Andy Pforzheimer is the Chairman of Barteca Restaurant Group in Norwalk, Connecticut. The group owns Barcelona Wine Bar and bartaco, with thirteen locations each for both restaurants scattered throughout the United States.
Pforzheimer was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year last year. The award is given to “honor and recognize men and women who create the products, services and jobs that help our economy and communities grow”. Total Food Service spoke with Andy Pforzheimer about the inspiration for Barteca’s restaurants, plans for expansion and what the award meant to him.
What is your culinary background and when did you start opening restaurants?
I trained as a chef in France before moving to work in New York and then California. I moved around a few countries over the course of about fifteen years. I met my partner and we opened the first Barcelona twenty years ago and the first bartaco six years ago. We’ve been adding them as we go.
What is the model for the restaurants? Is every one different?
Every design is different, we don’t want any of them to look the same. The menus are different as well. We hire top-notch chefs. Our group executive chef has two James Beard awards and the chefs have a lot of creative freedom to do whatever they want. They make up the specials and no two menus are the same.
Why did you decide to do Spanish restaurants focused on wine and small plates?
My partner lived in Spain and Portugal for six years and when he came back to the States he missed it. He wanted to start a restaurant focused on Spanish food so we did.
What attracts people to your restaurants?
We try to be really fair on the prices and we have food and service at a level that you would get at a top restaurant where you pay a lot more. Our price point is a third of many high-end places and it is in a fun and accessible environment.
People also love the small plate format. Twenty years ago it was very unusual. Now half of the restaurants in the northeast seem to have small plates because it is an easy and fu way to eat. Our food is very healthy also. It is market driven and change all the time.
How do you source your produce for the restaurants?
We buy great product, sometimes national and sometimes from farmers in a specific area. We have a full-time forager and a full-time buyer. All she does is talk to small producers in the area as well as overseas in Spain that produce small quantities. We are a big enough group that we can buy in bulk and take some of the headaches away.
How do you decide where you will put new restaurants?
I am looking for the clientele. I am not looking for particular neighborhood or hot places, just people who want to eat great food at a reasonable price.
Then we either renovate existing spaces or build from the ground up. We have an eight person in-house architectural team. They take on anything. We like to find old buildings in the middle of busy places that weren’t restaurants. That is a very difficult way to build but it is worth the headache. The one thing we won’t do is move into big shopping centers. We don’t do that.
How did you feel about winning EY Entrepreneur of the Year?
I’m honored, and it provided a kind of nice reflection point where I looked back on twenty years and can say we built something great.
To learn more about Andy Pforzheimer and Barteca Restaurant Group, visit their website.