Two of the key partners behind KYU Miami have left the acclaimed, Asian-inspired restaurant in the Wynwood area of the city to form a new venture that will seek to expand a handful of other concepts.
Chef Michael Lewis and his partner, co-founder Steven Haigh, together with Lizzy Maynes, chief creative officer, have formed Scotch and Bacon Hospitality Group, an umbrella company that will continue to operate KYU Mexico City, along with two fast-casual start-ups — ChiKin and Laid Fresh — and a Japanese street-food concept called Buya Ramen. In addition, the group is planning to open another full-service restaurant in Miami.
“Everything was going well from a restaurant standpoint,” said Lewis of the decision to leave KYU Miami. “But it was time to move on and focus on all of the other projects that we have going on. It was a very hard decision — we still think of KYU Miami as part of the family.”
Lewis, who was executive chef with the international Zuma chain before launching KYU (pronounced like the letter “Q”), said the other investors in KYU Miami have acquired the equity stakes owned by Lewis and Haigh, left, who had been general manager.
The restaurant has received widespread recognition for both its innovative cuisine and inspired design since it launched in 2016. Among its accolades: KYU Miami was a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant award in 2017.
Scotch and Bacon instead will focus on its other concepts, both existing and in the pipeline. Plans call for the ChiKin concept, which has one brick-and-mortar location in Montreal focused on Korean fried chicken and sides, to be rolled out both as a ghost kitchen concept in select markets and potentially as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Miami.
The company is also preparing to relaunch Laid Fresh, an egg sandwich concept that the company had shuttered in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic, but will bring back as a ghost-kitchen-based, delivery-only brand.
Consumer demand for delivery of fast-casual fare is strong, Lewis, left, said, and Scotch and Bacon hopes to capitalize on that by expanding both ChiKin and Laid Fresh in commercial ghost kitchen locations.
“We are being very methodical and selective in how we do this, and making sure we do it right,” he said.
Buya Ramen, meanwhile, which was created by chef Michael Sponaugle and debuted in 2016 in St. Petersburg, Fla., has expanded to two locations in Germany and a newly opened location in Wynwood.
The concept focuses on ramen, small plates, grilled meats and other Japanese dishes traditionally found in izakaya dens, which are bar/restaurants known for attracting working class Japanese consumers. The Scotch and Bacon version will include craft cocktails and an assortment of Japanese whiskeys.
Scotch and Bacon is also planning another full-service “casual, fine-dining restaurant with a KYU-esque style of service” in Miami, Lewis said. Details of that concept are still under wraps.
Lewis said Scotch and Bacon also remains committed to running KYU Mexico City, which opened in August 2020. The 220-seat outpost includes a rooftop terrace, a large central bar area, a walk-in wine cellar and a DJ booth. The Asian-inspired menu is similar to that of KYU Miami, with snack plates, wood-fired beef, poultry and seafood dishes, and other chef-driven fare.
“From an operational standpoint and an emotional standpoint, we are 100% invested in KYU Mexico City,” said Lewis.
In a statement, Haigh said Scotch and Bacon remains supportive of the success of KYU Miami.
“KYU Miami will always be our first restaurant, and we will continue to support the team it has created,” he said. “We see this as the next chapter, and are excited to bring some new innovative offerings to this amazing city.”