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2018 GRACE Restaurateur of the Year: Small/Independent: Federico Castellucci III

By Nancy Wood

Federico Castellucci III may have had a fleeting thought of becoming an attorney, but the pull of the family business was too strong to resist. Steeped in tradition with Italian and Greek roots, the Castellucci dynasty has grown exponentially since Federico Castellucci graduated from Cornell University and returned to Atlanta to help his father run the first of their concepts, Sugo, in Johns Creek.

As president and CEO of the Castellucci Hospitality Group (CHG) since 2007, Castellucci has taken what his grandfather and father started and – with his parents, siblings and wife – developed multiple concepts sprinkled across the metro area. While Sugo and Double Zero in Emory Village focus on Italian cuisine, three concepts, Bar Mercado in Krog Street Market, Cooks & Soldiers in West Midtown and The Iberian Pig in Decatur, are built on traditional Spanish flavors. A more recent concept is Recess, a vegetable-centric, casual chef-driven food stall in Krog Street Market. Accolades and awards have followed with each new opening.

“We are growing up in the restaurant industry during a pinnacle time in Atlanta,” says Castellucci. “Our family-oriented core values drive the way we do business, and as a small independent operator, we have the luxury to make a personal impact with our guests and our employees.”

While CHG continues to grow and expand, Castellucci faces industry challenges head on – labor, competition and the changing macro trends in the way people are experiencing food and beverage. “We are a small part of this larger fabric doing our best to create places where people want to dine and where people want to work,” he says. “With hard work and dedication, even those with limited education can create a fulfilling career path for themselves.”

One area of focus that Castellucci is passionate about is the use of technology across the restaurant group to streamline operations and improve communication. Actively involved as a mentor, advisor and investor in early-stage hospitality technology companies, he says, “We are early adopters of technology and have been part of building and testing technology solutions for our industry that have found greater success.”

As he looks to the future, Castellucci says his biggest challenge is “balancing growth and creativity with the personnel and the financial realities of the business.” And he’s also looking at the impact CHG can have on the communities where the group’s restaurants are located. “We currently support the communities where we have restaurants through local charitable organizations and schools,” he says. “We spent the last year evaluating opportunities to direct CHG resources toward a singular charitable mission and are excited to push this forward in 2019.”

Beyond his responsibilities for high-level operations and leadership development and training, Castellucci still revels in positive guest interactions. “There is nothing better than connecting someone to your vision and creating an experience for them that they otherwise would never have.”

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