Welcome to our feature, The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tables.
Ocean Prime General Manager Randy Brown. Photo by John David Hall Photography.
If you've been to Ocean Prime, you know the drill: business meetings and dates in the dining room, hot-to-trot scene-sters at the bar. And at the center of it all stands the man whose job it is to ensure every day at Ocean Prime is better than the last. General Manager Randy Brown makes it his mission to engage customers, operating under the motto "never wait for them to come to us."
What's your background? Where have you worked in Atlanta?
I have worked in the hospitality industry for the past 11 years during which I’ve been a server, dining room manager, assistant general manager and general manager. I graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. I moved here last summer from Miami to be on the opening team for Ocean Prime in Atlanta. It is great city to live in, and it’s been very exciting to see seasons change again.
How long have you been working at Ocean Prime?
I have been with Ocean Prime for four years. I began as a dining room manager and moved to Atlanta to help with the opening. I have since worked my way up to general manager, and it has been be a great pleasure to introduce Atlanta to Ocean Prime and cultivate such a great team here.
What's your favorite table in the restaurant?
My favorite table in the restaurant is #208 on the terrace overlooking Piedmont Road. The weather has been so pleasant lately; I’ve really enjoyed sitting out buy the fire place at night and listening to the live music from the lounge. During the cooler months, we enclose the terrace and use heaters so it is comfortable year-round.
What's do you like best on the current menu?
Being from the Midwest, I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy. My favorite is our 16 oz. ribeye cooked medium rare. We have an extensive menu from both the land and sea, and our ahi tuna tartare is a very close second.
It's 8 p.m. Saturday, can you walk in and get a table?
We have a philosophy at Ocean Prime – “Yes is the answer. What is the question?” We always welcome any guest that comes to the restaurant. We have a lot of options to accommodate all guests, including our three private rooms, the bar and lounge area, terrace and main dining room. It may take a few minutes, but guests can always enjoy one of our many handcrafted cocktails in the lounge while listening to the live music. We actually have guests that sometimes end up staying in the lounge because they enjoy the atmosphere and music so much.
Do people ever try to slip you cash or anything for tables?
Guests have tried, but I’ve never accepted it, and it’s not necessary. We accommodate every guest as quickly as possible and strive to make raving fans of each of our guests through our genuine hospitality.
Do you have regulars, and what are they like?
We have a variety of guests who frequent Ocean Prime quite often. Atlanta is such a diverse city, and our guests come to the restaurant for many different reasons, whether having business meetings in one of our three private dining rooms, snacking on some appetizers while watching a game on the T.V. in the lounge or enjoying a multi-course seafood and steak dinner in our main dining room. We also have a lot of groups come for guys’ and girls’ nights out, and the ladies are often fond of our Berries & Bubbles cocktail. Whatever type of experience guests are looking to enjoy, we want to make sure it is a wonderful experience at Ocean Prime.
Do you get a lot of celebrities coming here?
We get all kinds of celebrities on any given night. You never know who you are going to run into. This city has so many talented musicians, actors and athletes, and they have found Ocean Prime to be a place they can count on to have a great dining experience. We want all of our guests to be relaxed and feel welcome, and we make accommodations to create an enjoyable evening for them.
What happens if the restaurant is packed and a VIP comes in?
Everyone is a V.I.P. at Ocean Prime. Our amazing associates deliver genuine hospitality to each and every guest that walks through our doors. Our Blu Lounge features live music and is a great place to start any evening with a handcrafted cocktail or glass of world-class wine and of course, our truffle popcorn (some say it’s addicting!).
What's the strangest request you've ever received from a customer?
We don’t have customers – we have guests – and we welcome them to Ocean Prime as if we were welcoming them in our own home. We get a lot of requests on a regular basis because our guests know we will do, and want to do, whatever we can to accommodate them. The strangest request I’ve received was when a guest asked us to cook a filet mignon medium and then puree it. We did, and he came back two days later and requested it again. The chef and I were so intrigued, we made another serving to try for ourselves – it actually was pretty good!
At the end of the day, what's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job?
The one thing I need is my amazing team. Each and every associate brings a positive attitude in to work every day, and it’s contagious to be around. Everyone works together with one common goal to make raving fans of our guests, purveyors, community and each other.