LONGMONT – Oskar Blues Fooderies has announced a new leadership team for its restaurants in Longmont and Lyons.
Michael Gleason, who started his career in hospitality in the French Quarter of New Orleans and spent the past decade growing the Barcelona and Bartaco restaurant brands, has been named operating partner by founder and owner Dale Katechis. Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Katechis has worked to update the restaurants: Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids in Longmont and Oskar Blues Grill and Brew in Lyons.
Katechis told BizWest that he had been “on the hunt for someone of Mike’s caliber” and that Dave Query of the Big Red F restaurant group suggested Gleason, who had taken the Bartaco brand from six to 23 units.
“Aside from his experience in growing a multi-unit brand, he has an interest in the combination of really understanding cost control but balanced with the culture of the staff and creating an environment for them where they want to be there,” Katechis said. “If they want to be there, then the customers will feed off of that. It’s something real, not forced.
“I never forced our managers to hit a number,” he said. “I wanted the experience to be high and to reap the rewards of that. Then the pandemic hit, and we were trying to make money with fewer customers and less staff.”
The slower pace gave Katechis a chance to invest in remodeling the restaurants and restructuring their menus. “We started cleaning the places out,” he said. “We’d been in Lyons almost 25 years and 10 in Longmont.
The locations in Colorado Springs and on Market Street in Denver didn’t need as much restructuring, he said, other than trying to find staff.
“We’ve right-sized the business,” Katechis said. “We don’t have any immediate growth plans for new units. We have to create some staff before we can start thinking about growth. We’re having some luck with that. Once I’ve got people on the bench who are chomping for opportunity, then let’s grow. But the next 12 months will be just stabilizing the business, training and growing our internal labor pool.
A challenge, he said, will be trying to keep prices from rising too much despite the fact that pay for servers, bartenders and kitchen staff is averaging 30% higher than before the pandemic, simply because of the shortage of workers.
“Keeping it real has always been at the core of what Oskar Blues is all about, and I’m enjoying returning to my roots as a restaurateur,” said Katechis. “We’ve learned a ton over the past 25 years, and we are excited to bring Oskar Blues Fooderies back and better than ever before.”
The Longmont location has a recently renovated patio this year and has restored the backyard train to full functionality. The restaurant in Lyons will continue to bring in local music acts for Fridays and Saturdays on its patio, which features local art and kid-friendly activities.
“I fell in love with hospitality on Bourbon Street, and I have a real passion for blues guitar and Cajun food,” Gleason said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to join the Oskar Blues Fooderies team, which has a menu with authentic Cajun influence and such enthusiasm for providing a space for the community to come together over live music.”
Katechis founded the original Oskar Blues restaurant in Lyons in 1997 and then grew the brewery by the same name. Since then, he has become a serial entrepreneur, playing an active role in strategic growth and development as a board member and adviser for Longmont-based nonprofit Can’d Aid as well as several Colorado-based companies, including Veritas Fine Cannabis, Weller CBD Beverages, and Wander + Ivy Wines.In January, CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective LLC, a nationwide collective of independent craft beer companies including Oskar Blues Brewery, was sold to Monster Beverage Corp. (Nasdaq: MNST) for $330 million in cash. Following that sale, the restaurants in Longmont, Lyons, Denver and Colorado Springs remain under independent ownership by Katechis.