Kansas City-based Leap Hospitality is taking over the operations of Blanc Burgers + Bottles' two locations (on the Country Club Plaza and at Mission Farms).
"We're still working out all the details," says Michael Werner, Leap's vice president of design and operations, "but we're already taking an active role."
Blanc joins Leap's restaurant roster, which includes the Jacobson and the Futbol Club. Restaurateur Ernesto Peralta and his wife, Jennifer, opened the first Blanc location in a storefront at 419 Westport Road in 2008. Two years later, Peralta moved the restaurant to the former Uno pizzeria space on the Plaza. He also opened the Leawood location in 2009.
"I will still be the face of the Blanc restaurants," Peralta tells The Pitch. "I will continue to be in the restaurants every day. I'm the one who approached Leap Hospitality. We hired them to control the operations of the restaurants, to oversee the budgets, forecast the profits, control inventory and food costs, and take over the payroll and the accounting. It takes the day-to-day operations out of my hands, which gives me time to focus on the actual restaurants and be more in the public, networking and marketing.
"My job will be to continue to bring people into the restaurants," Peralta adds. "Leap Hospitality will make sure they want to come back."
Leap's taking over the Blanc business will allow Jennifer Peralta to become more of an at-home mother to their two young children, Ernesto Peralta says.
"Jennifer will continue to be my partner and protect the image and brand that we've created," he says. "We'll continue to have the last word on the menu."
Leap Hospitality's first decision was to move executive chef Jayson Eggers, who had been overseeing both Blanc locations, to the Jacobson. Eggers joins the Crossroads restaurant at the end of September. He replaces chef John C. Smith, who Werner says has moved to "another restaurant in Johnson County."
Werner says Eggers will not be making any immediate changes to the Jacobson menu, which was a collaboration between Smith and Werner.
"We'll be working together on the fall-winter menu that will come out at the end of October," Werner says. "Of course, he'll want to put his own stamp on the menu, but I think the changes will be very subtle at first. We know Jayson's skill set and are pleased he's coming onboard."
Meanwhile, Aaron Mulder has been appointed executive chef for both Blanc restaurants. Just don't expect immediate changes to the Blanc menu.
"We won't be making any changes coming out of the gate," Werner says. "We're still in the process of working out the details of the deal. I can say that, at first, we'll be focusing on operational efficiencies and training. We'll look at the menu later, although Jayson Eggers will still be involved in menu development."
Peralta remains interested in expanding the Blanc brand to different parts of Kansas City. "The Plaza will still be our flagship location," he says, "but we want to open smaller venues, like the original Westport restaurant had been and the Leawood location still is. We've learned some valuable lessons in the last five years. Those are much more manageable restaurants.
"The primary reason for bringing in Leap Hospitality was to create a new model that will attract potential investors so we could keep going like we wanted to do before," Peralta continues. "With Leap Hospitality, we'll have more access to investors and have more ability to open additional locations."