CHICAGO Concentrics Restaurants, the Atlanta-based multi-concept operator owned by Bob Amick and Todd Rushing, expanded outside the Southeast for the first time this summer at theWit Hotel in Chicago. Fittingly, to mark its debut in the City of Broad Shoulders, the company opened three different concepts stacked on top of each other: STATE AND LAKE, cibo matto and ROOF.
The company’s foray into the Second City is actually its third operating market — Concentrics now operates 16 restaurants in Atlanta, Chicago and Orlando, Fla. — and represented an “offer it couldn’t refuse,” Amick said.
“We looked at a bunch of criteria when expanding,” he said, “and a lot has to do with the chemistry we have with our partners and the vehicle for the project. We were very excited to work with ECD Company, the developer, and about the hotel and its location.”
TheWit is located in downtown Chicago at State and Lake streets, the namesake of the gastropub on the hotel’s ground floor, near the Magnificent Mile and the Loop. In addition to STATE AND LAKE, the food and beverage options at theWit include cibo matto, a modern-Italian fine-dining spot on the second floor, and ROOF, an upscale rooftop lounge on the 27th floor.
Atlanta-based The Johnson Studio designed all three concepts in theWit. The architecture firm also designed Chicago fine-dining spot Tru. Each concept presented its own challenge and opportunity to draw customers from within the hotel and local Chicagoans passing by.
“STATE AND LAKE has access from the street and the hotel, and it also does the in-room dining, so it has to serve three meals a day,” Amick said. “Knowing that, we tried to create a great neighborhood restaurant. Chicago has tons of those, but more in those neighborhoods than in downtown.”
The ground-floor restaurant, led by chef Bradley Manchester, has a gastropub feel to it, Amick said, serving straightforward regional American cuisine that complements American wines and artisinal beers. So far, about 95 percent of the restaurant’s lunch traffic comes from outside the hotel, and dinner business draws about 85 percent from outside.
“A big challenge we had was how to reinforce that we’re not a typical hotel dining experience,” Amick said. “One way is not to price yourself out of the market. STATE AND LAKE was to be an accessible restaurant.”
The average check falls between the high-$30 and low-$40 range.
At cibo matto, which opened July 6, four weeks after STATE AND LAKE and ROOF, the goal was to have a more fine-dining, destination feel, Amick said. Concentrics knew it would be tough to make an impact with so many Italian restaurants operating in Chicago, Amick said, “but my comment was, ‘We just haven’t seen our Italian restaurant here yet.’” The restaurant’s average check hovers just north of $60.
Chef Todd Stein’s menu changes daily at cibo matto, and the kitchen produces entrées and small plates not only for the restaurant, but also for ROOF. Stein, a Chicago native and former chef at local landmark MK, was crucial to establishing Concentrics’ credibility in its new city.
“Chicago is proud and supports local talent in a huge way,” Amick said. “We thought it was important to develop and find local talent. We want to become a part of the fabric of the city, and we’re not trying to change anything. We’re just trying to bring something we think the people of Chicago will respond to.”
Amick has been pleasantly surprised by the success of ROOF, which so far has appealed to several crowds at all times of the day.
“Chicago drinks more than Atlanta and Orlando,” Amick said. “There’s a much more vibrant after-work drinking crowd, and it amazes me how long the day is stretched here. The name of the game is how far can you stretch the period you’re open — do you close at 11 p.m., or do you try to get late-night business? I’ve never seen anything like ROOF’s crowds. It’s been phenomenal.”