Lazy Dog Café grows from family base


Many in the upscale casual-dining segment have struggled in recent years with value and accessibility as consumers have cut spending.

Chris Simms, chief executive of the Lazy Dog Café chain, however, appears to be striking the right notes. Founded in 2003, the ninth Lazy Dog unit opened recently in West Covina, Calif., and two more restaurants are planned for 2012.

Family may be a factor in the chain’s success. Chris’s father and partner is Tom Simms, who founded and later sold the Mimi’s Café chain. Tom’s brother Scott Simms is the primary partner behind The Kettle, a 38-year-old family-dining concept in Manhattan Beach, Calif., that was founded by their father, the late Arthur Simms. Earlier this year, the family sold the French Quarter, another venue founded by Arthur that was in the family for many years.

In 2009, Chris’s brother Mike Simms opened the Tin Roof Bistro, as well as Simmzy’s, both in Manhattan Beach. A second Simmzy’s unit is scheduled to open in Long Beach, Calif., early next year, and a third is also in the works.

Most recently, the Simms family has backed the first restaurant of David LeFevre, former executive chef of Water Grill in Los Angeles, who in April opened M.B. Post, which has been earning rave reviews.

Chris Simms spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about his family’s ventures.

You all are partners in each other’s concepts, but are you still operating separately?

We’re still operating separately, but with vendors and bankers we are referring to ourselves as Simms Restaurant Group. Legally, we will always keep Lazy Dog separate, just so at no point is there any confusion about what’s for sale and not for sale.

You may sell Lazy Dog?

Possibly down the road, maybe 10 or 15 years from now. Like my father did with Mimi’s, there will probably be, at some point, an event, and we want to keep them separate.