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Photography by Spacecrafting

Barbara Marshall, Kip Clayton, Donna Fahs and Alan Ackerberg

Parasole Consulting

Chino Latino, Manny’s Steakhouse, Pittsburgh Blue, Salut Bar Americain: Parasole has launched some of the most memorable eateries in town — as well as the marketing campaigns behind them. But perhaps the restaurant group’s best-kept secret is that it has consulted on plenty of others, too. 

“For 40 years, we’ve created many different brands from ground zero,” explains Kip Clayton, vice president of marketing and partner in Parasole Consulting. “We bring the same talent to bear on client projects as we do to our own projects.” In fact, the group does it all, from launching restaurants to breathing new life into struggling concepts.

“The process is not transporting Parasole mentality or culture; it’s understanding the market, the business, and the client’s vision and objectives,” he says. “An architect won’t tell you what a house should look like; she will spend time with you and translate that into the design.”

Consulting projects can last weeks to years and include everything from identifying markets and concepts to creating brands, developing menus and performing operations audits. “Fast-forward to management and systems training as well as supporting the client during the restaurant opening,” adds chief development officer and partner Alan Ackerberg. “We have a massive breadth and wealth of expertise and experience across multiple brands in multiple states. We draw upon the resources in all of our restaurants — general management, social-media pros, chefs — whatever specific expertise clients need.” 

The secret weapon? Empathy. “It’s hard to run a restaurant and make a dollar,” Ackerberg notes. “We do reasonably well. We get satisfaction in getting our cadre of consulting clients doing that, too.”

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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