2009-12-03 / Family
New restaurant family style and family run
Sisters Mary and Maureen Harrigan have decided to bring their family-style, family-run restaurant—already operating in the San Fernando Valley, Valencia, Irvine, Fountain Valley and Pasadena—closer to home.
Mary Harrigan lives in Thousand Oaks, and Maureen, a fulltime biology professor at Moorpark College and business strategist for the restaurant, lives in Oak Park.
The sisters have been opening Stonefire Grill restaurants at record speed. The Westlake Village location will be the seventh to open in 10 years. The new venue will be in the former Marie Callender’s building on Thousand Oaks Boulevard. The restaurant’s interior and exterior are being remodeled, Mary Harrigan said.
At their Westlake Village headquarters, the women discussed how the strong family values they received growing up in a big family in Encino translated into a successful chain of restaurants that celebrates family in every aspect of its operation.
The Harrigan sisters are two of three girls in a family of nine children. In 1988, the women launched their first restaurant, Rattlers, in Valencia with a soccer mom philosophy.
“At one point we were soccer moms with busy lifestyles,” Mary Harrigan said. While she and her siblings had grown up at a time when most parents cooked stayat-home meals and eating out in a restaurant was considered a luxury, today’s busy working parents need more options outside the home, she said.
Their goal is to give families healthy eating choices at reasonable, “no-guilt” prices.
Mary Harrigan said she and her partner, Kaduri Shemtov, Maureen Harrigan’s husband, are able to keep prices affordable because of how the restaurant’s meals are served. Rather than order meals from a waiter or waitress at the table, patrons place their orders at the counter, and the food is delivered by a server. Cutting out one step in the service chain allowed the Harrigans to pass on big savings to their customers.
Mary Harrigan likened their approach to Baja Fresh, a restaurant that was a “step up” from fast food.
“Stonefire Grill is a step down from full service,” Mary Harrigan said.
Stonefire’s hearty, healthy menu selections include individual or family-sized portions of pasta, soups, salads, grilled ribs, chicken, steak and fish. Sandwich wraps, pizza and home-baked desserts are also available.
“We provide good quality meals at reasonable prices, (so parents) don’t have to feel guilty (about eating out),” Mary Harrigan said. “Everything is made fresh daily, including salad dressings and baked goods.”
The sisters said although the move to drop a notch in service was risky, their background in the restaurant business gave them confidence that they would succeed. The women have owned and operated Rattler’s in Valencia since 1988.
Busy parents also have the option of picking up orders to go or, for fancier occasions, using the restaurant’s catering services.
Starting from scratch
Maureen Harrigan met Shemtov while working at a delicatessen in the San Fernando Valley. In 2000 the Harrigan sisters pooled their life savings and mortgaged their homes to raise the $350,000 needed to open their first Stonefire Grill restaurant in Valencia. Within one year the partners had repaid the bank in full and had earned $1 million. By 2008, Stonefire Grill was ringing up more than $30 million in sales.
Mary Harrigan attributes their success to the family values instilled in them as children. The inspiration for their restaurants can be traced to dinnertime, when the 11 members of the Harrigan clan gathered regularly to enjoy lively conversation, delicious food and family togetherness.
The corporate culture developed by the Harrigan sisters is based on treating all employees like family members, Maureen Harrigan said.
“We had a very giving mother,” Mary Harrigan said.
“Giving back to the community was something that my mother automatically did,” Mary Harrigan said. “It’s really a tribute to our mom,” she said, referring to a pair of company-sponsored programs.
Feeding the Needs of the Community is a program that encourages local nonprofit groups to apply for a one-time, no-cost catering opportunity. The Braveheart Awards is a financial grant program that helps women escape the cycle of domestic abuse.
As part of the Braveheart effort, the Harrigans sponsored a Shop with a Cop program. Mary Harrigan said children are sometimes fearful of police officers since it is they who have often removed their fathers from the home.
The Shop with a Cop program has been operating successfully for four years. The program allows sheriff’s deputies or police officers to show children that they are not the bad guys, Mary Harrigan said. Children go shopping with officers at Target and buy clothes and other items.
After the Harrigan sisters open Stonefire Grill in Westlake Village, they plan to “take a breath and strategize what’s next,” Mary Harrigan said.
For further information, visit www.stonefiregrill.com.