Expanding into a New Century
A lavish renovation of the Candlelight Inn rebranded the restaurant as blue grillhouse and event center in 2002. The rejuvenating makeover melded eye-popping style with approachable sophistication, and the public ate up the menu featuring USDA prime meats and premium seafood. Paxos partnered with a top New York design firm for the job, and retained that relationship for his three successive new restaurants in Center Valley, each known for a striking and distinctive ambiance.
The arrival of Melt in 2006 redefined upscale Italian dining in the Lehigh Valley, and brought newly hired Chef Christopher Heath into the Paxos circle, a fortuitous connection where prodigious skills and experience enabled him to grow into the pivotal and trusted role of Executive Corporate Chef for Paxos Restaurants. By 2014, Torre delivered a vibrant, fun, and funky setting for Mexican food and drink, including a stunning selection of tequila. In August 2016, the rooftop deck of Melt was enclosed and transformed into the posh Top Cut Steakhouse, balancing tradition with modern aesthetics and a super-premium menu. (Paxos and Heath traveled to Chicago to conduct research in what is still an epicenter for the meatpacking industry. They selected a high-end boutique butcher, Meats by Linz, as the exclusive supplier of US Prime Black Angus steaks and other cuts of meat for blue and Top Cut.) Several months later, Firepoint Grill opened in Newtown Square, which demographics research indicated was a good locale for entering the suburban Philly market.
Each of these visually appealing places is imbued with qualities deemed essential by Paxos. “It’s not just the beauty of the room, but making sure the temperature is comfortable and the music is at the right level – and the place is spotless,” he says, explaining that an “experience that entertains goes beyond great service, food, and beverage.” Creating this kind of synthesis taps into the core “base of knowledge” established at the founding Candlelight Inn.
“The key to a successful restaurant starts with great leadership – that’s most important, right there,” Paxos states. An executive staff that helps implement the company ethos from the top down includes Executive Corporate Chef Christopher Heath, who also develops new features for each establishment – which can potentially be incorporated into menus that are revamped twice a year – and Director of Operations Tim Hofschild, a former server and bartender at blue before becoming general manager, then making the leap to upper company management. Together they meet and coordinate with the five general managers to ensure that protocols are in place and working properly, and that employees receive whatever training is required to keep every aspect of the operation running smoothly.