Kevin Boehm

Restaurateur

Chicago

Kevin Boehm knew he wanted to be a restaurateur by the time he was 10. And after dropping out of the University of Illinois to open his first restaurant, Lazy Daze Café, in 1992 in Seaside, Florida, he got on-the-job training by opening and selling restaurants. He had four restaurants under his belt before the age of 30. In 2002, Boehm teamed with Rob Katz to form Boka Restaurant Group. The dynamic duo opened 10 Chicago restaurants in less than 10 years, including Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner. The young restaurateur was named “40 Under 40” in Crain’s in 2010, and has passed his introductory sommelier exam. When he’s not coming up with a new chef-driven restaurant, Boehm sits on the board of trustees of the Hope Institute, the largest autism network in the U.S.

  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What is Kevin Boehm working on in 2013?

    We’ve opened seven restaurants in three years. It’s been fast moving. We have about six, seven or eight things that we’re floating around and trying to figure out what we’re going to do next. There’s definitely going to be two projects in 2014 and two or three projects in ’15. So I think most of ’13 is going to be development and getting ready for those projects. I don’t think anything is going to open in ’13.

    We’ve been getting a lot of looks at doing restaurants in other cities. I think up to this point we felt that we didn’t quite have the infrastructure to be able to do a restaurant out of state, but now we do. So yeah, we’re flirting with some warm-weather climate cities.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    How did Kevin Boehm pick Seaside, Florida, to open his first restaurant?

    I had grown up in Illinois. I had been in the cold weather all my life and I just wanted to be somewhere warm. So I looked at a map, and California was really far. I was like, “I can afford to get to Florida,” and I stopped in Panama City. My girlfriend at the time said, “You’ve got to see this place 60 or 70 miles from here.” We drove out there one day and I was just amazed by it. I said, “Oh, this is where I want to open.”

    I opened my first restaurant in 1992; then I opened up two restaurants there. A company bought me out in 1997, and I had to sign a non-compete. The good news was that I got a good deal, bad news was that had to move away. That’s when I left and I opened in Springfield, Illinois, and in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    How did Kevin Boehm get into the restaurant business?

    I dropped out of college and I saved up enough money basically waiting tables and bartending to open up my first restaurant. I worked double shifts six days a week for three years and then saved up enough money to open up a little six-table restaurant in Seaside, Florida. That’s how it all started.

    I knew when I was 10 years old that I wanted to be in this business. But I was a middle-class, at best, kid from Springfield, Illinois, whose father was in the insurance business and mom worked for Montgomery Ward. I knew nothing about the restaurant business, just that I was kind of intrigued by it. I just took a chance and kind of didn’t have a mentor and just said, “I’m going to save my money, I’m going to do it and I’m going to do it the best I can.” And that’s how it all started.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What does Kevin Boehm wear when he travels?

    You know, I’m kind of old school when it comes to travel. I want the days to come back where people got all jazzed up for a Pan Am flight. I usually wear a jacket, button-up shirt and jeans. I try to look relatively nice on a flight. Better to look good than to feel good, right?
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    Who does Kevin Boehm always travel with?

    I’m either traveling with my business partner or my wife. They’re very similar. I’ve spent more time with Rob Katz, my business partner, in the last 12 years than I have anybody in my entire life. We end up traveling a lot together.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What’s the best trip Kevin Boehm has ever taken?

    It’s been hard for me for most of my life to take long vacations. I’ve opened 14 restaurants in the last 20 years; so I’ve always taken these short little stints and then had to fly back. Last year, when we went to Esperanza, I promised my family I was actually going to take 10 days, and they were amazed by it just because I could actually settle down. The room we stayed in was this amazing three-bedroom suite that was right on the cliffs that had its own 20-by-30-foot pool outside. You could just stay in your room the whole time and have an amazing time. You ask either of my children what the greatest day in their life was and they’ll both mention the day that we stayed at Esperanza.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What shops does Kevin Boehm like to visit when he travels?

    I love the John Varvatos store in the old CBGB on Bowery. It combines a bunch of my favorite things. I love Varvatos’ clothes, but it’s also got this awesome vintage stereo shop in the front of it. Part of the wall at that Varvatos store is the old wall from CBGB, and all of the wires are still up. One of my favorite things in my house is an old vintage stereo. I do love to go to antique stores and cool vintage stores. I love to buy old vintage stereo equipment.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What does Kevin Boehm collect from his travels?

    I’m a photograph guy. The most important thing for me to bring back from travels is photographic memories of where I’ve gone. If I’m in New York, I usually always come back with more clothes than I should’ve really purchased. But other than that, it’s just pictures.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What features does Kevin Boehm look for in a hotel?

    I’m a hospitality guy, first and foremost. I love great service — I’m definitely going to research service before I stay somewhere. But I’m also a big design guy, so I love inspired design. I’m really stoked if there’s a good spa and healthy room service choices.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What does Kevin Boehm always travel with?

    I travel with my gym shoes, just so I can always work out. I lose my center if I don’t have some sort of athletic activity while I’m out of town. Trying to find a hotel that has a gym or is at least located in an area where I can go for a run is a must.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are Kevin Boehm’s favorite restaurants?

    I love “full package” restaurants — service, design and food. I love some theater in dining. I think I’ve dined so much in my life that sometimes I need things to mix it up. Kind of more Chicago based, I love Alinea, I love Next. I love what Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas do. I’m a big Danny Meyer fan. I love Eleven Madison Park. My favorite type of dining is sushi. I just had an incredible meal at O Ya in Boston, Tim Cushman’s restaurant — really fabulous.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are Kevin Boehm’s favorite hotels?

    All of the Auberge Resorts are great. I love Esperanza. I’m a big Canyon Ranch fan, both in Tucson and Miami — I’m a bit of a health nut. I love the ANdAZ hotels in New York. I’m a big Ian Schrager fan, so I love the Gramercy Park Hotel; it’s got some cool history to it.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are Kevin Boehm’s favorite cities?

    I love this little town called Seaside, Florida. It’s most famous for being the set for The Truman Show. It’s this little, tiny area called Highway 30A in the Florida panhandle. Florida is kind of interesting, but Seaside is like no other place in the state. It’s all cottages. There are no high-rises and no franchises. There’s a requirement within Seaside that the owners of all of the art galleries and restaurants must actually live there. So it’s this really cool town. It has great shops. It sits right on the Gulf of Mexico. The beaches are incredible. I usually rent a house there once a year.

    I love going to Cabo with my family and stay at Esperanza, which is part of Auberge Resorts and is just so fabulous. Cabo is cool for a few reasons. One, Esperanza is just amazing. The food is very good; there are some great restaurants down there. I love the service; there’s great hospitality at Esperanza. There’s a lot to do and interesting things to do with the kids — horseback riding, riding the dolphins, I mean I love it all.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    How has social media changed Kevin Boehm's business?

    It’s really helped out my advertising budget. You know, it’s funny, when social media started just to come about, I think we took a stand on it early and said, “Okay, we realize people are going to be good at this and some people are going to be bad at this, and we need to have a plan for it and be really good at it from the very beginning. We need to develop content so our social media is compelling to people.”

    We started out with doing a lot of video. We partnered with a film company and started doing video episodes for every restaurant that we would open as part of our PR. I think the whole social media experience helps market our restaurants and take us from this small, local restaurant group to a restaurant group that has national exposure. It’s actually really helped us. If you look at the amount of followers that Stephanie Izard and Giuseppe Tentori have, we’re reaching out to people on a daily basis. And we take all of these opportunities where people mention our restaurants to create different ways of showing better hospitality to them.