Angry chef Ron Eyester is walking away from his North Highland Avenue restaurant enclave and will put all of his energy behind Diner, his latest opening in Atlantic Station. The Top Chef alum told Eater Atlanta he is in the process of selling Rosebud and The Family Dog. Eyester couldn't identify the buyers, but he said he's "90 percent certain" The Family Dog will reopen. A "very well-established restaurateur in the city" is buying Rosebud, and Eyester expects a new concept to show up in the renovated space "sometime between January and March."
"We're three-quarters through the process of a sale for both of them," Eyester said in a phone conversation with Eater Atlanta Tuesday. "Given my situation where I desperately need to get over to Atlantic Station and give [Diner] as much of my attention as possible — with the sales pending, I decided to go ahead and close both of them to stop the bleeding, so to speak, and really consolidate my resources and my energy."
After originally opening Rosebud more than a decade ago, Eyester followed with The Family Dog in 2006. He opened Timone's in 2013, but the pizza concept never really took off. After a revamp earlier this year, Eyester shuttered the restaurant in July. He hinted at more troubles in a recently published open letter.
As for Diner, which Eyester opened in Atlantic Station in March, the chef said the restaurant hasn't been able to establish any sense of consistency because his restaurant group has been in turmoil in the past year. That inconsistency led to a zero-star review from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July.
"The whole stability of our entire infrastructure suffered greatly over the last year," Eyester said. "I'm actually experiencing a slight sense of relief. I know it's probably going to get worse before it gets better, but I don't know if Diner was ever able to come to life the way it should have been without Rosebud being dead. I hate to say that, but I feel like I've subconsciously made excuses not to be at Diner because my comfort zone has always been Rosebud. I've spent almost 11 years in that building."
As for the issues affecting his Grateful Tables restaurant group, Eyester admits that he overextended himself personally and financially.
"We bit off more than we could chew," Eyester said. "That's just the bottom line. We grew too fast and there were a lot of other moving parts that affected things. You just get to a situation where things avalanche, and when the people around you are losing confidence in what you're doing, they can't easily subscribe to the vision they once did. It makes it impossible to keep moving forward.
"When it comes down to it, you can't do anything without money. When we did Family Dog, it was a really organic process, like we made some money at Rosebud and then we were able to put it into The Family Dog, and Family Dog did really well and we were able to put it right back. Maybe we didn't raise enough money to begin with [for Timone's], but then you get to a point where you're so fixated on solving today's problems that you're unable to focus on tomorrow. Your sense of strategic planning goes out the window, and it makes it impossible to see the big picture."
Despite the restaurant's rocky start, Eyester still believes Diner can "emerge as a fantastic hub" at Atlantic Station. He said he has the backing of the Hines Group, which owns the development, and that the group can offer more resources. Eyester plans to consolidate the restaurant's menu and "make sure we're executing on a level that we need to." He hopes to fill the brunch void left by Rosebud's closure and focus on "entertaining breakfast dishes" that will be served all day, along with blue-plate specials. Basically, Eyester wants to spearhead the restaurant's creative process and raise the level of the food to draw hungry Atlantans' attention.
"If I'm going to look at it positively, I think that Diner can ultimately give me a lot of diversity and really allow me to be creative as I want to be," Eyester said. "I'm not saying I ran out of ideas on North Highland Avenue — it's hard to speculate because I've been too busy solving problems. I'm anxious to get back to a position where I can drive the concept. ... If I've learned one lesson, it's that I'm done with multiple concepts. I'm on restaurant birth control for a very long time."