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VOL. 132 | NO. 173 | Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sharing Their Lessons As Business Owners

By Andy Meek

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One of the reasons that Deni and Patrick Reilly’s popular Downtown restaurant The Majestic Grille has endured for 11 years is because of the way they’ve learned to adapt to the limitations of the food business.


One of several basic things you’ve got to figure out in the restaurant industry, says Deni Reilly, is what to do when you don’t have any more levers to pull. There’s only so high you can raise prices, for example. Food costs are pretty fixed. You could maybe open more locations.

“We hired a new general manager last October, and that’s really freed us up from the day-to-day operations of the organization,” said Reilly, who’ll be a panelist Sept. 14 at The Daily News’ next offering as part of its regular seminar series.

It will be a small business-focused seminar that begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, at 1934 Poplar Ave. Memphis has became something of food town, and the city has attracted national and international attention for the eclectic restaurant lineup here. Seminar panelists like Reilly are all connected to or can speak to the unique challenges of running such an enterprise.

Those include Reilly’s point about looking for new ways to grow when you’ve already optimized everything else about the business. The way The Majestic solved that challenge? By launching a consulting arm, which lets the Reillys take what they know from more than a decade of keeping a restaurant humming along and get themselves hired to help launch new ideas in the food space.

For example, the Reillys a few months ago reached an agreement with the Riverfront Development Corp. to take over the restaurant constructed at Beale Street Landing, which they rebranded as “The Front Porch.” They made some aesthetic changes and quickly set to working out details like a new menu and making hires.

“The restaurant business is hard,” Deni Reilly said. “People think it’s sexy and fun. When it’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday night and you’re supposed to be at a cocktail party and you’re in a cocktail dress in heels, underneath a sink on the line changing out a pipe that busted – that’s not sexy. It’s a lot of hard work.”

Sponsored by Triumph Bank and The Crone Law Firm, the newspaper’s seminar on Sept. 14 will include a panel discussion. A wine-and-cheese reception will follow.

Joining Reilly on the panel will be attorney Brice Timmons, co-founder of High Cotton Brewery; attorney Alan Crone, founder of The Crone Law Firm; and Chris Canale Jr., president and CEO of D. Canale & Co., which recently opened Old Dominick Distillery in the South Main area Downtown.

Some of the decisions that food-specific businesses need to tackle are the same as those of almost any small business. You never want to get too comfortable, Reilly said, or rest on laurels. A business also needs a “clear story” – a clear sense of what it is and who it’s wanting to serve.

To get more details about the seminar, visit seminars.memphisdailynews.com, which also includes a registration tab.

The Memphis Daily News hosts seven seminars like this one each year, bringing topics to the forefront that the Memphis business community is given a platform to learn more about. Remaining seminars this year will focus on health care and commercial real estate.

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289