Restaurateur says he has scored with Velocity Five
November 21, 2008 by Missy Frederick Staff Reporter
Velocity Five founder Jim Speros plans to open another branch of the sports-themed watering hole in the Clarendon/Courthouse area and begin franchising the concept in 2009.
“I want to be the Morton’s of sports restaurants —but moderately priced.”
That is how founder Jim Speros describes Velocity Five, the growing chain of sports restaurants he started earlier this year. The company is about to add a third location, but Speros is looking to franchise and license the operation next year and transform it into a national brand targeting a new unit every six months.
“If you look at places like the Cheesecake Factory which has hundreds of locations, there’s no sports restaurant chain out there that has that kind of magnitude,” Speros said.
The first Velocity Five opened in March in Falls Church, followed months later by one in Potomac Falls. Speros has a letter of intent signed for a third location in the Clarendon/Courthouse area of Arlington, though he would not reveal the exact location because a lease isn’t signed. He aims to have that location up and running by February.
The Velocity Five venture is a return to his roots for Speros, who helped expand Marriott’s Champions sports bars from three to 37. It also combines trends from some of the entrepreneur’s other experiences, from being an assistant Redskins coach, an owner of the Baltimore Stallions (eventually the Montreal Alouettes), a chief executive of tech firm Sideware, and part of an unsuccessful effort to bring professional baseball to Northern Virginia.
It was during that effort when Speros began to think harder about sports restaurants. He began envisioning for stadiums a sort of high-end version of a sports bar where food was taken more seriously and the atmosphere was more steakhouse, less generic pub. He and Jerry Burkot, another casualty of the baseball battle, decided to open Velocity Five together.
The result is a restaurant with dark wood and leather furniture, granite bars, and one artist’s depictions of sports icons rather than an amalgam of memorabilia, though a few items from Speros’ personal collection are seen in a case up front. There is a semiprivate lounge for parties, a private room for board meetings and corporate parties for neighboring firms like Raytheon Co. in Falls Church, and some booths with individual flat- screen televisions so fans can watch the game of their choice (50 screens are scattered throughout the 7,500-square- foot Falls Church facility). The nonsmoking restaurant has a heated outdoor smoker’s lounge. There is even a sushi bar.
Speros’ focus is on well-populated neighborhoods where he can insert a Velocity Five into a local shopping center and hopefully make it a neighborhood destination. He pays close attention to demographics, looking at studies that indicate, for example, the 2,000 businesses within a two-mile radius of Merrifield or the 30,000 households within two miles of Potomac Falls. He prefers moving into former restaurant space; the Falls Church spot cost $1.5 million to open, which Speros estimates would have been $3 million if he was starting from scratch, infrastructure-wise.
Speros directly affiliated Velocity Five with the Redskins, bringing players in for charity causes and hosting themed events. He also installed Wi-Fi so fantasy sports teams can hold drafts and reached out to college alumni associations for game nights.
His executive chef, Rolin Chinchilla, has more than 20 years of experience in food service, working for such organizations as the Great American Restaurants. He helps come up with items such as cilantro chicken wings and “pork wings” to add to the menu.
Speros said he has been approached by several business owners in areas such as Centreville and Rockville interested in converting struggling restaurants into Velocity Five outposts. He has also been in early talks with officials from FedEx Field for a potential expansion there.
“If I were trying to open 10 ‘Jim’s Steakhouses’, I could never do it,” he said. “Many people fail because they don’t have a concept.”