the functional side of it as well. With this type of work, I think it’s important to know how every position operates, because if you don’t understand how a dishwasher or a line cook works, you can’t do your job effectively.
NP: What about you, Roy? Have you always been passionate about cooking and known you wanted to do something in this industry?
RK: No, actually. I’m a self-taught chef. But I love what I do. I love being here, taking care of customers, and making sure they’re happy. I have an amazing staff too.
NP: This is a big space, how big is the staff?
RK: In the kitchen we have around 16.
CM: And probably about 30 servers.
NP: Any advice for people who are starting out in the food industry?
RK: It’s a lot of work and you have to give it everything you have. You have to love it. You can’t just put it together and hope for the best, you need to own it. It’s like your baby.
CM: My advice is to start small, understand how it works, and then you can grow. The restaurant business is tough. Most businesses don’t make it past the first year.
NP: A majority of the Market Place restaurants are here in the state. Do you feel Connecticut is the best place to have this family of restaurants?
CM: I feel like it’s just kind of evolved into what it is and where it is. Should there be a reason to go outside of Connecticut at one point, maybe. And that could be something the owners are thinking down the road.
NP: So the owners are still very involved?
CM: Very much so. In terms of growth, it’s a process. It’s an evolution. You start with an idea and you just see where it takes you. When they started 189 Sports Café, I don’t think the owners ever thought they would be where they are right now.
NP: If I were to come back and interview you at this time next year, what do you think you would say?
CM: At this time next year, we’ll already have the Newtown and Southbury locations running. We could be anywhere!
NP: Part of your journey seems to be that you’re growing and evolving with it.
RK: It’s fun, it’s like a challenge. And we love what we do.
Find out more about A Little Bird Told Me in our interview with Founder Katherine Ortiz: Social Media Startup Enhances Greater Hartford’s Arts, Restaurant and Community Scene.