Lexington, KY – It has been more than ten years since Brian McCarty and Bruce Drake, general partners and co-founders of Bluegrass Hospitality Group, launched the first location of the company’s founding restaurant brand, Malone’s, in Lexington’s Lansdowne Shopping Center. Since then, the pair has introduced multiple new restaurant concepts to the market, including their newest endeavor, Drake’s, and they have spent the last decade tweaking, revamping, reinventing, and sometimes scrapping them altogether.
McCarty recently sat down with Business Lexington restaurateur columnist Mark Sievers to offer his perspective on trends in the local food service industry.
There’s a past that usually contributes to the present, and I’d like to hear about how you and your partner, Bruce Drake, got started.
BM: My business partner, Bruce Drake, grew up in the L&N Seafood. Morrison’s Group had three or four different brands, and one of them was their upscale seafood concept called L&N. Bruce graduated with a culinary degree from Western Kentucky and went on to work for L&N in D.C., Pittsburgh, Maryland and Louisville, and then eventually ended up here in Lexington. You learn so much in those early days about locations, about team members, about how to manage, about cost structures, menu selection, food quality.
Twelve or 13 years ago, my business partner Brad Scott and I bought AP Suggins Bar & Grill on Romany Road from Don Wathen, and I didn’t have any plans, didn’t have a culinary background like Bruce did. But (I) was an entrepreneur at heart and had been in business for myself since I was 12 or 13 and had many life experiences that carry on with me today, through my sports memorabilia baseball card distribution business and AP Suggins. …You’re always cutting your teeth. You’re always learning new things: how to operate at different sales volumes, how to operate with different numbers of team members, how to operate in different locations. And as each year goes by and with each brand we build, we just continually take those lessons and incorporate them in our new ventures.