For nearly two decades, the Village Tavern restaurant in Alpharetta has been the go-to place for special occasions, celebrations or simply a night out with friends and family.
But many people would be surprised to learn that while the restaurant is certainly a North Fulton institution, it is part of a national chain of restaurants with locations in seven states and overseas.
The concept, though global, is unique in each location, said Kevin Buckley, general manager of Village Tavern in Alpharetta.
“Each individual restaurant is different in design, and the feel and look of one is different from the other,” Buckley said. “Our menus are regional specific, and we strive for that ‘neighborhood feel’...not cookie cutter.”
At Village Tavern in Alpharetta, Buckley said the aim is a “polished casual restaurant” without the pretentious or stuffy feel of similar upscale restaurants. Here, diners can relax among friends and family, enjoying good food, service and value.
“We want our guests to walk away with a memorable experience...not just a meal,” he said.
Village Tavern opened on Haynes Bridge Road in Alpharetta 17 years ago. While some menu items have come and gone, many remain from the original menu providing the consistency that Buckley said is a focus of the restaurant.
He noted the menu is reviewed on a consistent basis, allowing Village Tavern to stay on top of dining trends, and to keep the menu fresh and vibrant. New to the menu include a host of appetizers, flatbreads and a group of “Tavern specialties” that are often rotated. The dessert menu has also expanded over the years as diners look for new after-dinner options.
But there are a few selections that Buckley said will likely always be available on the menu, and which brings customers back time and again.
“If we removed our shrimp and grits, we might see a small revolt,” laughed Buckley, referring to the mainstay ensemble of sautéed jumbo shrimp, applewood smoked bacon, mushrooms, green onions, organic stone ground grits and Gruyere cheese.
He points to the consistency in every aspect of Village Tavern as a key part to the success of the restaurant, from the service, to the food, to the affordability and value.
“We have been successful with integrating ourselves into the Alpharetta community,” Buckley said. “A location convenient to work and homes, but worth the long drive to come and see.”
He knows the lifespan of most restaurants is short, noting the vast majority of restaurants close within five years of opening. But for those that defy the odds, like Village Tavern, the success formula is relatively simple – find what brings people back again.
“[It happens] first by being a great place to work,” said Buckley, emphasizing how important the customer service aspect is for success. “Happy employees give great experiences.”
Looking to the future, Buckley said there is little reason to change what’s working for Village Tavern, other than continuing to build upon a solid foundation.
“There is no need to reinvent the wheel; however we are always striving to improve upon it,” he said, noting a patio addition will open this spring, and the catering options will expand. “And, always, we will look for ways to [consistently deliver] an immaculate experience at Village Tavern for our customers.” ■