Columbia Restaurant Group Has Big Plans

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In June, Lexington eatery Kingsman Que and Brew officially rebranded into the fancier, more modern Griffin Chophouse.

The move came with a reworking of the menu and space, and with the owner and chef, Henry Griffin, still heading up the business. But the biggest shakeup was behind the scenes.

Happy Fork, a newly formed restaurant group with the steakhouse as its debut concept, was announced as the company behind the change.

At that time, details about the company or its plans were sparse, outside of expanding the Griffin Chophouse brand in the area. Those plans, it turns out, are ambitious.

Happy Fork CEO Ronald Pereira tells Free Times that the group has plans for more of the company’s concepts to open in a forthcoming Chapin shopping center and later in Lexington, with Griffin as the corporate chef. Long term, the company hopes to become a regional operator in suburban areas, with interest to open restaurants in Greenville and potentially the Charlotte market.

“We’re basically trying to fill … segments of the community, where you could be a family of four, you could be single, you could be newly wed,” Pereira says. “We’re putting high quality products out for a price everyone can afford.”

The group’s first major move toward expanding its footprint will come in the Chapin Commons development, opening near the town’s high school, where Happy Fork is opening a Griffin Chophouse, an accompanying, connected dessert bar called Deca, a breakfast cafe called Bakon and a fast-casual healthy restaurant called Modern Fresco that will have options tailored to various trendy diets.

Deca will feature a full bar with adult milkshakes and offer desserts. Bakon fits a classic breakfast house mold and will offer things like bacon “flights” — where one can get various flavors of smoked bacon — and other traditional options like biscuits and grits, along with its own full bar program. The last concept, Modern Fresco, will offer up a variety of lunch bowls and salads with accompanying proteins.

The new Griffin Chophouse location is tentatively planned to open in November, with the accompanying standalone concepts scheduled for January.

Pereira, who formerly worked as food distributor Sysco’s director of merchandising, details that the company and its plans for the forthcoming sites were hatched in November meetings with the developer. Initially, Griffin was signed on as a tenant with plans for a new concept focused around wood-fired pizza that he called The Griffin. By February, Pereira and Griffin met and the plan was shifted for the longtime Columbia food player and former Ristorante Divino chef to come on board as Happy Fork’s corporate chef.

Griffin was not available for an interview with Free Times.

“He is the brains about everything that goes on a menu,” Pereira explains of Griffin’s role.

Happy Fork has plans to open other concepts in Lexington after the Chapin project is complete. Those could be repeats of what will open in Chapin, however Pereira says they built those concepts around Chapin’s community desires, and plan to do the same in Lexington.

He says the Lexington project will emulate the proximity to a high school, which opens up the opportunity for student partnerships. For example, he says that in Chapin, the dessert bar Deca will feature desserts designed by Chapin High School students.

“It’s kind of undetermined at the moment what we put in Lexington,” Pereira continues. “We would like to put a Bakon and a Modern Fresca, but based on feedback, if they’re really looking for a taco place, sports bar, we could always develop one of those concepts.”

The restaurant group also launched a catering company that he teases will later have a preferred venue. He plans to announce that in April 2021.

Looking forward, Pereira says that the company plans to keep its footprint within a three-hour radius of Columbia.

“We’re going to try and stay as local as we can,” he concludes.

  • Original Post from David Clarey on September 19, 2020 from the Free Times - a Post and Courier Company
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