After years feeding mouths in Phoenix, L.A.-based LGO Hospitality LLC is building its business closer to home.


The company has signed leases to open two Southland restaurants. One is a 6,200-square-foot site at the Santa Fe Railway Depot in Pasadena and the other is 4,300 square feet on Main Street in Santa Monica. LGO hopes to open those within the next 18 months and plans to develop another in a West Hollywood boutique hotel.


The local restaurants will add to LGO's operations in Phoenix, where it is responsible for a restaurant called Chelsea's Kitchen and an array of offerings in a renovated strip mall that includes a wine bar, grocery, bakery and caf & #233;. The company has also secured 5,800 square feet of space to run a full-service restaurant in Dallas.


Bob Lynn, president and founder of LGO, recently left a position as second-in-command of Houston's, which is owned by L.A.-based Hillstone Restaurant Group, to lead a company without the corporate trappings of a large chain.


"I wanted to do something on my own that was more organic, where we weren't really doing the same thing over and over again," he said.


Lynn said the local restaurants would be sophisticated, yet casual and accessible. At the Pasadena spot, there will be a wine bar, pizzeria and the Le Grande Orange Caf & #233;. Prices there will range from $6 to $11 for lunch plates and $18 to $20 for dinner plates. He hasn't picked out a name for the Santa Monica location.


Lynn envisions LGO controlling diverse hospitality holdings wine bars, bakeries and casual dining options are part of the mix so each unit can have an individual personality. And although the company is starting to get large it will generate an estimated $20 million-plus this year and has 200 employees Lynn said it would not go public or rapidly push expansion.


"We are going to be focused on doing one location at a time," said Lynn. "When you grow too fast, what you end up giving up is your depth of knowledge. Then, people start to sense that restaurants feel corporate."


At LGO, Lynn said he's also making his management structure different from many other restaurant companies by giving culinary talent, as well as executives, equity opportunities. The aim is to reduce turnover by giving employees the incentive to stay with the company.


Hollywood Hotel
The script of one of Hollywood's most high-profile projects the W hotel and residential project on Vine Street and Hollywood Boulevard is starting to take shape.


Dallas architecture firm HKS Inc. has designed the 300-room hotel and roughly 145 adjacent condos with cinematic touches to integrate it into its Hollywood location. The public pedestrian entrance, on the Hollywood Boulevard side, will include a big screen and will be the start of a red-carpet-like feature that leads visitors through the hotel to the motor court.


"A goal of ours is to relate some of the iconic concepts of Hollywood into the property. At the same time, it is not trying to copy anything," said Phoebe Yee, a vice president at HKS. "We are trying to create an elegant environment that is not bombarded with gimmicky things."


The hotel's design has been tweaked with input from the overseeing Design Review Board. Eddie Abeyta, a senior vice president at HKS, mentioned that the board wanted the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue to be a prominent feature, so a steel structure that will be illuminated at night with LED lighting will be put there.


HKS is expecting to submit its drawings to the city shortly to get building permits for the project, estimated at $500 million. Yee said HKS expects construction to start at the end of this year on the hotel, which is being developed by Legacy Partners of Foster City, Gatehouse Capital Corp. of Dallas and HEI Hospitality of Norwalk, Conn.


Last month, the City Council signed off on the project despite opposition from businesses forced to close as a result of the hotel construction. The Community Redevelopment Agency said last month it was still negotiating with current property owners on the site, but Craig Trager, whose Vintage Bar Group runs Daddy's on Vine Street, said last week he received a 90-day notice to vacate.


Asian Eateries
Could Kabuki Restaurants Inc. become the next PF Chang's?


The Burbank-based Japanese restaurant chain is revving up its expansion. And David Lee, the Korean-born founder and chief executive, is angling to eventually take the company public and spread its brand of inexpensive sushi across the country.


Kabuki still has a ways to go before it's a household name outside of Southern California. The company established its first Pasadena location in 1991 and now operates nine restaurants. The company grew by 40 percent last year and has plans to open five more restaurants this year and jump to other markets, including Northern California, in the near future.


"Consumers are dining out more, so they don't want to eat just American food or Chinese food or Italian everyday. That has been a big plus for us," said Young Kim, a marketing manager at Kabuki.


Kabuki entices diners at its 5,000- to 5,500-square-foot locations by serving sushi at a fraction of the price of its competitors and with its menu of nearly 200 dishes. Teriyaki beef, chicken hibachi and pan-fried black cod are among the available items, so even a person who shies away from raw fish can find a suitable entr & #233;e.


Kabuki has settled into the restaurant scene as Asian concepts are gaining steam. PF Chang's China Bistro Inc. is, of course, the go-to example of an Asian chain on the move. But Calabasas Hills-based Cheesecake Factory Inc. also has said it will be introducing an Asian restaurant. Lee may have beaten Cheesecake to the punch: he likens Kabuki to Cheesecake Factory for the Japanese food eater.


Staff reporter Rachel Brown can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 224, or at rbrown@labusinessjournal.com .

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