Al Redzematovic, owner of Mambo Italiano Ristorante in Bertram, soon could be the new operator of Hidden Falls restaurant in Meadowlakes if approved by the City Council.
The restaurant at 220 Meadowlakes Drive is currently owned and operated by the city through the Meadowlakes Public Facilities Corp. The proposed new operating contract would allow Redzematovic, who has experience operating similar golf club restaurants, to introduce new menu items while keeping popular existing items available on request. He has also indicated to city officials that he intends to retain the current restaurant staff.
After an executive session during its regular meeting May 18, the City Council chose to further review the proposed operating contract before final approval. The council will entertain action in June, Mayor Mark Bentley said.
The possibility of bringing in a third party followed research by the Recreation Budget Taskforce restaurant subcommittee, which Bentley started last year to assess the sustainability of various facilities located at the city’s Hidden Falls Golf Club.
Financial reports from the past three years also determined the restaurant has lost about $85,000 annually, which was being paid for through taxpayer dollars. Rather than closing the restaurant, which is frequented by residents as well as visitors from outside of the gated community, the subcommittee believes hiring a third-party contractor is a cost-effective solution.
“If an operator comes in where (they) agree to cover the expenses of the restaurant building, pays all staff, and takes all of their expenses, then that $85,000 (loss) stops immediately,” said Bill Rayman, a member of the Recreation Budget Taskforce restaurant subcommittee, at the May 18 meeting.
The subcommittee also consulted a professional restaurant consultation conducted in 2018, which suggested the city lacked the expertise needed to run a successful restaurant.
To ensure community input on any restaurant decisions made, the taskforce sent out 950 questionnaires to residents. Of those, 530 responses were received, emphasizing the need for restaurant improvements.
“The input we got back was that the hours are inconsistent,” Rayman explained. “Often, they would say the food’s good, but the menu is boring. The ambiance lacks and many other things that kept them from going. And if that’s happening in Meadowlakes, that means we’re not drawing from outside of Meadowlakes either.”