Ray Gora / Lincoln TImes-News
Details were revealed Thursday about the highly anticipated restaurant taking over the site of the former Ryan’s on North Generals Boulevard in Lincolnton.
Homesteads Grill and Taphouse is set to open in early March, following extensive renovations over the last several months to transform the 11,000-square-foot facility into a family-friendly venue.
The opening will bring 90 new jobs, between 20 and 30 of which will be full-time positions, Byron Sackett, who owns the restaurant along with his wife, Christy (who’s expecting twins), said when speaking with area media at the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce.
The restaurant, to initially accommodate 225 people, will feature a variety of American cuisine, including hand-cut steaks, seafood, pastas, salads, sandwiches and more, using as many local foods as possible, Sackett said.
Almost 20 draft beers, including regional crafts, will be on tap, with North Carolina wines also served.
However, Sackett noted that he doesn’t want the restaurant to be “the bar hangout,” saying it will have a “nice atmosphere.”
The project has come about through a $1.5 million investment, and Sackett expects his payroll to total between $650,000 and $750,000 a year.
“It’s been an undertaking,” said Sackett, a veteran of the restaurant industry.
Sackett helped bring FATZ to Lincolnton in 2003 as an operating partner and said he had been working to open his own restaurant for many years, long before the Ryan’s closed last spring. However, when that property was put up for sale, it became the “right time and place.”
“This is where my heart is,” he said.
He’s hired a team to run the restaurant, stressing that his continuing obligation, as Lincoln County Schools’ director of child nutrition, is to the students.
Jamel Farley, a native of Lincolnton who worked with Sackett at FATZ, will head up the restaurant’s management team, while Elizabeth Oakes, a fellow FATZ alum coming from Tennessee, will serve as kitchen manager, bringing with her more than 15 years of experience.
The kitchen staff will also include Johnson & Wales University graduates and a chef coming from a restaurant in New York City.
Sackett said part of his goal in opening Homesteads is to help keep local dollars in Lincoln County by preventing residents from leaving town when they want to eat out, while also bringing in customers within a 15- to 25-mile radius.
“I feel it’s very important to support local business and infrastructure,” he said.
In order to attract and retain those customers, Sackett said his focus will be on customer service, driven heavily by using the latest technology to enhance and improve guests’ experience.
In addition to offering 60-inch televisions and Wi-Fi, the restaurant will also be equipped with a sound system and the necessary wiring to allow for PowerPoint presentations in multiple banquet rooms.
These private rooms will enable guests to host business seminars, class reunions and other special events, with Sackett noting that special-order “exotic” and foreign foods will also be an option. Both on- and off-site catering will likewise be available.
“The menu is not limited to what you see on paper,” he added.
Technology will also have an impact on the paging and ordering systems. Customers will be able to receive a text message when their table is ready, allowing them to leave the property during longer waits, as opposed to the usual pagers. Additionally, handheld devices will make it so a table’s drink orders will be rung up back in the kitchen without the server having to leave the dining room.
Both an express-lunch menu and to-go services will also be offered.
Sackett believes these services will provide a niche within the community that was previously missing.
He also believes they will prove successful, with Sackett noting that he could see the possibility of opening an additional location within 18 months.
However, he’s also realistic about the success rate of restaurants being very low. Nonetheless, he attributes part of this to the fact that people who love cooking aren’t necessarily those who should be in the industry.
“I don’t like to cook; I’m a business person,” Sackett said.
He also described himself as an entrepreneur.
“I don’t look at the possibility of failure,” he added.
He said it’s hard to be original nowadays, but, if a restaurant can perform at a high level, it can make it.
Sackett was involved in opening an Outback in Huntersville, and he hopes to mirror the business values with which that particular restaurant chain has flourished.
Homesteads is named after his hometown in Florida, where his family was in the produce business and where many former Lincoln County cotton farmers settled during the 1930s. The letter “o” in the name is in the shape of a hurricane, in a nod to Hurricane Andrew’s destructive impact on the town.
Though its name harkens back to a different period in his life, Sackett intends for the restaurant to focus heavily on community involvement here in Lincolnton. He hopes the community will equally bolster his endeavor.
“Support local business — that’s all we’re asking,” Sackett said.
Homesteads’ hours of operation will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
Sackett said they are still hiring for some positions, with applications posted on their website at www.homesteadsgrillandtaphouse.com.