Start a restaurant with MSD

“Into the Fire”, this week’s Style Weekly cover article, follows 525 at the Berry Burk, one of Micheal Sparks Design’s clients, for six months before their opening. 525 and Style credit MSD with raising the necessary buzz for the restaurant, months before its opening!

“Micheal Sparks’ elegant Manchester design studio smells like bacon. Hasty cooks furiously in the studio’s tiny kitchen, a cold Corona perched on the counter. As soon as he finishes a dish, Sparks whisks it away to be photographed under lights. Opening day is still at least two months away, but the campaign to win over diners on Facebook is about to begin.

Hasty and Haas approached Sparks early on to get his help developing a logo, brand and online presence for 525 at the Berry-Burk. That’s how the game is played now: Build buzz months before you open. “These guys are one of the ones who are doing it right,” says Sparks, a marketing and creative director who specializes in food, fashion and interiors.

Buzz — that elusive feeling of anticipation — isn’t had for the asking. To build buzz, O’Keefe says, “the people behind it become very important to the story.” Curiosity hit a fevered pitch when Chris Ripp, whose family owns an empire of Arby’s franchises, announced he was opening Can Can in Carytown. Same when his brother, Michael Ripp, opened new darling Burger Bach.

Celebrity isn’t something Hasty and Haas have on their side. They’re not part of a Richmond restaurant family, like the Giavoses or Ripps. They’re not established restaurateurs like Alley (Comfort, Pasture) or Kendra Feather (Garnett’s, the Roosevelt). So they’re turning to Sparks to help them get the city talking.

Sparks pulls up a photograph of a salad on the website of a local restaurant that shall not be named. “That’s terrible,” he says. “The lighting’s not right. It looks sort of ill.” Poor salad.

This is why he has Hasty hard at work in the kitchen, producing a few signature plates to be photographed under luscious lighting.

Hasty produces a simple plate of fresh mozzarella, tomato slices and pesto vinaigrette. “Look how beautiful,” Sparks raves. “It looks like you just want to grab them.”

Next: a sandwich of beef medallions on rosemary focaccia with Boursin cheese and a homemade red onion and balsamic vinegar jam. “Keep it pretty for me,” Sparks commands.

After the beef-medallion sandwich gets its glamour shot, it’s divvied up for tasting.

Score one for Hasty. It’s delicious.”