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Skip Sack: Restaurateur, Entrepreneur, Marine

As a guest of the Travel and Hospitality Club, Skip Sack spoke about his enterprising career and various accomplishments.

Mr. Sack has packed a lot into a story bound by the restaurant business. He began working in a restaurant in 1951 at age 14, but when the Marine Corps offered him an early exit from his senior year of high school-an enlistment in exchange for a diploma-he gladly accepted. As a Sergeant in Korea, he eventually grew tired of saluting the newly commissioned Second Lieutenants, recognizing that the only difference between himself and the officers was a college diploma. So after leaving the military he enrolled in the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

“I needed a letter of recommendation to get in,” said Mr. Sack, “but I didn’t know anyone in the hotel business. I had worked for Howard Johnson’s, so I wrote my old manager, and he wrote to Mr. Johnson. When Cornell saw a letter of recommendation from Mr. Howard D. Johnson himself, they let me right in. I had never even met the man!”

After school, Mr. Sack was a successful leader in the Howard Johnson franchise, becoming general manager of the Ground Round chain and growing it from one restaurant to 64.

While in Atlanta, Mr. Sack saw a new restaurant concept called Applebee’s. He liked it, and in 1984 bought the New England rights to Applebee’s for about $60,000. Ten years and 14 Applebee’s later, he sold his company for over $50 million.
Mr. Sack recognized the importance of real estate in his business. “The key to success (for Applebee’s) was going into primary sites in secondary markets,” he said.

Today Mr. Sack is a founding partner of Classic Restaurant Concepts, a company with three Irish restaurants in the Boston area: The Asgard, Desmond O’Malley’s, and The Kinsale. After his speech, Mr. Sack invited everyone in attendance to join him at The Asgard. Located in Central Square, The Asgard is an Irish pub and restaurant with lively music and a comfy bar. Managing partner Bill Goodwin treated us to some of his signature drinks and appetizers.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 52 years” said Mr. Sack, “and I’ve never worked a day.”

April 18, 2006
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