Atlanta institution Fifth Group Restaurants prepares for its next quarter century.
Kris Reinhard, Robby Kukler and Steve Simon inside South City Kitchen Buckhead’s modern-chic interior
The trio behind some of Atlanta’s most beloved restaurants (South City Kitchen, Ecco, La Tavola and more) insists they’ve just been doing what made the most sense for them. “The idea of chef-owned and chef-driven fresh food—farm-to-table—we’ve been doing that since South City Kitchen opened,” says Robby Kukler, who, along with Steve Simon and Kris Reinhard (and two operating partners, Stuart Fierman and Vajra Stratigos), make up the dream team at the helm of one of the city’s most successful hospitality groups. “We [still] talk a lot about: ‘This needs to be a neighborhood restaurant,’ and ‘What does that mean?’” Kukler is quick to point out that the winning formula is one that goes against the expected when you have this many partners: “I think our strength is that nobody has one strength. We are three really different guys that come from different perspectives and look at things differently,” he says. “And we have great people as part of our company,” he adds eagerly. He’s referring to the company’s behemoth and well-respected Bold Catering & Design. “We’re very fortunate. We were kind of a disruptor in the catering community—we were restaurant people doing restaurant-quality catering. It was the hard way to do it, for sure. But once we had the service and food down, we realized we had an opportunity to increase the look and the presentation.” Adds Simon: “Catering 20 years ago was rubber chicken. We said, ‘We aren’t the rubber-chicken guys.’”
Twenty-five years in business together is an anomaly—“We’ve worked together longer than the three of us have been married to our awesome wives!” laughs Kukler—and it’s just the beginning. As for the next step? “We go sit in the woods in the mountains and figure out what our next five-to-10-year growth plan is,” says Simon. Adds Kukler, “We feel like 25-year-olds; we’re just getting ready.”
Bold Catering & Design
Current Success Story
Alma Cocina. "The restaurant has outperformed year over year," says Simon.
Ecco and Alma Cocina, both in Buckhead
Most Important Value
Culture. "We spend a lot of time on it because people have always been the core of our company,” says Reinhard.
Photography by: Patrick Heagney