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Business Observer Friday, May 19, 2017 3 years ago

Family affair

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The need to stay one step ahead of competitors in hospitality is urgent. One family does it by constantly shaking things up.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Steve and Joe Seidensticker are big cheeses on the Sarasota restaurant scene.

The father-and-son team is behind area favorites such as Libby's Cafe & Bar, Louies Modern, Muse at The Ringling and their newest restaurant concept, Oak & Stone, in east Manatee County. More Oak & Stone locations are in the works, including spots in St. Petersburg and Orlando.

The Seidenstickers run Tableseide Restaurant Group, along with two of Steve Seidensticker's other children, Lisa Seidensticker and Patrick Seidensticker. Joe is the CEO of the group, Steve is the president, Lisa is the chief operating officer and Patrick is the chief financial officer. The only non-family member involved in the group's leadership is partner Jeff Greco.

The younger generation of Seidenstickers grew up in the business, watching their dad at work: prior to opening Libby's in 2008, Steve Seidensticker worked at and later ran the Gasparilla Inn, a conglomerate of five restaurants, two hotels, a spa, a marina and a beach club in Boca Grande. Tableseide Restaurant Group was founded in 2008 to oversee all the family's hospitality holdings.

Tipping point: Joe Seidensticker says when the family opened Louies Modern in 2012 after successfully operating Libby's since 2008, they started to feel some momentum. “We were like, 'OK, we can expand.'” They also created a consulting and catering arm of the business. Today that entity offers consulting services for the new Westin restaurant at the Vue Sarasota Bay development.

New concepts: The Oak & Stone locations in St. Petersburg and Orlando are under construction now. The Seidenstickers hope to have the locations, pizza and beer joints with a digital twist on the brews, open and running by the end of 2017 or early 2018. They'd also like to open several additional corporate locations in Florida and then start franchising outside the state.

Eating time: During the busier season months in Sarasota, which are generally October to March, Tableseide Restaurant Group employs about 500 people. Out of season, it employs 450 to 475 people. That makes it one the larger hospitality firms in town. “Overall as a company, we want to not be seasonal,” Steve Seidensticker says.

Stay fresh: “The business is competitive,” Joe Seidensticker says. “You can't rest on your laurels. You have to stay up with what's happening.” That can mean menu redesigns, changes to the aesthetics of restaurants, uniform updates and other adjustments. “Once a year, we refresh the brands,” he says.

Flash forward: “Our goal is to build brands that are ahead of the market,” Joe Seidensticker says. At Oak & Stone, the group introduced a self-serve brew wall feature, a unique offering for the area.

Spread the word: Marketing is hugely important to the Seidenstickers' business model, particularly to generate positive buzz in the community. They've moved some of their print media spending into social media and online advertising to lure more customers.

Inspired feast: Joe Seidensticker says he's always looking at cookbooks for inspiration, as well as food blogs and New York Times food reviews. Steve Seidensticker says members of the group's leadership team travel extensively to cities such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Austin, Texas, to see what's cooking there. “We're always asking people to pick up menus wherever they are,” he says.

Good call: Steve and Joe Seidensticker agree — one of the best decisions they've made is to purchase the properties where they have restaurants. That's been a seven-figure plus investment. “Real estate is a valuable asset,” Steve Seidensticker says. “It gives you equity in the business.

Not-so-good call: “We've passed on decisions,” Joe Seidensticker says of some business opportunities they decided to turn down. But, he says, you never know at the time if they will be good opportunities. Something Steve Seidensticker regrets? “Not having more kids to run restaurants.”

AT A GLANCE
Entrepreneurs: Steve Seidensticker and Joe Seidensticker
Company: Tableseide Restaurant Group, Sarasota
Year founded: 2013 (Ownership of Libby's dates back to 2008.)
Employees: 500
Revenue: $16 million in 2016, up 14.3% from $14 million in 2015.

(This story was updated to reflect Steve Seidensticker's previous work in hospitality.)

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