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Houston’s co-founder starts restaurant group

Branstetter to bring South African, German concepts to West Coast

One of the founders of the Houston’s casual-dining empire has launched a new restaurant group in Los Angeles that will bring both an Atlanta-based South African concept and a German gastro pub to the West Coast.

Vic Branstetter, the co-founder of Houston’s and retired chief operating officer of its Los Angeles-based parent company, Hillstone Restaurant Group, has formed The Branstetter Group, offering consulting, and C-level management services.

The group, however, also is investing in emerging brands as well as developing its own restaurant concepts, said Ian Sephton, a Branstetter Group partner.

The Branstetter Group has made an unspecified investment in the 10 Degrees South concept in Atlanta owned by Justin Anthony, a fine-dining restaurant featuring South African cuisine. The group plans to open a second location in Los Angeles and grow the concept into a national brand.

Anthony, a former professional soccer player from Atlanta, founded 10 Degrees South about 13 years ago. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant sees about $2 million per year in sales with an average check of $40 to $45, he said.

Like South African cuisine in general, the menu reflects a fusion of cuisines including Portuguese, French, Dutch, German and Malaysian flavors.
Anthony said Los Angeles was the next logical market because of the large number of South African ex-patriots who live there, and because West Coast diners seek out the new and different.

“Our menu is fusion at its best because we’ve got a bit of everything,” he said. “I think it will do even better in Los Angeles than we’ve done in Atlanta.”

Sephton, who previously developed hospitality concepts for the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, said the Branstetter Group envisions 10 Degrees South as “another Nobu,” a higher-end concept that could be replicated in major metropolitan markets.

“There are not a lot of restaurants out there doing South African cuisine,” he said. “And South Africa is known for its wines, so it has a killer wine list.”

Neither Sephton nor Anthony would characterize the investment the Branstetter Group has made in the concept, but both said the group would operate future locations.

“We look for early-stage companies that need help with scale and structure,” as well as raising capital, Sephton said. “But we won’t put money into anything we don’t have management oversight of.”

In addition, Branstetter Group is helping develop as a consultant a new German gastro pub called Bru Haus, owned by first-time operator Wen Yen. The casual-dining concept, which features sausages and exotic beers, is scheduled to open at the end of April in West Los Angeles.

The Branstetter Group also is developing its own restaurant concept, which likely will be revealed later this year, Sephton added, though he said it was too soon to offer details.

Vic Branstetter, who was not available for an interview, co-founded the Houston’s concept in 1976 with George Biel.

Hillstone has grown to include a number of casual-dining concepts in addition to Houston’s, such as Gulfstream, Bandera, R&D Kitchen and, most recently in the Los Angeles area, South Beverly Grill. Branstetter retired from Hillstone in 2009.

Other projects by the Branstetter Group include the development of Derringer Cycles, a hybrid bicycle, as well as Kukees, a retail line of gourmet cookies.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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