Food News

Will a New Manager Improve Service at Tap 42? We're Betting on It

Back in January, I reviewed Tap 42 and was met with more than 60 comments that confirmed or refuted claims of neglectful service and inconsistent meals. 

Since then, owners Blaise and Sean McMackin have dug in for some serious overhauls. For one, they're in the market for a new chef after they parted ways with chef Chris Palmer on March 18. And they've also hired a new GM, Andy Yeager, for the position that finesses the front of the house. 

A near-complete server turnover, a new GM, and a search for a new chef are dramatic changes, particularly for an outfit that's been open for less than six months.

So, what's so significant about the hiring of Andy Yeager?

He's from Hillstone, the folks behind Houston's. And if there's one thing you can say about that company, they know customer service. Exhibit A: It's the alma mater for Eliot Wolfe, Merv Jonota, and Luc Limage, before they ventured on their own to run Coconuts, G&B Oyster Bar, and Foxy Brown. These guys took one restaurant, tightened the service, and tested what draws a crowd in a short time. After deciding on the systems that work, they expanded and executed two new concepts in two months. In restaurant time, that's fast, especially for a local restaurant group. 

This is as fast as restaurant openings by Top Chef contestants (as chronicled by Chris Shott in "Fast Cooking" about Mike Isabella). This is faster than chef Jose Andres is opening restaurants.

"Of course I know Eliot," says Yaeger when we spoke at the bar yesterday afternoon. Like Wolfe, originally from Chicago, Yaeger was a general manager at Houston's in Miami for a couple of years following Wolfe's tenure there. 

Yaeger also worked for the company managing Bandera in Chicago as well as restaurants in New York, New Jersey, and California. Yaeger broke to conceive Mister Collins, a concept that he still owns. 

Since then, he had been recruited by the McMackins to consult. "We had good synergy, and things had been going smoothly," says Yaeger. He took the opportunity to run the front of the house as the restaurant's operating partner. 

Yaeger says that at Tap 42, he has implemented a systems-based management that's similar to those in which he had been trained. 

"I think it's working. People who work here seem happier. It's a pleasant place to be," he said. Other changes he plans to help implement include "leaning up the menu," offering more healthful options for lunch and dinner. He also would like to use more local ingredients, particularly from neighbor Marando Farms. 

Yaeger says his goal is to help the McMackins bring Tap 42 closer to perfect. Can he do it? "If you can work at Houston's," he says, "you can do anything."

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart