Local Entrepreneur Kevin Grangier Talks Success of His Four Louisville Restaurants
Writer / Shannon Evanko
Taking the scenic route can be the most exhilarating, rewarding way to arrive at a destination. For Kevin Grangier, founder and CEO of Belle Noble Entertainment Group, the scenic route led him to a wildly successful entrepreneurship in Louisville.
Grangier graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in public relations and journalism and an associates degree in health administration. After working locally in healthcare for years, he began his agency, Carry On Communication, Inc., in Los Angeles, California. He ran it for 12 years before selling it and returning to Louisville.
“I was on a corporate path,” Grangier says. “Being an entrepreneur was never my intention. I decided I wanted to take a break. I’d worked my tail off in the corporate world, and I moved to LA to enjoy it a while. That lasted about a month before I began my agency.”
People began calling Grangier to do freelance work in communications, public relations and branding.
“The minute I took the first client, it led to the agency,” Grangier says. “It wasn’t at all part of my plan”.
His agency was largely healthcare-focused, beginning as public relations, then marketing and then brand development. He opened offices in Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York City within 12 years. Next, he sold the agency and returned to Louisville to relax for a while.
His “break” in Louisville didn’t last long, either. He quickly opened his first restaurant, The Village Anchor, in the Anchorage community. With its wild success, Grangier opened multiple restaurants: Le Moo, on Lexington Rd., PICNIC, in Anchorage and Grassa Gramma, coming soon to Holiday Manor.
“It started when friends were visiting me from out of town,” Grangier says. “I picked them up at the airport, and we were looking for a place to have a drink near my house in Anchorage. We wound up at the Applebee’s bar. That’s when I thought, ‘This is kind of crazy that there’s not a privately owned restaurant on the east end.’ That’s how The Village Anchor started.”
Grangier says people often question how he was able to build a restaurant having no prior restaurant experience. To that, he says that he applied the same principles as he would in the agency world: it’s a consumer product.
“It’s no different than toilet paper, mascara or gasoline,” Grangier says. “We have a product. We have to get the marketing message out and get clients in. The only difference is: first, the dining experience offers many more touchpoints than other products. With most consumer products, you use the product many times before you really form an opinion of the product. With food, you have a total of two hours to execute 200 touchpoints. The client very quickly forms an opinion to define how that experience was. So it’s the same, but you have to execute the product and define the experience so quickly with great margin for error if you don’t do it right.”
Grangier says that’s where his expertise came in. Most restaurateurs don’t have that, and it’s what made The Village Anchor successful, upfront.
“I knew how to get the customer to buy into the product, whether I knew anything about food or not,” Grangier says. “I approached the concept from a different perspective. We are an experience-driven restaurant, and I say that all the time. It’s the differentiator that defines a customer’s experience.”
Grangier hasn’t encountered many places in Louisville where you have colorful experiences. Most restaurants in Louisville offer great food and great service, he says, but you’re sure to get that, along with a colorful experience, in his restaurants.
According to Grangier, Louisville has been the perfect home for his restaurant concepts.
“I think my concepts could be successful anywhere because they are very unique, but they’re very unique to Louisville, and this is where I live,” Grangier says. “I get to focus on these things where I live. Working where you call home is special. Not having to be on the road or on an airplane has been a fantastic change in my life.”
Grangier is often asked to open restaurants in other cities. He has a “been there, done that” kind of attitude about the idea.
“I like opening restaurants in this city, Louisville,” Grangier says. “When the company can withstand that in other cities without me having to be there, then we may do that.”
Grangier says he’s been a multi-tasker ever since grade school. He doesn’t see juggling multiple opportunities as difficult, because it’s what he’s done his entire life.
“It’s just what I know,” Grangier says. “If I only have one thing going on, I have to start on other things, or else I’d jump off a bridge. I’m a creative person and need to be creating. It was paper planes and art in grade school, and now I’m on to bigger things.”
Grangier’s projects have progressively improved upon themselves, he says. Grassa Gramma, his latest venture, opening soon in Holiday Manor, is going to define how he wants the experience to be from top to bottom.
“It’s the first one I’ve built from the ground up,” Grangier says. “Built-in experiences are inherent from top to bottom. I get to define it from the time we pour the concrete. For example, the concrete is on four different levels, meant to look like a piazza with a cobblestone piazza and 20-foot bronze fountain in it.”
People often tell Grangier that his restaurants transport them to different places. For example, The Village Anchor is frequently compared to restaurants in Europe.
“That’s exactly what I designed it to be,” Grangier says. “Le Moo is also supposed to be very European, and it is also compared to areas there. It is very reminiscent of old European styles. They’re unique experiences that are supposed to take you somewhere else. People say, ‘We love your restaurants because they make us feel like we’re on vacation.’ I think they give you an opportunity to show a special nuance of the city.”
Grangier loves that the community has embraced his restaurants. He loves that the message they get from his restaurants is the exact message he says he wanted to send from day one.
“The community has given 100 percent pure validation that they’re open to new experiences and to trying things that perhaps are non-traditional,” Grangier says. “They are open to new types of people, cultures and cuisines. They validate that because year after year, my restaurants grow in sales. The community is open to opportunities brought to them that really are different, and I like that. There are a lot of cities you could open restaurants in where that validation is not there.”
At the end of the day, creating is what Grangier enjoys most in his work. He admits he has fantastic people who run his restaurants. They take his vision and run with it. He relies on their expertise to execute his vision, which allows him to create.
“Ultimately, follow your heart, but know that it doesn’t come easy,” Grangier says. “It’s not free. Don’t rely on the experiences of others to make yours better. Don’t make stupid decisions, use common sense and don’t follow ideas to the point where they’re dumb.”
If there’s advice Grangier would offer other future entrepreneurs, it revolves around knowing your audience.
“I find myself talking to people who aren’t necessarily interested in restaurants but are interested in starting businesses,” Grangier says. “I think it’s really important to know your environment, audience, limits, expectations and build your product around that. Define your product based on those things. Don’t take a product and throw it in somewhere saying, ‘how do we make this work?’ Where there’s a hole, there’s opportunity. Where there’s not a hole, there’s a struggle. Focus on and build around that.”
Like the present, the future is busy for Grangier.
“I’ve always said I want to own seven restaurants in the city,” Grangier says. “I’m completing number four now, so there you go. I have a sushi concept I want to do. I have a southern experience I want to do. I have a burger concept that I want to execute, and I have a really fine dining concept that I want to do.”
The scenic route through Grangier’s career led him back to Louisville. His customers can be thrilled about what that means for the future of Louisville’s dining scene.