Geoffrey Zakarian Reveals the Key to Surviving in the Restaurant Business
Last week, Geoffrey Zakarian opened his newest restaurant, Point Royal, at The Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Fla.—the culmination of two years of planning and hard work.
"My goal in a restaurant, in any restaurant, is to make it an unexpected journey," Zakarian tells Food & Wine. "We don't promise—we under-promise and we try to over-deliver all the time. If you do that, and if you get the cold food cold and the hot food hot, and [deliver] great hospitality, it's a good restaurant."
Point Royal is Zakarian's seventh restaurant—the veteran chef, author, and television personality also heads up New York City's The Lambs Club and The National Bar & Dining Rooms; Georgie and The Garden Bar in Los Angeles; The Water Club at Borgata in Atlantic City; and The National in Greenwich, Conn.
"I got into this untraditionally," he tells us. "I wasn't going to school to be a chef. I grew up in a household that was Middle Eastern, and at breakfast we talked about lunch, at lunch we talked about dinner, and at dinner we talked about what's for breakfast tomorrow. That's what it was: it was a constant stream of food analysis."
All that foundational knowledge ingrained in him since childhood made Zakarian a natural born restaurateur.
"I didn't know it back then, but this daily ritual in my family was nurturing something for the future," he says. "And it never felt so natural as when I was in France. And when I got out of cooking school, I started cooking—and it wasn't work, it was just the joy of doing this."
As for his philosophies on the restaurant business? "You just need to be good to survive," he says. "Greatness is really hard. Greatness comes over years and years of being good. I mean, I can do all kinds of culinary tricks and jump out of a box but that's not what it's all about. It's about their experience—having a customer have a really great time."
Point Royal's indoor-outdoor space features a raw bar and Zakarian's signature take on "coastal American" dining—think: plenty of fresh seafood with a Florida-resort twist.
It's "tropical Cuba meets the South of France with a little nautical modernity in Florida," Zakarian says. "I put the bar in the middle of the room, so people walking in can see the bartenders shaking drinks, [guests] drinking out of great frozen glasses, and the go, 'Wow, we have to come here for a drink.'"