On Oct. 5, Here to Serve restaurant group suddenly shuttered all 10 of its restaurants . Now, its founder, Tom Catherall is attempting to breathe life into what was once a thriving restaurant empire.
Catherall has not been part of Here to Serve for the last year, having transferred ownership of the company to Leigh Catherall as part of the couple’s divorce settlement. This week, however, Tom Catherall, who primarily resides in WaterColor, Fla., has been in Atlanta speaking to landlords at two locations of tapas and tequila bar Noche in Virginia Highland and Vinings.
“They all have back rent, which is huge because of their prime locations,” he said. The Noche in Virginia Highlands is located at 1000 Virginia Ave., N.E. The space in Vinings is at 2850 Paces Ferry Road, S.E.
Yet Catherall stated he is “very optimistic” about getting these restaurants back under his control, with doors open as early as January and “definitely by February.”
If Catherall can reach an agreement with the landlords, he anticipates having to form a new hospitality corporation and changing the name of the restaurants. “There’s a lot of legal stuff right now,” he said, noting that more meetings with landlords and lawyers are planned for next week.
Catherall has been approached by investors seeking to be part of the venture, but Catherall is reticent. “I never had one investor in the restaurants. I want to own 100 percent.”
“I was a well-respected chef in town,” recalled Catherall, whose culinary career began in 1964 in his native town of Newcastle upon Tyne in England. When Catherall later arrived in the U.S., he had two suitcases and a few hundred dollars in his pocket. During Here to Serve’s height, he was operating 13 restaurants with a payroll of nearly 1,000 employees. Catherall estimates that number dropped to around 600 when the restaurants closed en masse in early October.
He noted that, aside from a personal interest in seeing his former restaurants back up and running, he wanted to put former Here to Serve employees to work. “I had a very loyal staff. My drive is to get those people back to work.”
“I’m 66 years young,” said the retired chef. “I can put a chef apron on and get back into the kitchen.”
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