Omnivore - A chat with Frank Bragg of Radial Cafe

Winner of a community service award


  • courtesy of crossfitrx.com

Radial Cafe, like Doc Chey's and Osteria 832, was recently awarded a Georgia Restaurant Association's annual Restaurant Neighbor Award. I interviewed Rich Chey earlier this week. Following is my email conversation with Radial's owner, Frank Bragg:

What motivates you to do so much community service as a restaurant owner?

Frank Bragg: My motivation for helping those in need comes from seeing abject poverty as a child. My family is from West Virginia. My dad worked for IBM and we moved away when I was a baby. When we would go home to visit grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc., I was struck by the conditions of those who lived en route to my family. Literally, people were barefoot, dirty and, in many cases, clearly underfed. As a restaurant owner, I have a unique opportunity and responsibility to give back and support those who are underserved. While most restaurants operate on slim margins, there is always a little extra to share.

Do you have a particular cause Radial is supporting right now?

FB: Radial Café’s focus right now is on underserved children (empowerment and educational programs in particular), neighborhood initiatives, the environment and the arts. Last year, Radial Cafe was a Sapphire Sponsor of For the Kid In All of Us (www.forthekid.org). We are currently a major sponsor of the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus’ 30th Season (www.agmchorus.org). We sponsored the Candler Park Fall Fest last year and we have given to many local schools and environmental groups.

I know that you personally have been active in many gay causes. How would you sum up the mood of the gay community these days?

FB: I think the best way to describe an overall mood might be to say that we are ‘cautiously optimistic.’ On a federal level, we are very hopeful. With Obama’s directive to the Attorney General not to prosecute the Defense of Marriage Act, we see change in the right direction.

On a state level, though, we see continued stagnation and oppression from the conservative right. Despite all of this, Radial Café continues to be an excellent example of what could and should be — an environment where people’s differences are celebrated and everyone is made to feel comfortable. At one table, you have spiky blue-haired, tattoo-sporting kids; at another, you have businessmen enjoying a power breakfast; and, at another, you have two lesbian moms and their 2 kids enjoying a day off together. We have a long way to go before we are all treated equal, but we are hopeful that this will happen sooner than later.

Image You worked 10 years for Metrotainment, the group that owns Einstein's, Cowtippers and more. You bought Radial Cafe less than a year ago. I'm curious why, in this economy, you decided to undertake a business of your own.

FB: My foray into ownership was long overdue. In fact, I wish I had done this years ago! Although we have had a rough few years (economically), there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I think this is the perfect time for someone to start up or to purchase a business. I would enthusiastically encourage anyone to follow their dreams, but to do so with eyes wide open.

Do you see a role for restaurants in encouraging healthy eating, helping diminish the obesity "epidemic" and feeding the growing numbers of poor people?

FB: Indeed. Many of our guests frequent Radial Café because of our core menu and our willingness to accommodate special requests. Radial Café is perfectly suited to lead the way in encouraging healthier lifestyles. Our commitment to local, organic, all-natural products coupled with our attention to special dietary needs, like gluten-free and vegan items, gives us an edge over competition in and around Atlanta. Further, our environmental focus has helped increase awareness to those who dine with us. We see more guests making healthier, more informed and responsible choices while working to reduce their own carbon footprint.