Restaurant Success: How Drew Curren Figured it Out

By Megan Giller  |  January 29, 2014
Credit: Vanessa Escobedo Barba

Chef Drew Curren has a beat on Austin’s pulse. The city has long been a fan of his farm-fresh take on diner food at 24 Diner, his bread from Easy Tiger can be found at 40 restaurants around the city, his French restaurant Arro has been getting high marks across the board and just a few weeks ago he announced plans to open an Italian concept on West Sixth Street later this summer. In other words, he’s more than earned the power player status we gave him in October. We recently chatted with him to get the skinny on his success, as well as the lowdown on his forthcoming restaurant.

On a Successful Business Model
“With the bakery, it’s not just are you proud of it and do people like it? At the 40 restaurants that we’re delivering to, are the logistics working, are the vans efficient for delivery? It’s not just about the quality of the bread anymore. Do we get it there on time? Is it competitively priced? Can restaurants actually use it and not have to charge $50 for a hamburger because of the bun?

“The beer and sausage garden helps establish a steady income on a good margin. At first the bakery didn’t make a lot of sense in terms of labor and equipment, but because we had this beer garden that was churning out great numbers, we could keep the bakery open.

“We don't focus on one demographic or flavor profile. And we don't focus on one revenue center. We make sure the bakery has other revenue centers that can help it when it’s down and vice versa.”

On Expanding So Quickly
“It will probably be another six months before the Italian restaurant is open, so that’s over a year since we opened Arro. That’s fast, but the way that Austin is growing right now and the way that real estate is quadrupling in prices, it’s important for us to be able to get into these locations that we think can fit or generate enough revenue to be successful.”

On Design
“Atmosphere is equal to service or food. When you think of Easy Tiger, it’s like you’re going through a book, and you wind through it. The functionality of the building is important, how we’re going to hide the things guests don’t want to see, whether it’s the busing of plates or the dish bin, to make this about the customer and the experience.”

On the Italian Menu
“In Italy, there’s a tratteria and osteria and pizzeria and beer-eria. This concept is going to bring them together so that you can get a pizza, pasta, steak, roasted chicken with salsa verde - honest, simple, approachable Italian food. Not alfredo and cream sauce. Plenty of prosciutto and salumis and focaccia and beautiful olive oil. But it will be lively. There’s a big bar, and we’re going to embrace the bar and the taps.

“There’s a big beer scene in Rome right now, and there are little beer bars and craft Italian beers. It’s not just happening in Austin. We’ll have 20 taps and we’re sourcing different beers right now.”