Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | May 2016 | By Robert Thomas

Start to Finish: Casey Patten

The cofounder of Washington, D.C.'s Taylor Gourmet just wanted an authentic hoagie like they served in his hometown of Philadelphia. When he took matters into his own hands, he struck fast-casual gold.
DC business entrepreneur builds sandwich restaurant empire from scratch.
Casey Patten is the cofounder and co-owner of the 11-unit Taylor Gourmet. Taylor Gourmet

I took a job at the age of 14 as a host for a restaurant chain in my hometown. Even as a teenager, I really enjoyed the interaction with customers, centering on food. I would often gravitate toward the kitchen, and found myself amazed at the team back there. They always seemed to be having a blast. I joined the kitchen team not too long after serving, and did that through high school and college. I ended up in commercial real estate after graduating from Penn State, but always knew I’d someday return to the food business.

Taylor Gourmet was born when a building I had owned ended up with some vacant space. Originally from Philadelphia, I could never quite find a good hoagie where I was living at the time in Washington, D.C. My business partner and I had the idea of starting with a full-service restaurant, but that turned into a hoagie joint. Everything was to be made from scratch and nothing could be compromised. Lines were out the door when we first opened in 2008.

Seeing the business grow to 11 stores has been a great experience. In the beginning, it was all about making sure we were doing the right thing with the food, prices, operations, etc., but now I get to witness dishwashers go to a manager position or a cashier to a director of training and personnel. Being able to see that cultivation and watch employee growth is better than growing the brand. Now, I’d rather watch someone work hard and promote themselves than meet a sales goal for that month because I know that the best talent is cultivated from within.

When you do something from scratch and build something that’s a little different, you’re able to be identified. Taylor started because I just really wanted a good hoagie, but it grew into a bigger concept in terms of how we prepare, serve, and market our food. Taylor has the potential to be a national brand, and we’re in the process of identifying our second market and building the infrastructure to help get us there. We don’t want national growth to compromise that attitude, so it’s a goal we’re reaching for strategically.


What's your favorite menu item at Taylor Gourmet?

The Colonial: A hoagie of oven-roasted turkey with our sweet potato and sage Ricotta spread, creamy Brie, ginger cranberry sauce, shredded kale, extra-virgin olive oil, and a little red wine vinegar.

What's your favorite restaurant or type of food, excluding Taylor?

I'm a pasta junkie.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

My two boxer dogs, the Philadelphia Eagles, and being outdoors.

Who has influenced you throughout your career?

I read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential in 2002, and it made me want to get back into the foodservice industry.

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