8 January, 2020 -
With names like Big Chill Beach Club and Crooked Hammock Brewery, the restaurants under La Vida Hospitality’s umbrella possess a low-key vibe. The company, which is headquartered in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, urges customers to “enjoy the ride.”
But don’t let the laid-back attitude fool you. La Vida is on the fast track, and its growth is propelled by professionalism, attention to detail and Delaware’s business-friendly climate.
In 2019, La Vida Hospitality had 350 employees and $13 million in revenues. Next year, the company expects to reach 600 employees and earn $25 million.
La Vida’s focus is on building a way of life, not just restaurants, said Josh Grapski, managing partner. “We think of food and beverage as a way to deliver a lifestyle,” he explained. “Products and services can supply an experience.”
To date, that experience is rooted in the casual beach lifestyle. Crooked Hammock has a spacious outdoor area with games so guests can mingle as though they’re at a backyard barbecue. Big Chill Beach Club in Bethany Beach is located on deck above the surf in Delaware Seashore State Park.
The hospitality group’s stable also includes Big Chill Surf Cantina, Taco Reho and Fork + Flask, formerly Nage.
When it opened in 2004, Nage took a risk. The site is in a strip mall on Route 1. At that time, there were few upscale eateries on the highway. Nage succeeded, but over time, diners’ attitudes relaxed.
Encouraged by the popularity of the casual Crooked Hammock, which opened in 2015, La Vida turned Nage into Fork + Flask, which sports a large bar and cabana-esque décor. (The site remains the home of La Vida’s catering division.) However, it is still an indoor space.
Crooked Hammock and Big Chill Beach Club capitalize on the tourist’s desire to experience the area up close and outside. “We can take advantage of our surroundings to create a better experience,” Grapski said.
Now La Vida is taking the Delaware beach vibe beyond Sussex County’s borders. A Crooked Hammock in Middletown, located near Wilmington, Delaware, opened in late 2019 with an even larger outdoor area than the original site.
Another Crooked Hammock is scheduled to open in late 2020 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. La Vida Hospitality is currently exploring new opportunities for Big Chill and plans to seek bricks-and-mortar locations for fast-casual Taco Reho restaurants.
Being based in Delaware has helped boost La Vida’s success, said Grapski, who has worked in more than 10 states. The hospitality industry here is a community instead of a group of competitors, he said. Suppliers are supportive, and legislators are approachable. “You can get things done in a friendly, productive manner,” he said.
La Vida Hospitality is looking for other businesses that might complement its offerings, such as hotels or entertainment complexes. If they’re at the beach, La Vida will play up the get-away-from-it-all mentality. If they’re in suburbia or a city, they’ll give residents a vacation close to home.
If La Vida Hospitality has its way, guests at all the locations will be living the good life. For information, visit lavidahospitality.com.