Establishments: South City Kitchen, opened 1993 with a second location in 2006; La Tavola, 1999; Ecco, 2006; El Taco, 2008; Bold American Catering & Events
Headquarters: Fifth Group Restaurants, Atlanta
What he’s done: Opening the contemporary Southern South City Kitchen with partner and fellow MSU grad Steve Simon was just the first salvo in the culinary conquering of Atlanta. Fifth Group went on to tap important emerging concepts: neighborhood trattoria (La Tavola), seasonal European (Ecco) and street-foodie (El Taco).
Why we like him: “Our goal is to offer restaurants with a warm, inviting atmosphere that are special enough for any occasion but casual and affordable enough to visit frequently,” says Kukler. A standard-setting loyalty program and an unusually robust program of promotions—from Beer & BBQ Sundays at South City to $10 Pasta Mondays at Tavola—has helped weather any storm.
What’s next: Doubling down on the concept of “connected service,” which emphasizes the notion that a happy, satisfied staff passes that to both customers and suppliers (the company was named a Best Place to Work in the Atlanta Business Chronicle).