Typically when Crave American Kitchen & Sushi Bar opens a new restaurant, it’s in the Twin Cities, where the concept is based.
Or it’s in a major metro – Austin, Texas; Las Vegas or Cincinnati, for example.
So when the leadership of Hegg Cos. pitched a location in Sioux Falls about 18 months ago, it took a bit of selling.
“It’s not our typical market,” said Dave Sincebaugh, chief operating officer of parent company Kaskaid Hospitality.
“It’s smaller than what we usually look at, so we were hesitant. And the Crave concept is a fairly involved concept. We have a scratch American kitchen, a scratch sushi bar, a mixology program, a lot of tap beers, 100 wines, so our concern was, is there the business there to support it.”
Paul Hegg and Steve Westra brought Sincebaugh and company CEO Kam Talebi to Sioux Falls and the perception started to change.
“Kam and I were very impressed with the town and with Hegg Cos. as a great local partner makes the deal make sense,” Sincebaugh said. “We saw the dynamic of the downtown and the opportunity we think for a Crave brand to fit well as part of that evolution.”
The restaurant starts its soft opening this week in a remodeled space inside the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown at 201 E. Eighth St. along the Big Sioux River.
It takes the place of Elements on 8th and has reconfigured the restaurant area with a glass wall separating it from the hotel lobby, a standalone sushi bar, several signature booths and a large glassed-in wine tower.
A New Orleans glass artist crafted custom lights and chandeliers for the space.
“I just always thought it was a concept that would go well here,” Hegg said. “It’s not so heady people can’t get their head around it, but it’s got diversity and high energy and the upper-scale feel to it. The price point fits people’s pocketbooks. That’s why I thought it would be a great concept here.”
The restaurant ultimately will employ about 100 people. About 70 have been hired, and more are lined up to start soon. A team from the Twin Cities has been in Sioux Falls training the staff and will help as the restaurant launches.
“We can have beautiful decor and great food, but if we don’t have the right people it’s not going to work,” Sincebaugh said. “We’re very selective in our hiring. We look for the hospitality gene, the spirit of hospitality. I want people who are made happy by making other people happy.”
Patio construction fell a little behind because of the weather but is on track for a grand opening by Memorial Day weekend. Crave will add a large patio bar that can be heated and covered from rain as well as offering more seating along the river.
“People in this part of the country love to be outside when they can be outside,” Sincebaugh said. “That bar will be a great gathering place.”
Crave is the latest in a series of restaurant openings downtown that includes the chain MacKenzie River Pizza, Grill & Pub late last year.
“MacKenzie River has been doing great. It’s still hard to get in at lunch,” said Joe Batcheller, president of Downtown Sioux Falls Inc. “I think Crave is going to be doing the same thing. I think people really want to have a unique experience, and some of these restaurants provide that.”
There also are plans to add dining in the ground floor of Riverview Square, the former DM&E building, and PAve plans to open this summer in the Skelly’s space.
“I think downtown has the best selection of dining in all of Sioux Falls if not South Dakota,” Batcheller said. “I’m looking forward to Crave being part of the offerings downtown, and it’s just one more thing that pushes that evolution and is going to encourage bigger and better things.”
Hegg Cos. expects the restaurant will add to demand for room nights and event space at the hotel.
“It continues to elevate our game to be the premier property in Sioux Falls,” Westra said. “We really have a good connection between the property and the Crave brand.”
Kaskaid Hospitality also operates several other concepts, including Burger Burger, Zia Italian and Salsa a la Salsa. Depending on the experience with Crave, other brands could be a fit for Sioux Falls, Sincebaugh said.
“It’s close enough to the Twin Cities. You can drive and feel connected,” he said. “And we love the partnership with Hegg, and there’s always potential to cluster. Our goal is to open Crave and then see where we go.”
Crave will serve a breakfast to the Hilton standard for guests and run its own menu the rest of the day. Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner is served until 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Sunday hours to start will be from 4 to 9 p.m.