Restauranteurs and brothers, Patrick and Steven O’Bryan, owners of Bon Temps Grill and Whiskey & Vine restaurants, join Discover Lafayette to share their love of their industry, the importance of good service focused on their clientele, and their successful partnership in running a family business together since 2011.
Patrick and Steven O’Bryan are respectful and loving toward one another. Wise and funny, they are full of practical wisdom for up and coming entrepreneurs who want to open their own restaurant.
To understand their success, it is important to note that they both spent years working for others as they learned to hone their craft. They bring best practices of the restaurant business to their local investments in restaurants and catering.
Both men had extensive experience in the restaurant business. They waited tables, cooked, and bartended. Patrick started out by bussing tables at Cafe Vermilion for Ken Veron while in college. “The first thing I learned to do was fold a napkin. It was the best job you could have in college.”
Patrick also learned how to bartend in his early days at the old Ruth’s Chris formerly located where the current Whiskey & Vine is at 507 W. Pinhook Road in Lafayette. He was taught to be a flair bartender (utillizing finesse and fancy tricks) by JB Bandy when he worked at TGI Fridays in Lafayette; Bandy, incredibly, was the flair bartending coach for Tom Cruise when he was training for his role in the movie, Cocktail.
The older brother by three years, Patrick moved to Dallas after years of working for local restaurants. While employed at Cypress Bayou Casino, he worked with The Freeman Group, a consulting corporation that focused on improving hospitality by teaching the behavioral and technical aspects needed to make a guest’s experience exceptional. He left Cypress Bayou to join The Freeman Group and stayed with them for 15 years, getting to travel and work with luxury establlishments all over. It honed his ability to understand what is needed to make a restaurant customer want to come back and be a loyal patron.
Steven also worked at restaurants while in college and after graduation, worked with various corporate restaurants, including Copeland’s, Semolina, TGI Fridays,and Logan’s Roadhouse, the latter of which he was employed with for 15 years. Steven learned the ins and outs of the restaurant business, and shared how hard it is for restauranteurs to stay in business unless they can reach a certain threshold of dollar volume in sales. “If you can’t do over $2 million in sales per year as a restaurant ($40,000 per week), you probably won’t make it. Unless you personally serve in all the roles….owner, manager, bartender, chef, etc. People can be successful doing that but their quality of life won’t be there.”
Steven realized that he was working to help others build their successful restaurant concepts and for years he asked Patrick to move home and open a restaurant with him. To build their own success. And Patrick finally agreed, it was time.
Patrick and Steven O’Bryan grew up learning how to cook from their family, which always included grilling, not frying food. Steven recalls how they learned how to grill food from his dad and a friend, including the art of grilling alligator. Patrick says, “Steven is the cook! I cook just enough to be dangerous! I am a bartender. I am the front guy!” Photo by Leslie Westbrook of The Acadiana Advocate taken in front of Whiskey & Vine
After a lot of brainstorming which included posting flip chart paper all over a wall with their ideas, and having the mutual agreement that they wanted to grow a business with a great team, Bon Temps Grill was created.
The O’Bryans’ first chef at Bon Temps Grill was Alexis Cupich-Indest, a native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which coincidentally is where their mother is from. Alexis left for a while to pursue other endeavors but is now back with the O’Bryans as Executive Chef at Whiskey & Vine as well as Corporate Executive Chef.
Today, the result of the brothers’ reunion and partnership has grown into a diverse enterprise of restaurants, including Whiskey & Vine, a catering business that provides food for Warehouse 535, The Louisiana Room, Woodlawn Chapel, L’Eglise, and Louisiana Cajun Mansion, as well as a separate business providing delicious food choices at Bon Temps Concessions at the Youngsville Sports Complex and the Broussard Sports Complex at St. Julien Park. And as you’ll hear when you listen, there may be other ventures in the offing.
When asked about how they handle the inevitable conflicts that arise in business, particularly in family businesses, they both quickly responded that everyone asks them about that and it is just not an issue.
“It is very rare for us to have conflict. We have our own strengths and we stay in our own lanes. We are very supportive of each others. Patrick was gone for 15 years, so having him back is very special,” says Steven O’Bryan. And honesty, watching their body language as they interacted during our interview confirmed their mutual respect for one another. They listen to each other and think before responding. Photo by Leslie Westbrook of The Acadiana Advocate.
Located less than half a mile apart on Pinhook Road near the Oil Center, the restaurants offer totally different dining experiences.
Bon Temps Grill originally opened in August of 2011 on Verot School Road, where Mercy Kitchen is now located. Just a year into operations, they were already outgrowing their space, but wanted to wait a while before moving. They wanted to build brand loyalty locally, knowing that tourists want to eat where locals want to eat.
Even though they had extensive experience in the industry while working for others, they still learned a great deal about managing their own business finances through the inevitable ups and downs all restaurants expereince. Patrick says, “I’m glad we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Ice storms and hurricanes can throw a business off with cash flow issues. Despite what you think, the start up of a business is the cheap part. Ongoing operation expenses can get to you. Margins in restaurants are so low.” But they did thrive.
During COVID and about ten years after opening Bon Temps Grill, the restaurant relocated to the former site of the Blue Dog Café, offering a casual atmosphere with mesquite grilled food and Cajun and zydeco music. Against common wisdom at the time with all the disruption and decline in business caused by COVID shutdowns and social distancing measures, the brothers jumped at the opportunity to move into the Blue Dog space, which was over three times larger than their former location. It allowed them to serve more people, even with the COVID restrictions in place at the time, because of the increase of square footage. “We could do more business even at 50% seating than we could at our former facility at full capacity.”
The menu was expanded, they brought in live music every night of the week and for brunch on weekends. At their old spot, there just wasn’t room. There wasn’t sufficient parking at the Verot School Road location. The upside was not only more happy patrons, but the opportunity to put local musicians to work. “It allowed more ‘bon temps,’ or more good times!” as the brothers both said.
Bon Temps Grill is consistently busy and a go-to place for catering needs. The brothers mentioned their favorite meals (which are by no means exclusive: stuffed pork chops, crawfish etoufee, hand cut ribeyes, shrimp and tasso pasta, and Seafood Creole Cobb Salad. One of their family secrets is the genesis of the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding, which is a deliciious concection created by Patrick’s love of bread pudding merged with Steven’s love of Bananas Foster. The Bananas Foster Bread Pudding is one of the most popular menu items at Bon Temp Grill. For first time visitors, they offer a a gift card for a complimentary appetizer to be enjoyed on your next visit.
Whiskey & Vine, the O’Bryan’s second concept restaurant, came about a few months after Bon Temps Grill relocated to the old Blue Dog site. Preston Guidry, the owner of the site of the former Jolie’s (which had closed) approached the brothers to see if they might be interested in the space just down the street from Bon Temps Grill on Pinhook. Patrick and Steven thought so. Patrick says, “Lafayette was missing a jazz club. Do you really want to go to New Orleans when you can enjoy happy hour and music here?”
The brothers met at the space to check it out and spent the afternoon drinking whiskey to facilitate thinking through their next move. When they decided to expand their restaurant offerings in Lafayette, “whiskey” played a crucial role in the name of their next restaurant endeavor!
Whiskey & Vine opened sixteen months ago in 2022 at 507 W Pinhook Rd near St. Mary Blvd., and is distinctly different, with an elegant setting offering traditional New Orleans dishes amidst a classic jazz club atmosphere. The brothers tore down the walls in the space to open up room for more intimate settings. A bar and seating area was added to the back corner as well as upstairs in a space that formerly just had offices, and is now known as “The Peacock Room.”
Whiskey & Vine offers an elegant space for just about any occasion with three bars and plenty of room for parties. Angie, Patrick’s wife, was the designer of the remodeled space. She also designed the original Bon Temps Grill as well as the remodel of their current location on Pinhook.
Whiskey & Vine’s vibe and music sticks to a jazz and blues genre, and the menu offers delicacies such as chargrilled oysters, turtle soup, shrimp and grits, and other choices which evoke a New Orleans vibe. The restaurant’s weekend brunches on Saturday offer bottomless drinks for $15.00 and week days you can enjoy happy hour.
Besides their two restaurants, the O’Bryans offer catering services as well as Bon Temps Concessions at the Youngsville Sports Complex and the Broussard Sports Complex at St. Julien Park.
We thank Patrick and Steven O’Bryan for this special edition of Discover Lafayette made possible with the support of Eat Lafayette, a yearlong celebration of Lafayette’s local restaurants.
You will definitely want to check out both Bon Temps Grill and Whiskey & Vine, for as Steven says, “Everything we put forth is craveable!”
For information on the restaurants and to see the menus, please visit https://bontempsgrill.com/ and https://wvlounge.com/, For catering needs, contact Angie O’Bryan, Catering Manager, at 337-257-8035.