Louis Soon – Maven Restaurant Group
- Written by: Neil Cote
- Produced by: Liz Fallon & Mike Szajner
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
His dining concepts popular in and around Atlanta, Louis Soon is taking them elsewhere. Not too hastily, however, as he says he won’t risk compromising quality. But Soon senses a bigger market for all the brands under his Maven Restaurant Group.
Soon to be introduced to neighboring Alabama is the rustic Butcher & Brew, whose two Georgia locations have proven popular. It’s a concept you might find more of in Britain than the United States, a so-called gastropub that prides itself as much for restaurant-quality food as for the 20 or so craft ales, lagers and stouts on tap. But there’s no reason why it can’t catch on here.
“A happy medium for guys and gals,” Soon explains. “Wine, beer and made-from-scratch pub fare—bowls, shareables and sandwiches with fresh-made bread. Big screen TVs for watching sports, which people like to do around here.”
Depending on the locale, there may be a trivia night or some other activity. The sandwich selection is much more diverse than the basic burger offerings of most such places. The house-smoked pork with jalapeno aioli and banana peppers on sourdough is a popular item, as is the roast beef barrio with cilantro and queso blanco. There’s something for vegetarians too.
So later this year, Soon anticipates a Butcher & Brew in Birmingham, Alabama, as well as another in Georgia, this one in Roswell to augment existing restaurants a sufficient distance away in Alpharetta and Forsyth.
For those who prefer the more formal setting and cuisine of his Lapeer Steak & Seafood in Alpharetta, he’ll be opening one each in Atlanta and Birmingham. For those wanting southern fare, there’s South Main Kitchen in Alpharetta, also set to open in other locations. Also on his agenda is expansion of two more brands, Frenchie’s Royal House of Frites & Meats and Tocayo, the latter for Mexican street food.
Recipe for success
“These are concepts I feel I can duplicate while maintaining the same level of high-quality food, service, experience and integrity,” Soon says from his Atlanta home. “My main goal is that every guest receives the same experience wherever they go.”
He says customer loyalty endured COVID-19, when takeout service and government relief kept Maven afloat and only a couple employees from his 150-strong staff needed to be let go. Normalcy having returned, Soon says business is back to pre-pandemic levels.
Asked what’s the secret sauce behind this growth, Soon credits the management team he’s nurtured since the get-go. “Building a solid team and culture gives us a strong internal base to grow from and is a crucial piece of our expansion as we move forward,” he says.
“We don’t just focus on bar and food,” Soon goes on to say. “We focus on everything while offering a complete experience to the guests. We turn our service and food into art.”
A pretty fair cook himself, Soon says he’s hired chefs far more accomplished and imaginative to work the kitchens though one gets the sense that should one of his restaurants be in a bind, he could step in. Among other strengths, he brings to Maven a multicultural background in cuisine.
Born in Curacao and raised in St. Maarten, Soon moved with his family to the United States as a 12-year-old. As a young adult he honed his skills in other lines of work, including a rent-a-car company, before moving to Fort Lauderdale in 2006.
By then he was drawn toward the hospitality industry and enrolled in culinary curriculum at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Georgia seeming to offer more possibilities than Florida, he moved north and served all kinds of roles at a few Atlanta restaurants, among them the casual Salt Factory Pub and upscale Little Alley Steak. In 2012 he enhanced his credentials with another degree in food and beverage management from the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta and committed to going out on his own.
First came South Main Kitchen followed by Butcher & Brew and then Lapeer, and he’s far from finished. How this way of life suits his temperament.
“I love people and serving them,” Soon says. “I’m a people person and that’s what the hospitality business is about. We offer the complete package and focus on the front and back of the house.”
Home life also satisfies, the now 50-year-old Soon raising a 3-year-old son and Greater Atlanta feeling like home. He is always up for travel, whether it be back to the Caribbean or the chillier U.S. highlands where Soon has taken up snowboarding. But his work and play ratio still seems tilted toward the former.
“I love what I do and am very passionate about giving a good culinary and service experience,” he says. “I love sending people home with a big smile on their faces.”
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