Hospitality Industry Veteran to Provide Roadmap for Atlanta-Based Restaurant Group’s Strategic Growth
Southern Proper Hospitality Group (SPHG) announces an addition to the Atlanta restaurant group’s leadership team. New chief operations officer Christopher Harter is now overseeing all restaurant operations for the company, which includes eight concepts and 18 restaurant locations, from both a strategic and a quality standpoint. Harter’s impressive history of restaurant ownership and operations combined with his passion for food service will help SPH expand its offering of distinctive dining experiences.
“I was looking for a position where I could use my experience to add value and fuel growth,” Harter says of his new role. “Southern Proper Hospitality is a tremendous organization with great ownership and concepts that I am proud to be a part of.”
As chief operations officer, Harter will work with SPH ownership to develop a strategic plan for how to grow the company, focusing on the expansion of Tin Lizzy’s and Gypsy Kitchen. His first objective is ensuring the company’s core is incredibly sound before he begins crafting a strategic plan for growth and picking the proper locations. His goal is to continue emphasizing the good in each of SPH’s concepts and to ensure that the company’s expansion does not accentuate any potential flaws.
Harter, having worked as both a restaurateur and a hospitality industry corporate executive, brings a unique perspective to SPH that allows him to relate to every staff member while also achieving a competitive edge for the company as a whole. “Owning my own restaurants before becoming a corporate executive and doing it with my own money gave me a different view of the business than someone who only has the corporate experience,” Harter says. “I live and breathe this business; if it weren’t my job, it would definitely be my hobby.”
Harter most recently served as president for Patina Restaurant Group in Buffalo, New York, a national restaurant company consisting of 45 unique restaurant concepts, several of which are in high-profile locations, a Business & Industry (B&I) division, and a premium catering division. He acquired several high-profile B&I accounts in competitive bid situations, including Major League Baseball and Fox News, and reworked operations during the COVID-19 shutdown resulting in increased profitability in 2021.
Before this role, Harter was the vice president of Phillips Foods in Baltimore, where he oversaw all financial, operational, and developmental growth tactics for a diverse portfolio of 21 restaurants. During his four years with the company, he improved profitability in the company’s flagship restaurant by more than 50% and added six new properties with diverse concepts.
His impressive career also has included president and chief executive officer roles at Restaurants Unlimited in Seattle, Legacy Restaurants in Houston, and Levy Restaurants in Chicago.
Harter began his career in the hospitality industry as a dishwasher at the age of 16. He worked his way up the ranks to a cook, executive chef, and eventually owner of four restaurants in California and Arizona before working under Larry Levy at Levy Restaurants. Harter credits Levy for being a terrific mentor who has greatly influenced his own approach to the guest experience.
“I always go back to something that Larry taught me a long time ago: at every level of a restaurant, whether it’s a $5 hotdog or a $100 stuffed lobster, the experience needs to be worth it,” Harter says.
“My mentality is always to give guests more than they expect at every one of our restaurants,” he says.
Southern Proper Hospitality owns and operates The Big Ketch Saltwater Grill, The Blind Pig Parlour Bar, Gypsy Kitchen, The Southern Gentleman, Chido & Padre’s, Milton’s Cuisine & Cocktails, Tin Lizzy’s Cantina and Ocean & Acre. Chosen by Restaurant Hospitality as one of the “25 Coolest Multi-Concept Companies in America” and named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies for 2017, Southern Proper Hospitality offers genuinely hospitable service and exceptional, high-quality food.
For more information, visit sphospitality.com.