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The Restaurant business

From fancy restaurant chains to mom-and-pop, single-unit establishments, Memphis has most of whatever you are looking for in a restaurant. 
 Carlee McCullough

In Memphis, the smell of fried chicken and barbeque is way too tempting to pass up without partaking of the cuisine on a regular basis.  From fancy restaurant chains to mom-and-pop, single-unit establishments, Memphis has most of whatever you are looking for in a restaurant.

While 1 in 4 restaurants fail in the first year, the positive side is that 75 percent survive.  But even with the inherent risk of opening a restaurant, we have not retreated from the challenge of fulfilling dreams and filling stomachs.  Getting rich quick is hardly ever the case in the restaurant business and as our friend Jerome Russell of H.J. Russell & Company often says, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

This month we’ll focus on some of the successes we’ve seen and tasted in the Memphis market.  However, this week we want to touch on a few national successes. Because overall, restaurants may come and go, but some have withstood the test of time and set an example of how it should be done.

Paschal’s Atlanta

As active participants in the civil rights movement, the Paschal brothers were known to serve complimentary meals and extend their hours to provide a central meeting location for parents and friends greeting loved ones after release from jail. Brothers James and Robert Paschal wanted to serve the “best” fried chicken in the city. They succeeded by creating a secret recipe.  Many consider their chicken to be the best served and the secret recipe is still held close to the vest today.

Similar to the H.J. Russell story, their big break was provided as a part of Mayor Maynard Jackson’s minority participation requirements on all airport contracts.  In 1978, the Paschal brothers entered into a landmark agreement with Dobbs Houses Inc. to form a joint venture titled the Dobbs Paschal Midfield Corporation.  The new partnership responded to the bid request for retail concessions development and management at the new Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. They submitted a successful bid and were awarded a 15-year contract to provide food, beverage and retail services.  

For over six decades, the iconic Paschal’s has defied odds and critics to become known as the quintessential purveyor of Southern Cuisine in an upscale atmosphere. With three locations in the airport and one location in downtown Atlanta, Paschal’s has consistently been the dining place for the community at large.

B. Smith’s

Consumers know and trust the name B. (Barbara) Smith as not only a personality, but also a lifestyle brand.  As a former model, cookbook author, furniture designer, restaurateur and television host, B. Smith has been nicknamed the “black Martha Stewart.”

In 1986, Smith opened a restaurant in midtown Manhattan but has expanded her empire to include locations in Sag Harbor, N.Y. and Washington, D.C.  Not only is she the purveyor of these establishments, she also decorated all three restaurants as well. Her cuisine is described as Southern with Asian influences. Smith recently partnered with Missa Bay Frozen Foods Company to create a line of B. Smith’s foods to be distributed nationally.

The New York Daily News says, “B. Smith is one of the most important African American style mavens of all time.”  Aside from participating in Harvard Business School’s Dynamic Women in Business Conference, she has received numerous awards, including the Earl Graves Entrepreneurial Award, BET Honors Award for Entrepreneurship, and the Black Enterprise Legacy Award.

As a Pennsylvania native, B. Smith began her career as a fashion model gracing the covers of 15 magazines, including Mademoiselle, becoming the first African-American woman on its cover in July 1976. Today she has been either the face or voice of Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Mercedes-Benz, Colgate Palmolive products, and McCormick’s Lawry seasonings. Having developed the first African-American women home collection, which debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond in the spring of 2001, she brings an element of style to all she does.

Be the Best

Whether you strive to own one unit or franchise 100, make sure you strive to be the best, perform the best and serve the best. Join us over the next few weeks as we meet some of Memphis’ superstars to discuss mistakes of the trade and how to succeed in the restaurant business.

(Please send your questions to Carlee McCullough, Esq., Contract Compliance Officer, City of Memphis-Office of Contract Compliance, 125 N. Main St., Suite 546, Memphis, TN 38103 or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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