Alan Gaylin’s background in the restaurant business is like a buffet—there’s a little bit of everything.
Gaylin, now founder and CEO of Bread & Butter Concepts based in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, climbed the ranks from waiting tables to serving as COO of a nationwide restaurant chain. His experience ranges from fast-casual to fine dining to franchising.
He got an early start in the restaurant business, serving at a restaurant in Tyler, Texas, during college.
“You get in the restaurant business, and it gets in your blood,” he said.
Putting More on His Plate
After years working at different restaurants in various managerial roles, his first taste of ownership was as a partner in a Dallas fine dining group.
“That was a real learning experience because I was working with two partners who knew nothing about the restaurant business,” Gaylin said.
That job put him in the right position for his next opportunity—literally. The TGI Fridays headquarters was down the street from one of Gaylin’s restaurants, and the executives were regulars. One day, the TGI Friday’s CFO called him to talk about offering a new concept to franchisees. That led to an opportunity for Gaylin with the corporation.
Eventually, his corporate background led him to Houlihan’s. Gaylin worked his way up there over eight years, culminating in serving as COO in Kansas City. After a corporate restructuring and sale of the company, he decided to go the entrepreneurial route.
In 2007, just before the Great Recession hit, he planned to become a franchisee for Houlihan’s. But before he could get the new restaurants off the ground, “the casual dining business crashed hard.” He came out of the situation largely unscathed, but he took time off before charting a new course.
‘Kansas City supports local’
Around that time, Gaylin reconnected with a lifelong friend, who became his business partner. They saw the burger business was ready to boom in 2009 and looked into buying a franchise, but none of the deals worked out. So they developed their own concept: a family-friendly but cool, modern dining experience at a reasonable price. They opened the first BRGR Kitchen + Bar in 2010 in Prairie Village’s Corinth Square.
“The goal was just to open one restaurant, see what happens,” Gaylin said. “Things went great. The community supported us right
off the bat.”
The initial success of BRGR laid the foundation for what became Bread & Butter Concepts, which encompasses a variety of local restaurants: Urban Table, Gram & Dun, Taco Republic restaurant and food truck, Stock Hill and The Oliver. BRGR now has three locations and a concession stand at Arrowhead Stadium during Kansas City Chiefs home game and special events.
“So now, eight restaurants later, here we are,” he said.
And the company still has an appetite for growth. In May, it will open Cherry Hall, a test kitchen for the restaurant group with a bar and event center. The space will allow the company to host chef dinners and cooking classes, and expand its catering capabilities.
One of the keys to the group’s success has been the community, Gaylin said.
“Now that I know the city as well as I do, Kansas City supports local more than any other city I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They’re very driven to buy local and support the local businesses.”