Eater recently caught up with The Patio on Goldfinch’s owner Gina Champion-Cain and executive chef John Medall to reflect on the Mission Hills restaurant’s One Year In and talk about The Patio Restaurant Group’s fast rise on the hospitality scene. In this calendar year, the group will open a third location of The Patio in Petaluma, further expand The Front Porch stores and branch out with another concept, Fireside by The Patio in Liberty Station. And there’s more, including a commissary kitchen, coffee production and a beer brewing operation. Read on.
Was opening this second Patio easier? What have you refined since the first time around?
Gina Champion-Cain: Absolutely, it was a lot easier. I didn’t know what to expect with The Patio on Lamont, it was my first restaurant and first baby. This time, I knew the bumps and the highs and lows and could prepare a lot better for them. We’ve improved things on an operational level, just tightening things up and being more efficient. I think the food has always been top-notch and our number one goal has always been to have the best service; we’re constantly working to refine that.
John Medall: We've really manicured the recipes to make them identical in each spot.
There are dishes from Lamont that have crossed over here and we’ve worked to make them more consistent, flavor profile-wise.
Why did you choose Petaluma for The Patio’s next location? How will the food translate?
GC: We have a lot of good connections in Petaluma and it was an opportunity to buy a building in a very cool town which has great demographic base. There’s an incredible culinary expertise up there and progressive movement, which is how we want to grow as a brand. I always knew that I wanted to expand up the West Coast and the vibe and focus on sustainability in Petaluma just matches what I believe in personally. We’re also going to begin brewing our own beer up there under a private label that will be in all our stores and restaurants.
JM: When I went up to Petaluma, I was able to visit a lot of local farms and ranches; I was so excited that I came back and wrote the menu in two days. There will be some signature dishes from The Patio, and nothing on the menu will come from more than 15 miles away.
Will The Patio continue to expand in San Diego?
GC: If we do, it’ll be somewhere in coastal North County. But it’s difficult to find the right spot up there; my background is real estate and I have a very defined notion of where I want to be. I love North County for a Patio, but if I can’t find the right space I’ll just keep on going elsewhere in California.
How did the Fireside by The Patio concept develop in Liberty Station? How will the menu differ from The Patio?
GC: I’ve been really intrigued by wood-fired cooking. It’s a concept that doesn’t work everywhere, you really need to have the outdoor space to do it right. The north end of Liberty Station is the perfect place to explore this type of concept and I think it’ll mesh extremely well with the demographic in that area and their wants and needs.
JM: The menu is completely different; everything will be cooked over wood-fired grills, wood-fired ovens or a smoker.
And we’ve been hearing about something else called The Foundation?
GM: It’s in the Sports Arena area and will be our corporate headquarters and hold a commissary kitchen that will allow us to branch out into catering and expand our airport concessionaire called Elegant Desserts. There will also be a full-blown coffee roasting facility for our partner Swell Coffee Roasting Company.
What do you think has been the key to your group’s quick success? What do you want to be known for long-term?
GM: I’m very cautious about how we grow but I took a big chance and invested in people and infrastructure right out of gate. And all these businesses are a reflection of what I want as a consumer, and I’m really finicky. Maybe that perspective resonates with some people too.
I just want us to be a neat, neighborhood place to go to hang out to have great food in a wonderful environment. We’re a family and I think that comes across in the way we treat our customers. If I had a goal, I’d want to be known as the ‘Four Seasons of restaurants’ in terms of customer service. We’re not there yet, but someday I want us to thought of that way.