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Alta Marija Vidal

Daniel Patterson reinvents Alta concept for growth

New restaurant group will foster culture of compassion

Daniel Patterson, the San Francisco-based chef and restaurateur, has reorganized and renamed his restaurant company to focus on growing the concept Alta.

Earlier this year, what was called the Daniel Patterson Group was absorbed into a restaurant management company called Alta Group, which operates Patterson’s restaurants Alta, Plum Bar and Alfred’s.

Patterson’s fine-dining restaurants Coi and Aster, both in San Francisco, are now operated separately. Patterson is also partner with Los Angeles chef Roy Choi in the growing quick-service LocoL concept, which is also a separate operation.

Meanwhile, Patterson is focusing on growing the Alta brand, which is expected to have four locations by the end of next year.

But that doesn’t mean he’s building a restaurant chain.

Marija Vidal

The first Alta opened in 2013, in San Francisco’s Mid-Market area, serving dinner only. Earlier this year, Patterson opened a second Alta location inside the Minnesota Street Project art gallery, which served both lunch and dinner.

This fall, another Alta is scheduled to open in the Yotel hotel, a few blocks from the original restaurant. As a result, the original Alta will then close. The new-and-improved Alta there will include a rooftop bar.

In March 2018, Patterson’s now-defunct restaurant Haven, in Oakland, Calf., will be converted to an Alta. And in the first half of 2018, the group plans to open another Alta unit in Los Angeles.

Although the restaurant names will be the same, and there will be similarities in menu and price point, each Alta location will be unique, depending on the needs of the community, Patterson said.

“Normally, you would cookie-cutter the same thing over and over, and I know there’s a lot of comfort in that kind of consistency, but that’s not very interesting to us, because the fact is every community is different and we wanted to make the Altas a little different to be able to adapt to the places where they are,” he said. “I’m not a corporate guy. Even if I tried my hardest, I couldn’t do the same thing over and over.”

Still, Patterson said he is looking to create a brand association with the Alta name, though not necessarily one based on food, or even experience.

Patterson hopes to build a brand around “a way of doing business that could really change what’s possible for employees and employers in restaurants,” he said.

Marija Vidal

The group has partnered with Restaurant Opportunities Center, or ROC United, to pilot a racial equity program, with the goal of creating more equitable systems for hiring, training and advancement within the company. The goal is to design a more harmonious workplace and to combat occupational segregation in the industry, Patterson said.

“We have very consciously organized our training and the way we communicate around love, kindness, compassion, understanding. We talk about these things unironically and with meaning because the people who gravitate toward those kinds of environments are the people we want to work with,” he said.

Another change for Alta Group this year was eliminating tipping and moving to a hospitality-included model. Alta Group’s employees earn well above minimum wage, with dishwashers starting at $18 per hour, and a salary structure that corresponds with responsibility, Patterson said.

At the original Alta, which moved to the hospitality-included model in May, the switch has been beneficial. Prime costs are about 65 percent, which Patterson said was “not low but not overly high.” The restaurant is operating in the black.

The transition will take time, but Patterson said the result has been a beautiful atmosphere and energy in the restaurants.

“That’s the magic,” he said. “When you get a group of people who love what they’re doing, love the people they work with, and they feel comfortable and supported, then I really think anything’s possible.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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