Places...

By Robert Bickell

Alexander Achilleos is one unusual owner (and that’s a good thing).

When he opened his restaurant almost ten years ago, he included a most unique item in his business plan. No matter what happened, he was going to donate 10% of all his profits to charity. Many restaurant owners contribute to all kinds of good causes, but very few are willing to specify a fixed and absolute figure of 10%. Ten percent of anything in the restaurant business can make or break you. 10% pays a lot of bills and almost always feels better in your own pocket. It’s a noble gesture, but little things like survival usually get in the way.

Alex Achilleos is not the type of guy who worries about survival. He’s a guy who knows exactly what he’s doing and his success tends to speak for itself. “My decision to donate to charity is perhaps a bit unusual, but it has been a very positive for my business. My employees appreciate it and they even get involved in selecting the charities that we support. My customers appreciate it, and it tends to attract people who feel the same way I do. I look at it this way – I’ve been here for some ten years and we’re still going strong. We’ve even opened a second location, so we must be doing something right.”

Alex grew-up in England and became very successful in his chosen field of architecture and design and found his niche designing hotels and restaurants. “I visited New York and fell in love with this City. In short order (the mid-90’s) I moved here, and also in short order, I got bored sitting around my studio apartment thinking of something productive to do. I actually opened the restaurant as sort of a hobby.”

I can hear the restaurant community groaning at the sound of the word “hobby”. Running a restaurant is not like collecting stamps or butterflies. It’s serious business, and in reality, Mr. Achilleos takes it more seriously than most.

“I think this business is really about consistency and attention to detail. We are doing today almost exactly what we were doing when we first opened. The overall restaurant scene has changed, but we have remained very consistent. It’s all about great food and superior service, and of course, value. We depend on our local neighborhood, and they have supported us for all these years. They are the people who really understand and appreciate the concept of consistency.”

“Inevitably, a restaurant is about the food and our menu has always stressed creativity with quality and of course, value. Some of our popular signature dishes include duck confit strudel with a plum hosin sauce; pan-roasted sea bass with a roasted winter vegetable medley and a dill butter sauce; roasted leg of lamb with Mediterranean-style roasted potatoes and French beans, and roasted onions au jus; and sautéed diver scallops over creamy polenta with a port wine sauce.”

“The Place on West 10th Street replicates all the things that have made the original location so successful. However, the big difference is the place itself. It’s more of an upscale environment and certainly more glamorous. It appeals to a new audience as well as our current customers because while the spirit of the restaurant is basically the same, the feel of the room is decidedly different. Both kitchens are under the direction of our chef, Quechol Elias, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for many of our employees to get involved in an exciting new concept.”

“I must admit that I was thrilled to see The Place included in the first edition of the New York City Michelin Guide. We have received our share of good press, but to have my little restaurant in the West Village included in their list of such prestigious establishments was a nice surprise. I could tell by their presentation that the Michelin people did their homework and spent some time in my restaurant. It always amazes me that we see so many international visitors in our restaurants, and I credit things like the Michelin Guide as well as significant coverage we have had in the airline magazines. We will always be dependent on our neighborhood, but one of the great benefits of being in New York is the incredible visitor market.”

And yes, I do plan to open more “Places” in the future. If you have two, you can easily have three, four or five as long as you continue to work your formula. At the moment, I have plenty enough to keep me busy and excited.”

The Place 310 West 4th Street, 212-924-2711

The Place on 10th 142 West 10th Street, 212-462-2880

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