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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

One-Stop Hospitality


Several businesses merge their talents, combine concepts

The restaurant business – especially the locally-owned restaurant business – is tough, as evidenced by the recent closure of several eateries.

The Morvant Hospitality Group hopes to improve the industry and the customer experience.

Looosiana Seafood Market, Drake Catering, Whisk Dessert Bar and Pop’s Liquor and Spirits have come together to put each of their services under one organization.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel by any means,” said Morvant’s CEO, Bob Thames. “Hospitality groups are pretty common in and around Shreveport-Bossier. The idea is to be able to function different restaurant, food and hospitality concepts under one umbrella, with the hope you can allow folks to work a full 40 hours.”

For example, if you want to have a wedding reception, one call to Morvant Hospitality Group would cover just about everything you need when it comes to food and beverages.

“We have different levels of catering,” Thames said. “If they’re wanting something a little more laid back, more easy-going, we can utilize the Looosiana Seafood Market brand. If they’re wanting something a little more sit-down – upscale – we utilize the Drake Catering brand. The desserts fit in there through Whisk as well. We can flow the liquor catering through that, now that we have the liquor store.”

In other words, Morvant Hospitality Group wants to be your one-stop shop.

“Catering is a big aspect of it,” Thames said. “They all bring their strong points. The restaurant allows us to have a great, smaller venue and showcase specialty items and really turn people on to the group. The dessert bar concept has a lot of growth opportunity, especially on the retail side. We’re looking to improve that. The liquor store feeds into the catering as well. The catering can really be the backbone, but they each have to work cohesively. The catering does allow us to expand our workforce and use them for other things.”

By doing so, the group hopes to address the problem of staffing.

“Staffing is a huge issue,” Thames said. “There’s probably not a restaurant in this town – or probably in this country – that’s not constantly looking for help. … A lot of that struggle comes from the pandemic. It’s not so much that people are afraid to get back out and work. I think a lot of people who were in the hospitality industry before that left, don’t want to come back to it. They found a little bit higher quality of life and a better worklife balance. … We’re trying to get people a better work-life balance, and hope we can give them 40 hours. Make them full-time, offer the benefits, things like that. That’s not going to happen for every single employee, but definitely for the core group.”

Chef Blake Jackson, the owner of Drake Catering and Whisk Dessert Bar, hopes this merger will make his businesses bigger and better.

“I’ve spent the last 10 years building my own brands that I’ve cared for deeply,” Jackson said. “But the one thing this will allow is the ability to grow them to the size I know they are capable of being.”

The group’s ultimate goal, Jackson said, is “delivering top-notch food, service and good times.”

Thames worked for Great Raft Brewing for seven and a half years “in multiple roles.” He and a business partner also managed a restaurant in Ruston. They were doing some consulting work for Looosiana Seafood Company when one thing led to another.

“We were excited about the opportunity to get back into a restaurant together,” Thames said. “When Josh started that restaurant, it was intended to be a market. When the pandemic hit, he had to pivot to plate lunches, po-boys and things like that. Folks appreciated it, so (the restaurant) continued to do lunch. Josh runs his own commercial construction company. He’s a really busy guy, so he needed some help. We jumped in, and were excited for the opportunity.”

To reach Morvant Hospitality Group, you may visit www.drakefoods.com.


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