Family-operated businesses have been around for a long time — many successful and some not. But put two fathers and their sons together, add in a fifth party, and it gets difficult to predict the result.
Yet for Market Restaurant Group it's proven to be a blueprint for success, especially with the group's year-old Harvest restaurant in Oro Valley.
Father-son combos Rick and Kevin Fink, and Tom and Matt Firth, along with chef Ramiro Scavo, are the brains behind the success. They also have three other restaurants for which they're responsible— two Zona 78 locations and the Grill at Hacienda del Sol.
"The number one thing that the younger partners bring to the business is the energy and excitement of changing the perspective of what people want, giving our restaurants a younger feel," said Matt Firth. "Kevin and I go to restaurants in other cities to identify trends and see the kind of feeling people want from their dining experiences. Ramiro does the same thing with the food."
Sustainability and support of local products are key elements in Harvest's success, Rick Fink maintained. The restaurant, which has received a three-diamond rating from the Automobile Association of America, uses a seasonally inspired menu that draws on produce and other products grown or made locally.
Harvest gets fresh vegetables, eggs and chickens from Sleeping Frog Farms on the Northwest side, Larry's Farm in Marana, and River Road Gardens and Tanque Verde Garden, both in Tucson. Ground beef and other meat cuts come from Double Check Ranch in Winkelman, lamb from Brown Family Farm in Cochise, and pears and organic apples from Briggs Orchard in Willcox.
Fink said using locally grown products means being a little more flexible with the menus because of either limited amounts of products or seasonal issues.
"But we want to support local growers and give them an opportunity to make a living they can count on," he added.
Tom Firth sees many positive aspects in working with younger family members. "Matt, Kevin and Ramiro all bring incredible passion to their jobs and take pride in their respective abilities," he said. "I can always count on them to push us outside our comfort zone. But to be fair, we do the same to them."
Rick Fink pointed out that both he and Tom Firth have been in the restaurant business a long time, both in the front and back of the house.
"When working with a family member, there can be problems talking with a parent or child, but we're willing to listen to each other," he said. "Kevin and Matt bring a lot of great things to the table, as do Tom and I, and we do our best not to say 'we tried that and it doesn't work.'"
Tom Firth noted that managing a company with five people who have a voice in it takes a great effort at communication, so the five meet each week to review both technical and human resources issues at the restaurants, which is when Firth and Fink share some of their experience with their sons.
"We all agree training is very important to us and have definite and structured procedures in place that we all agree on," he said. "Plus we're good at listening to each other and no one is shy about arguing a point when necessary."
Matt Firth sees the secret to five-way success being in the different skill sets each partner brings to the business. "The younger guys have the passion and fresh ideas, while our dads have the experience and wisdom," he said. He also lauded Scavo for his work in creating meals that showcase local organic produce.
While Matt Firth created many of the specialty drinks at Harvest, Kevin Fink is the wine guru in the restaurants.
"I think when you're working with your father, the expectations can be higher than with a non-relative," Kevin Fink said. "But one of the advantages is that you've known each other for so long that you instinctively know what they'd expect out of a situation and how they would deal with it."
Besides experience, there's another element their fathers bring to the business, he added. "Our fathers have the ability to open a lot of doors with all the people they've met."
10355 N. La Cañada, Oro Valley
11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday