Bart Fricks: COO, the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants

My job is to make the trains run on time every day,” 

says Bart Fricks, COO of the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants [Calhouns’s, Cappuccino’s, Cherokee Grill, Chesapeake’s, Copper Cellar, Corner 16, and Smoky Mountain Brewery]. “I oversee operations for twenty-one high volume restaurants in East Tennessee; we have more than sixteen hundred active employees. There are a lot of moving pieces!”

Fricks started his career as a bus boy at Mr. Gatti’s Pizza. He worked his way up to management, and, after five or so years, he moved to Ruby Tuesday, where he worked for almost 15 years. He then moved to Copper Cellar.

Fricks is proud of the social and economic impact provided by Copper Cellar restaurants. “We feed three million people every year,” says Fricks. “Just as important, the money a customer spends at one of our restaurants stays in East Tennessee.

Our hourly management teammates are all local. We buy produce from local farmers. We employ local people who mow the yards around the restaurants, clean the windows, or repair the equipment.”

In addition, the Copper Cellar family has a long-standing relationship with the University of Tennessee—that is sure to continue.

“We cater events all over town [for UT],” says Fricks. “We sponsor events at UT. We have a great partnership with the university. Some of our executives have even talked to business classes or lectured in the hotel hospitality program.”

The Copper Cellar family is emerging well from the pandemic.

“None of us had a playbook [for the last year],” says Fricks. “We were in a new environment. The rules sometimes changed by the hour. I never want to go through again what we’ve just been through—but I saw how agile people can be; I found some real diamonds in the rough.”

What does that mean moving forward?

“We didn’t have a fall last year,” says Fricks. “So many people were accustomed to going to football or basketball games who didn’t get to go. People didn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving. There weren’t many office parties in December. Assuming the vaccines hold, people will be going out this fall to sporting events, concerts, Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. We will be spending the next few months recalibrating, retraining, and retooling so we are ready. It’s really important we do a good job.

“We do strive for perfection,” continues Fricks.

It’s very important to us that when a guest makes a decision and a choice to spend their hard-earned money, when they sit down to enjoy their beverage and food—from the moment they get out of their car—I want them to believe the meal was good and worth their money. If they say ‘yes,’ then we’ve done our job.”

The Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants and Rick Laney Marketing have a long history. Over the years, Rick Laney Marketing has provided public relations services for the company as well as marketing strategy, marketing consultation, creative design, and advertising services.

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Rick Laney, President & CEO of Rick Laney Marketing,

“When people have guests visiting Knoxville from out of town—or when they are celebrating a special event—they go to a Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants location. That says so much about what Bart Fricks and his team have built. It is truly part of the fabric of Knoxville and East Tennessee.”

Laney, who has known and worked with Fricks for more than a decade, added, “Bart is amazing on so many levels. He is brilliant when it comes to running restaurants and he’s one of the most strategic business minds I’ve ever had the pleasure of partnering with. I respect him as a businessman and value him as a close friend.”

For information about all of the Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants locations, click the link below.


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