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Having Words With Larry Kurofsky Managing Partner, Heavy Restaurant Group

Having Words With Larry Kurofsky Managing Partner, Heavy Restaurant Group

To manage expansion opportunities, Larry Kurofsky and his wife and partner, Tabitha, operators of three Purple Cafe & Wine Bar locations in the Greater Puget Sound Area, recently created with key associates Heavy Restaurant Group of Seattle, an employer of about 200 people.

Kurofsky and his wife massaged a graduate school project into their first restaurant, Grape Street, in Las Vegas in 1997. They later sold their interest in Grape Street to partners and, in 2001, launched 150-seat Purple Cafe & Wine Bar in Woodinville, Wash.

The Kurofskys’ concept features extensive wine and cheese merchandising, including multiple-taste flights, and starters, salads, pizzas and entrées that range from braised lamb and potato gnocchi to pan-seared halibut with carrot-ginger vinaigrette. The restaurant’s popularity led them to open a 150-seat Purple Cafe in 2003 in Kirkland, Wash., and a 260-seat branch in Seattle in 2006. Kurofsky says Purple Cafe’s per-person check average is $30 to $35 and its beverage sales make up 35 percent to 45 percent of total tabs, depending on location.

Earlier this year, the Kurofskys became managing partners of Heavy Restaurant Group in anticipation of adding a new concept, Barrio, late this fall in Seattle’s Capitol Hill area and next year in nearby Bellevue, Wash., where HRG also is developing a fourth Purple Cafe and a dessert operation.

What are the core elements of Purple Cafe & Wine Bar?

We offer menu items designed to be enhanced by wine pairings and vice versa. Our staff is trained to be knowledgeable about these pairings, but to make recommendations for guests in a very comfortable, approachable way. It was important that we created an experience that appeals to people for a variety of occasions, [including] business lunch, date night, casual family dinner, group event, etc.

How is business compared to the prior two years, and how does this environment compare to others?


EDUCATION: master’s of business administration, Babson College, Wellesley, Mass.; master’s of arts and bachelor’s of arts, international business, San Diego State UniversityAGE: 41HOMETOWN: Los Angeles

Business has been strong. Traffic and average spending is up at two of our three locations. The end of 2001 and early 2002 was the most challenging time. Our business was new, and industrywide demand was on the decline.

What are the pressures on your business now, and what has your response been?

Discretionary income is on the decline, and people will be dining out less often, as well as be more cost conscious and selective. [Our] creative management team understands the need to continuously improve our guests’ experience. We are focused on seasonal menu changes and specials, and our global selection of wines by the flight, glass and bottle complemented by our knowledgeable and caring service staff.

What is Heavy Restaurant Group about?

This management team works very closely with our restaurants and is the driving force behind the creativity, quality and consistency among all our restaurants. Within the next eight to 10 months we will more than double our capacity. We have many ideas for new locations and concepts, but have our plate full now with this next stage of growth.

Can you provide details about the new concepts?

Barrio will serve food crafted from Northwest ingredients using traditional Mexican techniques. An example might be a traditional steak taco served with Rainier cherry salsa. We will focus on shareable platters, botanas and from-scratch cocktails.

TAGS: News
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